When I got the news on Wednesday night that Saddiq was going to be charged, my heart sank. Never have I felt so strongly about how difficult it is to practice good politics in Malaysia, especially for young and idealistic people like Saddiq. Some of you may have started to doubt his integrity after the charge, so I want to share with you here what I know about this young man.
I first knew about Saddiq from the online news portal that introduced him as an award-winning debater student at International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) who spoke up against Najib Razak. Then there were rumors that he was joining UMNO as they were actively courting him. Well, I wasn’t surprised, for a talented young Malay with political ambitions, joining UMNO was a natural choice. But he did not. He joined Tun Mahathir as one of the founding members of Bersatu in 2016. I didn’t really get to know him personally until we worked together under Pakatan Harapan Youth in 2017.
After that, he was given an offer to study at Oxford University and full sponsorship for his study there. Once again, I thought that maybe he’d forget about Malaysian politics and grab the chance to go to Oxford University. Oxford University was his dream, I know how it feels for a young man from an ordinary family to get an offer from his dream university, just as how I felt about my offer from Cambridge University many years ago.
However, like many people in Pakatan Harapan that time, I hoped that he could stay as he was already gaining followings among young Malaysians. When I met him in one of the private fund-raisers, I told him, “You can go to Oxford anytime, but if you stay, there’s a chance we can create history. If we don’t win, you can apply to Oxford again next year. Oxford can wait.” I must admit that I felt a little guilty that I told him that we could create history when all the numbers at that time showed that we had little or no chance of winning. Many others also persuaded him to stay. I believed he knew full well of our odds of winning but eventually, he still decided to stay on. I changed my view on this young man after that, “This guy wants to do more for the country than just having a political career and he is different,” I thought.
After GE 14, as we served together in the cabinet as two of the youngest cabinet ministers, some of my friends complained to me about what Saddiq should or shouldn’t do, but I would always tell them this, “Saddiq has his heart at the right place, and that’s the most important criteria for a good politician. As for the other things, he’ll learn along the way.” True enough, we can see his heart clearly from Sheraton Move and thereafter. We had so many so called “matured” politicians who betrayed the trust of the people and jumped ship for money, position or to avoid intimidation. However, Syed Saddiq held firm to his belief. If he had jumped, he would still be a minister now, and of course, wouldn’t be charged in court.
From 2018 until now, I can see how Saddiq has matured as a politician. His works are admirable and sometimes, way beyond my imagination. He has proven himself to be more than capable for being a good leader. But there is one thing in him that remain the same. It’s his ideals for a clean, democratic, progressive, and multiracial Malaysia. Whenever we have private chats on politics, I am always amazed and inspired by his persistence on his ideals. How in the world after seeing such ugly side of politics (Sheraton and all), can he still hold on to his ideals? I must say that although I am considered young in Malaysian politics, I get jaded at times, seeing the political situation in this country. But Saddiq is always idealistic and not only that, he always practices and pursues them incessantly. Additionally, at his age, with his fame and status, Saddiq doesn’t get big headed. In every meeting, big or small, you’ll see him with a pen and notebook jotting down what people have to say to him.
Saddiq is being charged breach of trust yesterday involving RM 1 million fund. Let me say this, if he wants to get rich, he would have done it during his time as a minister, as he could have easily gained so much more then, with amounts up to tens or even hundreds of millions. And if he really wants money, why not just jumped to Perikatan Nasional? Isn’t that so much easier? I shall not explain further as he had explained himself well in his FB live last night. I am sure he’ll clear his name in the court.
In the meantime, the old system wants Malaysians to believe that there is no better option, let’s not fall into this.
The Syed Saddiq I know is a young, capable, humble, and idealistic politician. He has his heart at the right place. He is a rare gem in Malaysian politics. My fellow Malaysians, if we want a clean, democratic, progressive, and multiracial future for Malaysia, don’t we ever let Saddiq walk alone when he is standing up against the Goliath of old political system.
New Malaysia didn’t end at Sheraton Move, it is still a dream very much alive. It didn’t happen overnight through a day of voting in an election, but it comes from choosing to believe that better things can happen and act on them, like Saddiq. We need to rally behind young people like Saddiq so that more idealistic and passionate people will rise and fight against old politics and old minds to give Malaysia and our next generation a better future.