This is Malaysia, like no other country in the world
Malaysians set a world benchmark, a gold standard in how to reclaim democracy against all odds yesterday.
The government coalition that had lorded over a country with various alliances for 61 years threw everything against its citizens for the 14th general election – the judiciary, the police, the universities system, the election commission, its very parliament, race and religion.
Gerrymandering and malapportionment saw some federal constituencies with as little as a few thousand voters sit side-by-side with seats that housed more than 150,000 registered voters.
This was a voting population that saw its very government as adversary.
Yet, like no other country in modern history, millions turned up yesterday and overthrew a murderous, corrupt regime without shedding one drop of blood.
There were no riots, no looting, burning of cars, homes or shops, ugly manifestations of religious or racial bigotry, ignorance or intolerance.
Instead, the people of a multi-racial country that is home to the world’s fastest-growing religion, Islam, as well as the two biggest races on the planet, Chinese and Indians, embraced one another to rise above despots, division, discrimination and the albatross of the voting system itself, to unseat a prime minister and coalition that would have sold Malaysian down the drain in return for self-preservation, enrichment and aggrandisement.
The plot twists and ironies that led Malaysia to this historic day could not have been better scripted by the best of Hollywood.
Two men, powerfully galvanising individuals who were each nemesis to the other for nearly two decades – Anwar Ibrahim and Dr Mahathir Mohamad – forged the most unlikely of political alliances.
One remains a prisoner, the other put him there in shameful circumstances that were played out under the glare of world media spotlights.
The prisoner has shown how the sheer power of forgiveness can transcend the most painful of pasts. The image of Anwar and Mahathir shaking hands as allies, at one of Anwar’s more recent court appearances, is now regarded by many as the turning point for the alliance that is now government-in-waiting.
The jailor and nation-builder declares he has now to free Anwar.
The most honourable Lim Kit Siang, Malaysia’s longest-standing patriot, a walking symbol of long-standing and unrelenting parliamentary opposition, and the epitome of statesmanship, has carried magnanimity and self-sacrifice to another plane entirely.
Lim has embraced Mahathir, who had also thrown him into jail, and placed his aspirations for Malaysia centre stage for the sake of a pact the likes of which no other country has seen.
And yesterday, out of racism, corruption and bigotry emerged unity, determination and a sense of purpose – to forge a new future, a new hope, a new country for ourselves and our children.
Malaysians have shown a uniqueness that is as palpable as it is inspiring, and we must give ourselves the time and space to be very, very proud of what we have achieved today.
We have snatched back democracy from the jaws of destruction, so Malaysia may be rebuilt all over, with the multi-racial, democratic and egalitarian ideals of its founding fathers and earliest patriots.
We have come from the race riots of May 13, 1969, to the multi-racial juggernaut of May 9, 2018. We fought back without bloodshed or violence.
We have returned “Merdeka” – freedom, independence – to our shores. The future is now full of promise, and it’s a promise we made to ourselves.
The singular event of May 9 will powerfully resonate forever in our history as a glorious chapter in a people’s tenacity.
Yesterday, Malaysians became a beacon to the rest of the world, and delivered a new lesson in non-violent opposition.
The world has not seen such a reversal of fortune as Malaysia’s. We are a walking, living legacy.