IT’S almost a week since that momentous May 9. A bit weird really because for the longest time I simply couldn’t think about May 10 for fear of being heartbroken. But now it’s a whole week later and the heart has been singing ever since!
I wanted to do a summary of my thoughts about the whole campaign rather than an analysis of it. This is my own personal take of the entire experience, which by the way was a first for me.
I was first involved in Maria Chin’s campaign [Maria Chin Abdullah is a political activist and was heading a civil society movement Bersih 2.0 till she resigned to contest Malaysia’s general elections]. At first it was just her friends from the women’s groups who were helping her out.
We started by doing a little fundraising and people were sceptical that an independent person could win an election. But still a few people helped us and soon the numbers of volunteers grew.
Some ran the office, some did outreach, some became PACAs [polling and counting agents], some did her communications work.
My friends Ivy Josiah and Masjaliza Hamzah were co-campaign managers and since they’ve both worked with Maria before, it was pretty easy to get organised with what they needed to do.
If anyone ever dropped by TeamMaria’s Bilik Gerakan, they would have felt an amazing buzz.
People were coming and going, doing their work quietly in different corners and just making sure everything went smoothly.
I really think it was one of the best organised campaigns I ever saw.
But the best thing was this: all sorts of people, young, old, every bangsa and agama, just turned up to help in whatever way they could.
We called out for PACAs and in the end we had so many, we could help other candidates as well.
But there was an amazing camaraderie among us all which made the whole thing fun.
Although I couldn’t be there all the time, I now have new friends and I also have a new appreciation for the talents of some old ones.
Speaking on a metal stage
I also had to do some ceramahs on my own. It started with being invited to speak at one ceramah in Penang and then it snowballed so much that I had to ask for help to manage my schedule.
Besides Penang, I went to Johor, Klang, Pahang and KL, mostly speaking at smallish ceramahs for some young new candidates.
The reception everywhere was universally warm and enthusiastic.
And again I met all sorts of people, all dying for change to happen.
I spoke from everything from very fancy stages to the backs of trucks and at one point, on a metal stage just as thunder and lightning started to flash!
In Pahang I went from campaigning house to house with newbie DAP [Democratic Action Party] ADUN Young Syefura (Rara) while being followed by a bunch of motorbikers from the other side, to a raucous rally in a very Chinese area to a smaller rally in the drizzling rain in a rural Malay area.
I never went to bed before 1am and was up the next day early to prepare for more ceramahs.
I did 15 speeches in 10 days and it almost knocked me out. And I wasn’t even a candidate — they must have done triple or quadruple what I did.
And I found out that I am quite OK at those speeches! Very different from what I’m used to! A new discovery about myself!
But I have to say that the most wonderful thing about the entire campaign was its long term impact which would have happened even if Pakatan had lost.
Malaysians got to know one another like never before in common cause.
I think the whole #pulangmengundi movement was amazing. Malaysians pulling for one another defending their right to vote, regardless of who they were going to vote for.
Imagine, if strangers were going to get into a car together to drive home to vote, wouldn’t they have gotten to know each other by the end of it?
Would they have had that opportunity if it were not for these elections?
I really think this alone made a change in our society towards more harmony.
I was so touched hearing the stories of Malaysians overseas who rushed to the airports with their ballots in the hope of finding a fellow Malaysian who might be returning home, to carry their ballots home for them.
I heard that from Tokyo, London, Houston, Sydney, Melbourne.
There were also people who just got on a plane to go home to vote.
I also heard about one woman who couldn’t vote but volunteered to sign off on other people’s overseas ballots if they couldn’t find any Malaysians to witness theirs. Such wonderful generosity.
Since the elections I have had so many people write me saying they have so much renewed faith in our country and wanting to contribute to make Malaysia a place to be proud of again. It’s so nice to hear.
But we already have plenty to be proud of. We were so united in wanting to save our country that we forgot all the other petty differences we might have.
We did it with patience, perseverance and with so much joy. We refused to be cowed by anything, we overcame every obstacle thrown our way.
And we prayed and prayed.
It still makes me sniffle....
So thank you, my fellow Malaysians. It was awesome riding along with you on this epic journey. Everywhere I go, people seem to be smiling at each other more, especially when they see that darkened left index finger.
And those smiles alone are worth it.
We now have a lot of work to do to rebuild our beloved Malaysia and make and sustain the change we want.
But after seeing the way we all worked together before and during the campaign, I have no doubt that we can do it. InsyaAllah.
Much love to everyone!
(Still haven’t had time to sort through photos to share...)
The Star / Malaysia
Published in Dawn, May 16th, 2018