What do you think of the recently concluded once in five years parliamentary election on 9th May, 2018? To me, it was: (a) amazing because I strongly believe God was involved; (b) great because for the first time in 61 years the majority of the people, regardless of race or religion could be so united in saying “No” to the former ruling party coalition, despite the odds of gerrymandering in the newly drawn constituencies for the national election, the mighty machinery and resources available to the last ruling party coalition; (c) a breakthrough because ever since independence there had not been any change of ruling power.
Most importantly, it is in every sense a breakthrough as so many had said it was impossible for a power change but it happened on the 9th May. A much awaited smooth transfer of political power has since taken place. A change that we are so proud of as it brings hope for a better future. A new Malaysia was born that inspires the rakyat to move on with a greater confidence. This is not only because a new batch of leaders with new mentality and mind-set has taken over the ruling power, but more so, these new leaders will bring about changes in fundamental systems that will result in policies that are more just.
The Element of Surprise
Many Christians had prayed for God to do justice, remove corruption and greed, cleanse our nation from the
power of darkness, and lots of other things, not daring to imagine the power change would happen. As far as I’m concerned, if there was a change in power it had to involve the surprise element– the top leadership of the last ruling power never expected the power change would happen. They had put in all efforts to counter every anticipated attack from all angles. I tend to believe that in view of the extreme old age of Mahathir, they never expected him to be such a powerful factor (you may disagree). What could a 93 year old man do? (This was very much a prevailing general comment in the newspapers in the months leading up to the election) How could he make a difference in the national election and effect the bringing down of the ruling party? I believe this was one of the most unexpected elements. At best, they expected Mahathir and his new party to just win a few seats.
Tremendous Negative Effects of GST
I believe another unexpected factor that brought down the last ruling power was the deep negative effects of GST. When it was first implemented, most economists, bankers and academics commented that it was something necessary, that most countries practice it. They also said it was well justified. However, my argument was if the government could survive with all kinds of taxes before the introduction of GST, how she could not survive without it now. There must have been a lot of abuse of power and mismanagement of peoples’ money.
When GST was introduced, common sense told me it was political suicide for the ruling power. It might be the proverbial last straw that brought down the ruling power. It would make most of the citizens in Malaysia feel the deep pain financially. Indeed, we suddenly found our monetary value had shrunk and our purchasing power reduced significantly. Everyone was hit by it. We felt the economic pain which touched our ‘nerve’. It awakened us to vote for change and go for an alternative ruling coalition which might be more responsible.
GST oppressed the poor even further. I felt the pain too and tightened my belt. Maybe the last ruling power had miscalculated the economic pain the rakyat would experience. They did not expect the pain felt by the rakyat far exceeded the measures taken to counter the negative effects of GST. Such became a great uniting force in mobilizing the great majority to vote against the ruling power.
Other factors such as the hot national issue of corruption, the 1MDB mismanagement of funds, unequal treatment of different races owing to unjust government policies, no freedom of religion (the forbidden usage of the word Allah, etc), nepotism and cronyism, safety and security of peoples’ lives (the missing pastor Raymond Kho is still unaccounted for). While the rich were enriching themselves, the poor got poorer. Purchasing power of the ringgit was much reduced. Owing to a slow economy, employment became harder to come by. Countless other issues also added to the great majority of us saying no to the previous ruling power.
I personally believe that all these led to a national leadership crisis. We had lost confidence in the politicians and government. The majority of the rakyat saw that the nation was heading nowhere.
Sarawak Parliamentary Election Analyzed
In Sarawak, besides the above factors, the indigenous people are very much bothered by the issue of land acquisition, though the land is under the management of the Sarawak government. A lot of lands have been acquired for personal gains. Indigenous people were very unhappy as they lost their court cases on the disputed acquisition of lands. More and more lands were acquired and passed on to the rich entrepreneurs at a low price in the name of development. A lot of empty promises were made.
I heard from long house folks that promises of construction of roads and supply of electricity were either not honoured or took many long years to fulfill. The internal strife, tensions among the leadership and struggles in certain ruling parties had eroded support for the ruling power. Disunity was a heavy price for these parties which lost their seats.
The erosion of Sarawak rights as a nation forming Malaysia (particularly throughout the last decade) was another big contributing factor. Of course there were a lot of other accumulated factors. Personally, I believe the political tsunami that happened among the indigenous people and the Chinese in Sarawak will continue to reach its height in the coming Sarawak election, which will be held in about 2 years’ time. All these combined factors had caused the ruling power to lose 12 significant parliamentary seats from Sarawak and this had contributed to the change of power to the Harapan Coalition.
The God Factor
As a disciple of Jesus, I pray for Malaysia and fervently ask the Almighty God to intervene and restore peace, justice and prosperity. I prayed for over 15 years for God to remove all the corrupted politicians in His timing. I had been praying for that even before the 8th March, 2008 parliamentary election. In the 5th May, 2013 parliamentary election, many were disappointed as there was no change of ruling power though the opposition front at that time scored a greater number of voting percentage than the ruling power. I had told a Yang Berhormat after the 8th March election that it was not God’s timing yet.
God being sovereign, He knows what is best for every human being and every country in this world since He is the Creator of the universe. Apostle Paul said in the letter to the Romans in chapter 13 that God put the kings and ruling power (the government) at the throne and the people were to obey the government of the day. Thus, the implication is God can also remove the ruling power as He had put it there in the first place. Nobody, no king, no military might, no government is more powerful than God. God has the sovereignty and control over all things and beings He created. He is the King of kings. Who dares to challenge God?
Therefore, the politicians and the governing power of the day are answerable to God in the usage of the political power entrusted to them by the people. Politicians need to be humble before God, whether they are Christians or not. Only fear of God can empower them to distance themselves from greed and corruption, dishonesty, hypocrisy, self-centeredness, and all kinds of immorality. Only fear of God can empower one to rule with justice, peace and compassion. If one is not afraid of God’s punishment for one’s mistakes, sins, or unrighteousness, one can do anything when one has the power. We are familiar with the term ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ On the other hand, when one fears God, God will bless one with wisdom, like King Solomon, to rule a country.
In the Old Testament, I notice that whenever the Israelites and kings sinned against Yahweh in idol worship, moral decadence, and did not heed countless warnings by prophets, God’s discipline and punishment would come on them in the form of downfalls for both the Northern Kingdom and Southern Kingdom in the hands of the foreign empires. They would then be exiled to foreign lands like Babylon and Assyria.
I strongly believe that it is the same today if any ruling power does not fear God. God will send His messengers to come and correct the repeated mistakes, sins and unrighteousness. After repeated corrections yield no repentance, God will remove the power. For those of us who do not subscribe to this belief, you may like to produce your own analysis for the downfall of the ruling power.
This year, on the 9th May, God heard the cries of His children in Malaysia and in other parts of the world. He decided to intervene and brought down the ruling power by a peaceful election. This is God’s timing. Whatever theology you may subscribe to (and you may choose to disagree with me), I strongly believe that Christian prayers across all denominations had contributed to the Almighty God hearing our petitions.
What can we contribute to the New Malaysia?
This most unexpected political breakthrough is very precious. We must treasure it like a new baby being born (a new Malaysia) and it is to be nurtured with love and care to grow into maturity in all aspects of its life. Do you agree? How can we help this baby grow? I strongly suggest that we do our part.
This new Malaysia is a new born baby. In many aspects the new government needs to start all over. The present public institutions have been damaged and much neglected owing to human weaknesses and moral decadence. The new government needs to work extra hard with sincerity in these important institutions of democracy and national life. I believe the following institutions and national life aspects need to be given top priority.
Firstly, one of the most fundamental aspects of democracy, the separation of powers, needs a redress. The institutions of judiciary, government and the parliament need to work independently. Such independency has not been honored for too long and the whole Malaysian constitution does not seem to advocate the separation of the 3 powers. Tedious tasks that involve amendments of laws will take a long time to achieve the ideal.
Secondly, as a multi-racial, multi-religious, multi-cultural country, we need to be united to move forward together. Currently, unfortunately, when it comes to major social, political and economic considerations, race and religion factors are still rated very high in priority in the political agenda for party politics, even national life. When it comes to making policies, race is still a major factor of consideration. For example, a certain group of politicians which belong to a certain race still feel insecure about the government recognizing Unified Examination Certificate of a certain community in the public education institution.
Our politicians of all races and religions must work hard to pursue the interests of all races, not just a certain politician of a certain race pursuing the interests of his or her own race. We are still sadly divided along racial and religious lines. How can we be more united is a big challenge to our new government.
Thirdly, our natural resources such as our lands and rivers, mineral resources, and the environment need more thorough and far-sighted planning that involves equal distribution of wealth among all races and people from all strata of our society so that our economy is sustainable and self-dependent in the long term. We can do a good job if we work harder at practicing meritocracy as widely as possible. Our neighbor, Singapore, is a good example in this respect.
Fourthly, since manpower and intellectual ability will determine how well we are going to survive as a nation, we really need to look into education that will produce the brightest people (and keep them) to run our country. By all means, curb the brain drain. When it comes to education, our politicians should not compromise on giving our people the best quality and resources.
Fifthly, steps need to be taken to return the original rights to the nations of Sarawak and Sabah. The agreements signed when these two nations participated in the formation of Malaysia need to be honored. I believe these two nations, given the rights to manage our own resources, can eventually become an advanced and prosperous country like Singapore, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan. I have been to the first three countries over the last twenty odd years and I see how prosperous they are.
Bearing all these important aspects in mind, as disciples of Jesus, we can play important roles in nurturing this new Malaysia. I would like to propose the following suggestions and ideas.
Nurturing a New Malaysia
In Malaysia, Christianity makes up only about 9% of a population of 33 million. Islam makes up about 60%. The Muslim population is growing not only biologically but also in terms of conversion. It means Islam propagates and converts the non-Muslims.
For Christianity, all efforts of all the different denominations combined in our outreach and missions, our growth is always between 9% and 10%. It has been maintained in that range for more than 20 years now. At least, ever since I became a pastor back then. Even in Sarawak, with a population of 2.7 million, the only state with a Christian majority of about 42%, the percentage is maintained between 40% and 42% also for more than 20 years.
In such a religious environment, what can the 9% Christian population do? We must thank God for the great effort of our former missionaries in coming from all over the world. They had done their best and left a great spiritual heritage with us. I can say it most passionately for the case of Sarawak. For most denominations here, with the political climate we have now, we are growing stronger in terms of many new churches from all denominations which have been built. Be it at the national or state level, we can definitely make a difference for Jesus in terms of nurturing a new Malaysia. I pray that God in the person of Jesus Christ, in His mercy, will empower us to do the following:
Firstly, as united prayers from all denominations have made such a powerful impact, we must persevere and pray for the above good changes to happen in His timing. Let us pray that no change will happen at the expense of another race. Let us pray that our politicians from both the ruling power and the opposition to become increasingly mature; that they always focus on the needs of the rakyat in particular and the national interests in general. By all means, our prayers pursue God’s will be done in Malaysia for all races.
Secondly, though different denominations have different doctrinal stands, we must by all means work together through our top leaders like bishops, archbishops and presidents to express our Christian stand on religious, social, economic and political issues and matters on improvement of our national policies. There can be unity in diversity. The present inter-denominational platforms like the Council of Churches Malaysia, National Evangelical Christian Fellowship, Association of Churches in Sarawak and Sabah Association of Churches can be further enhanced and mobilized to come together to pray. These platforms enable us to build bridges with the government and to participate in the nation building in terms of proposing holistic policies.
Thirdly, I suggest the respective denominations form their fellowship of elected state assembly men and women, and the members of parliament to sit down with assigned pastors for bible studies and prayer so that they are trained in discipleship and grow in Christian maturity. They are equipped intentionally to stand against temptations of greed, corruption and all forms of immorality. They will become models for the rakyat to emulate.
Eventually, an annual convention for all our elected Christian politicians may be organised. One of the important purposes of this convention would definitely be to find ways and means to contribute to our nation building. The other purpose could be for sharing of common ideas and interests, mutual support and understanding, and working towards a greater solidarity among all elected Christian parliamentarians and state assembly men and women.
Fourthly, churches of different denominations must look into producing scholars who are well-versed in Islam so that we can have meaningful exchanges with Muslim scholars and their top spiritual figures to work on both Muslims and non-Muslims living together peacefully long term. They must build bridges across the great divide so that our misunderstandings about each other’s religious teachings be reduced. Hopefully then religious conflicts among our followers will be minimalized. If we do not do this preparation now, when a religious conflict arises, it might be too late. When damages are done, repairs may be difficult.
Fifthly, although recently, both Christian and Muslim spiritual figures do sit down and fellowship with one another on different religious occasions, this can be further enhanced so that it is practiced as often as possible, and on a bigger scale. They must be seen to do so, so that our followers can see the fellowship before their eyes, be it through media publication or life telecasts through television and internet. When the top spiritual figures of both religions are seen to relate to one another in harmony, our followers will emulate. If we can visit one another and share our lives together, the chances for religious conflicts happening in Malaysia will be reduced to the very minimum.
How this new Malaysia is going to be does not depend absolutely on our elected politicians only. They are elected to serve the rakyat and the nation as a whole, in a parliamentary democracy like Malaysia. They are flawed human beings, they are not perfect and they will make mistakes. No matter how brilliant, capable and powerful they may be, their ideas are limited. Their influence cannot penetrate every corner and society in Malaysia. They need the rakyat to support and cooperate in order to implement their national policies. They may devise laws to check on us but they themselves are also very much under the law. Our politicians need us to uphold them in daily prayer.
Therefore, the church as a whole can complement the government by obeying her in the implementation of all the just policies. Areas where the government goes wrong, the church must be courageous enough to voice out for the betterment and wellbeing of the overall rakyat. The government, on the other hand, should be humble enough to listen to the voice of the church.
By Rev Law Hui Seng En Tao Methodist Church, Sibu