by Nurainie Haziqah
As a Malaysian who has been living in this beloved country almost my entire life, I have never thought I would say apart from the food, how much I miss the familiar faces of my fellow Malaysians as I enter the third week of my internship in Stuttgart, Germany.
My three-month internship is a part of a cross-cultural programme under the Institute for Foreign Cultural Relations (ifa) of Germany whereby young professionals from all over the world are handpicked to be part of an intercultural experience that emphasises on professional development and specialist training in respect to the work areas offered by the internship programme.
On Aug 28 2015, I travelled to Zürich, Switzerland by bus with a mission on my mind that was to be part of history in the making by joining thousands of Malaysians across the globe in demanding for a better nation, accountable and transparent government and for our democratic rights as Malaysia citizens to be upheld and fulfilled.
A few days earlier, I was made aware of a Bersih 4 rally to be held in Zürich through Twitter and I knew right then that it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. I made contact with Cheng, the coordinator of the Bersih 4 rally via emails, and she was truly gracious and kind to offer me a place to stay once I am in Zürich. I ended up staying at her home at a place where she jokingly called as her ‘kampung’ in an outskirt of Zurich.
On Aug 29, we were all hyped and ready for a meaningful show of solidarity for our fellow brothers and sisters back in Malaysia. By 9.30 in the morning, about 100 people in yellow and cheery mood were there.
We came as Malaysians and like any other Malaysians that were meeting for the first time in a foreign country we talked a lot about the food and politics. And I have to admit it was truly refreshing to finally be able to speak Manglish with ‘lah’ at the end of every sentence.
The atmosphere at the Hirschenplatz Square was festive and lively as the local Malaysians in Zürich were joined by other fellow Malaysians from Bern, Stuttgart and Austria. Cheng gave her fiery opening speech to remind all of us as to why we were there and why the Bersih movement must be supported regardless of racial identities, religions and political preferences that may be.
Many others took the stage to share their love for our country and hope for changes. It was truly inspiring to watch and listen for myself how devoted, loyal and well informed these Malaysians are about our nation and the situation we are in despite being miles away from home.
Then it was my turn to give a speech. The experience was surreal as I was addressing a crowd in yellow who happened to share with me the same love and loyalty to this beautiful nation called Malaysia but being in a foreign land made the whole experience memorable and special.
In my speech, I explained how lucky we are as Malaysians that no matter where we are, we stand shoulder to shoulder as one nation through thick and thin. And I was grateful that we Malaysians have been consistent and adamant in our fight for a better Malaysia.
Speaking to some of the participants in the rally, I have met a few elderly people who have been living in Zürich for almost 40 years. I was curious as to how being so far away from home at such a long time hasn’t dampened their patriotism towards Malaysia. After all, they were living a good life in Zürich to give a care about the state Malaysia is in.
‘Because I belong in Malaysia’
Their answers were fairly the same, “because I belong to Malaysia. I was born and raised in Malaysia. Malaysia will always be in my heart no matter where I live.” I was truly touched by each of their responses and have so much respect for them for always thinking about the future of our country and its people.
It made me wonder if we the younger generations are ready to take over the task of putting Malaysia back on track to become a true democratic nation governed by pro-people government that upholds the rights and freedom of its citizens. Aung San Suu Kyi once said, “You’ve got a head and you haven’t got a head to nod with, you’ve been nodding for 26 years, the head is there for you to think.”
We have let the current ruling party to rule our nation irresponsibly and recklessly for more than five decades and we can no longer afford to keep nodding our heads in agreement and accept blindly whatever is served to us. It is time that we start to think and act progressively for the betterment of our country.
To achieve that, we should first straighten out our mindset that the government is a set of governing bodies that are here to govern the country or state under the people’s mandate. The true callings of our elected leaders under a government are to work for the people, to answer to the people and to maintain a high degree of transparency and accountability in the management of the country.
It is important to note that Bersih 4 fights for all of these through the five main demands, which are:
1) A transparent government,
2) Clean and fair elections,
3) The right to demonstrate,
4) Strengthening the parliamentary democracy system, and
5) Saving the economy of Malaysia.
Based on the enormous success of Bersih 4 I believe that there is still hope for Malaysia. The support and love that came all over the world for this cause has shown that we Malaysians love our country and are willing to work together for a better Malaysia. And to all my friends in Zürich, I thank you for the experience, the hospitality and kindness you have all shown to me. Till we meet again.
Last but not least, I am proud to be a Malaysian and I love my country with all my heart. To a better Malaysia!
NURANIE HAZIQAH is a practising lawyer and is currently doing an internship in Stuttgart, Germany.
This letter first appeared in Malaysiakini: https://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/310692