On March 9, 2018, the seemingly impossible happened: Malaysians overthrew a government that had been in power for 61 years. They also elected a 92-year-old prime minister, Dr Mahathir Mohd. It would be his second time as Malaysia's PM.
This result had seemed impossible because there were powerful measures made by Barisan Nasional to ensure they would win: From vicious smear campaigns and constant threats in the media, delineation, disqualifying candidates for flimsy reasons and goodies upon monetary goodies heaped on a rakyat struggling with rising costs of living, many thought it was a sure-win for BN.
They were wrong.
I was wrong.
I was terribly pessimistic about #GE14. I was pretty sure Barisan Nasional would stay in power. They had so much money and power in their hands. What was tiny little me going to do against that? So, I shut down my news feed, refusing to listen or read about anything regarding #GE14. My spirit was getting too battered by the sheer evil I saw.
Still, my greatest hope, however, was to deny BN its 2/3 majority.
Not voting was never a consideration. For one, my parents would whup my 40+-year-old ass. Two, I was going to do my part no matter how tiny.
On March 9, I woke up early and headed to my polling centre in USJ 6, Subang Jaya. I began queuing by 740am. People were upbeat but reserved. Many of us believed nothing would really change, but we were determined anyway to thwart any trickery or nonsense that would deny us our voice.
Fortunately, it was shady where I queued, but some folks had to queue under the hot, blistering sun. But I didn't hear much complaints. People seemed quietly determined. What I noticed, however, was that the seniors' lane was very long - many white-haired voters waited a long time to make that cross on their piece of paper.
By 9am, it was my turn, and I wrote down my vote. I left feeling elated, but again, felt like nothing would change.
That night, like the rest of Malaysia, I checked the results online. But the suspense was killing me - when I checked, Pakatan Harapan was dropping behind BN. My heart sank; I shut down the phone and decided to call it day. I steeled myself for the depression that would sure to follow the next day.
I woke up and the first thing that popped onto my iPhone was a message from my office group chat. My boss said that he was going to get confirmation from the company that Thursday and Friday was a public holiday for us.
It took my brain a few seconds to connect the dots.
SHIT! PAKATAN HARAPAN WON??
See, PH promised that if they took over the government, Thursday and Friday would be a holiday.
I ran down from my loft and jumped up and down. Then, I snapped a photo of the rising sun. I was waking up to a new Malaysia. Then, I cried.
After that, I ran to the nearest store to buy some newspapers. It was a historic issue, I had to!
For the rest of the day, I walked around in a daze. I checked Facebook and Twitter feeds incessantly. Especially when there was a hiccup to Dr M's swearing in as a PM. Like the rest of Malaysia, I held my breath as rumours swirled about jumping frogs in Sabah, ministers being bought so that PH's hold in the Federal government would weaken, and that a state of emergency would be called.
I brought my parents to Sunway Pyramid for what was supposed to be a celebratory lunch, but instead we spent that time worrying because Dr M's swearing in was delayed. For how long, we wondered?
Fortunately, my best friend decided to save me from my misery. We had dinner, and I suddenly said: "Hey, let's go to Istana Negara."
Marlene's eyes lit up. "OKAY!"
PARTY AT ISTANA NEGARA
So, we drove to Istana Negara. We weren't allowed in, of course, but the road near Istana Negara was filled with revellers. Drivers tooted their horns at flag waving Malaysians at the side of the road. Some were puzzled foreigners; some look bemused, some looked delighted. They knew that they were witnessing history.
At 9.30pm, we anxiously checked for updates on Marlene's flagging phone. (Mine gave up the ghost a long time ago.) A young man shared his phone with us, and together, a Malay, Chinese and Indian Malaysian watched Dr Mahathir sworn in as the 7th prime minister of Malaysia. It felt incredibly apt that we were watching the feed near Istana Negara together representing the major races of Malaysia; it felt right that around us were people from all races cheering for Malaysia's future.
Against all the odds, we did it. We spoke so loud, voted so hard that we toppled the cheating, lying and gerrymandering that a corrupt government threw at us.
And we did it without bloodshed, y'all.
Apparently, it's quite a feat. But you need to understand that Malaysians are a gentle, friendly and tolerant people. We had the ghost of the May 13 racial riots drummed into us from the crandle to remind us what could happen if we didn't rein in our passions. Tolerance has been ingrained in our spirits for a long time, and DESPITE the great efforts of the political masters to sow hatred, a large number of us did not give in to our baser natures.
The road ahead
So, what next? Frankly, I have no idea. The path to true democracy would be a rocky one. There's already ripples as politicos from PH and BN joust for positions.
Corruption had been so endemic in Malaysia that it trickled down to every institution - from our media, to our schools to even our homes. One thing for certain, how we do things would be very different now because true change has come. We HAVE to change how we do things and think about things.
And one of the first change we have to embrace is to call ourselves Malaysians first, race never.
So I'm not a Chinese.
I'm Malaysian ;)