By Mohsin Abdullah
Years ago there was a "notion" among Malaysians especially Malays that Malaysian Chinese were not interested in politics, didn't care who ruled the country and didn't give a hoot what happened, as long as they were "free to do business and make a lot of money."
That so called "notion" was not backed with evidence, of course, and could have been furthest from the truth. But, that was the "general impression" those days. Perhaps the Chinese themselves encouraged the moulding of such an impression with their action or lack of it rather.
Then things changed, should I say, for the better. The community showed they really cared for the nation. They wanted to have a say in politics, on how things ought to be done for their own benefit and that of fellow Malaysians, regardless of the political parties they supported.
And that's how it is until now.
But a few days ago, PKR president Datuk Seri Wan Azizah Ismail said in an interview with Sin Chew Daily that her party's survey showed that young Chinese are somehow reluctant to go to the polls with many of them "don't even register as voters".
According to Wan Azizah, only 13% of Chinese youths aged between 21 and 29 have registered as voters, compared to 80% of Malays in the same age bracket.
It's a given that she's concerned because Pakatan Harapan deems the support of Chinese and non-Malays as crucial for them to win GE14, which many believe is to be held this year.
I'm not going to dwell into such concerns. Instead, I would like to put forth some questions.
Why the political apathy? Are young Chinese not interested in politics? To me, it's yes and no.
Those not interested could be due to "lack of exposure", or they simply don't give a damn…
However, there are many who are interested in and fully aware of the current state of affairs in this country.
Take students for example. A big number of young Chinese pursuing tertiary education in the country are in private universities where "political activities are not felt " compared to public varsities.
Still being internet savvy, these youngsters are not deprived of information and thus have their pulses on the goings-on.
Having said that, the question to ask is: are young Chinese satisfied with how things are run in this country? Or are they so contented that they feel it's not necessary to change things via the ballot box, hence their unwillingness to register as voters?
I dare say that many Chinese, young or old, are not happy (to put it mildly) with government policies they see as discriminatory to non-Malays, or Malay-bias policies. They have always wanted all that to change.
Even pro-government Chinese feel that way, but they maintain "change must be from the inside".
So, have the young given up seeking fair and balanced policies envisaged all this while? Or they have given up on the desire for change?
Or have they resigned to a "whatever" and "come what may" situation? No matter on which side of the fence they are on.
To Wan Azizah, Chinese youths' indifference towards politics "has a lot to do with the current state of political affairs".
The opposition leader did not elaborate. Nor did she give the specifics. At least not during the recent Sin Chew Daily interview.
Leaving that aside, I must say that of late our politicians from both sides of the political divide are making headlines for wrong reasons.
So, the big question to ask now is: are young Malaysian Chinese fed up with politics, or it's the politicians that's peeing them off, opposition as well as government?
And the bigger question is: who should first change their attitude? The young Chinese? Or politicians themselves?
(Mohsin Abdullah is a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)