Nik Nazmi, A New Breed of Malay Leader
Today is "blog about Nik Nazmi" day. Nik Nazmi is not exactly a prominent face in the Malaysian blogosphere; he is a rising star of sorts within Parti Keadilan Rakyat, but not quite well known outside the party. This coming election, he is running for the seat of Seri Setia in the Selangor state legislative assembly — and he needs all the help he can get.
I could easily reel off a thousand and one reasons to vote for the opposition candidate, whoever he or she may be, without regard for who the candidates are. Even if you pit the best Barisan Nasional candidate against the worst Barisan Rakyat candidate, there is ample reason to vote opposition. We have already seen how powerless any BN MP is as long as he or she is on the side of what is right. Zaid Ibrahim has been forced to vote with the government because it will not let anyone vote their conscience, but he nevertheless speaks out strongly against bad BN policies. The result? He was not allowed to run for re-election. Shahrir Abdul Samad has consistently voted against the government when the BN vote was to cover up corruption. His reward? A reprimand and the loss of his position as chair of the backbencher club. If these good men can do nothing, what is the point of voting for any good BN candidate?
But I am not here to write about why you should vote against a generic BN candidate. I am here to write about why you should vote for a specific Barisan Rakyat candidate — Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad. I had the fortune to meet him several times over the past year, and he has consistently impressed me with his way of thinking. Although competence is clearly one criterion for any voter to consider, I think this election is one where character is paramount.
I have observed the BN leadership for quite some time now, and if there's one word which might best describe them, it is recalcitrant. They refuse to ever consider the possibility that they could be wrong. Those who do are in the distinct minority, and have consistently been punished for it. Any MP who acts independently from BN is punished severely, regardless of why they do it. This inability to accept that you can sometimes be wrong is a danger to the country.
This is what impressed me about Nik Nazmi — his ability to talk about ideas without dismissing you out of hand, his ability to concede he might be wrong, and his willingness to listen to what other people have to say. Leadership is not a one-way street; leadership is about communication between those who follow and those who lead. Anyone who barks out orders without even considering the opinions of those under him will, in most cases, find his team disintegrating.
Just as importantly, Nik Nazmi offers us the kind of Malay leadership we need. I have always believed that Malaysia needs Malay leadership — not because the Malays are innately supreme, but because as a majority of the population, their support is needed if we want to change where our country is going. But for this to happen, we need responsible Malay leaders, not the insincere incompetents who dominate UMNO and Barisan Nasional.
Nik Nazmi is perhaps the epitome of this kind of leader. He talks about where he will take us, the Malaysian community — not the Malay community. He talks about working with us to build a nation where everyone belongs, and where everyone has the same kind of opportunities he had access to.
For decades, a strong liberal, democratic and national-minded opposition has consistently been associated with the Chinese. The Democratic Action Party has, to date, had a monopoly on this sort of discourse. But we all know that this (at least till now) Chinese-dominated party can never hope to persuade a majority of our country to this way of thinking, no matter how sincere they are. We need Malay leadership to move Malaysia forward — and the best way to bring this leadership to the forefront is to vote for men and women like Nik Nazmi.