By Annabelle Lee
INTERVIEW | Like how e-hailing upended transport and e-commerce revolutionised retail, Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman is building a team aimed at “disrupting” the tried and tested ways of Malaysian politics.
The ingredients? A young, multiracial and tech-savvy lineup of leaders; innovative policies and a commitment to prove political movements can be sustained without being beholden to tycoons or cronies.
In a recent interview with Malaysiakini, the Muar MP stressed that the yet-to-be-named “platform, movement and potential party” would be strictly diverse.
“Malaysia’s strength is in its diversity.
“That’s why it is multiracial, multireligious and truly captures the centre-ground of Malaysia, which is moderation.
“We will strictly follow the Federal Constitution but most importantly, our Rukun Negara which should be the guiding principles of this platform to ensure we don’t stray away,” he said.
Another defining feature will be its lineup of leaders comprising few politicians but instead young professionals, activists, startup founders, religious preachers and academics.
Drawing from their expertise, Syed Saddiq touted that the platform will be able to come up with innovative, people-first policies.
“Since it is made up of professionals, technocrats and civil society leaders who have worked from the bottom up, it must be policy-driven.
“They want to ensure genuine economic reforms come in, no longer just assisting the billionaire class or the class of elites.
“They want to ensure that jobs are created, and income disparity can be reduced,” he added.
Members of the platform, dubbed “Muda Malaysia” for now, are slated to hold their first official meeting in Kuala Lumpur this afternoon to decide their next steps.
Among the confirmed attendees are former Permodalan Nasional Berhad CEO Abdul Jalil Rasheed and startup founders Vinesh Sinha (FatHopes Energy), Liew Ooi Hann (RinggitPlus), Nadhir Shafiq (TheLorry) and Radzi Tajuddin (Hi Home).
Teacher Cheryl Ann Fernando of Adiwira Ku film fame, lawyer Lim Wei Jiet, religious preacher PU Rahmat and self-described agriculture enthusiast Shahrizal Denci are also on the list.
The activists on board include Undi18 co-founder Qyira Yusri, child rights proponent Syed Azmi Alhabshi, Orang Asli artist and activist Shahar “Shaq” Koyok as well as Liga Rakyat Demokratik’s Amir Abd Hadi.
Interestingly, Centre for Governance and Political Studies researcher and Umno Youth member Zaidel Baharuddin’s name is also on the list.
With the Sabah state polls next month and a snap election expected early next year, Syed Saddiq admitted that the platform had yet to decide if it will field any candidates.
Neither has it decided whether to register as a political party or remain a movement for now.
What is decided, however, is it will be independent of Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Pejuang and other political parties.
“I, for one, believe in positive and healthy competition.
“In the end, we want to ensure all parties, and all platforms compete with one another to elevate youth voices to a better position.
“If today we field 10 young candidates, the other party will field 20 (candidates). In the future, I will field 30, and they will field more,” he said.
No warlords, no tycoons
Aside from its professionals and activists, Syed Saddiq explained that the platform believed in diverse political representation and will push grassroots leaders from rural areas to the fore.
To curb power accumulation, it will implement strict “term limits” to ensure the continued promotion of young leaders.
It also wants to lead the change in how politics is funded.
The movement, he said, was presently being funded by its own members and leaders.
“It is coming from our own pockets,” he said.
Syed Saddiq said his four-year experience as Bersatu Youth chief showed him that the age-old way of handling political donations and incentivising grassroots members to serve their communities needed to change.
Moving forward, he said the movement will prioritise online crowdfunding and impose caps on individual and corporate donors to ensure it “never ever enslaves itself” to private interests.
By committing to political funding rules and an ongoing talent refreshing process, the 28-year-old contended that this was a formula for turning Malaysian political culture on its head.
“We need to disrupt the political funding process so that party warlords do not exist. At the same time, we want to ensure there is continuous party training so that when you know you are a leader (and) your time is up, you can train other leaders to come up.
“(So) it becomes a highly competitive process which truly inculcates the politics of service and not the politics of power, division or money and contracts,” he said.
“Those old styles of politics must be thrown out of the window. This is the true new politics which we want to instil in Malaysia,” Syed Saddiq added.