Empowering youths to ensure Sarawak’s future
By Danielle Sendou Ringgit
As a Youth Parliament member, Kuching born Syed Nizamuddin Sayed Khassim realised that politics was more than making good arguments and best policy, but rather about diplomacy and good governance.
“If it’s just about the best policy, the bureaucrats and technocrats would be on a better platform. If it just about good debates – our varsity students could do better. Politics is a mixture of both,” said Syed Nizamuddin.
“Some politicians make good prepared speeches in the Parliament. But in the follow-up of his policy – he couldn’t even manage his own constituency. On the other hand, some politicians are lousy speakers but with regard to implementation, they are the best. An effective politician is one that can master both,” he said.
What is the Youth Parliament?
Founded in January 2015, the Youth Parliament is a youth council and simulation of the parliament proceedings of the Parliament of Malaysia for youths aged 18 to 30. With 133 elected members, three sessions are held each year, providing insights to the youth on the parliamentary proceedings and its inner workings.
Syed Nizamuddin was among the 11 young Sarawakians to be nominated and elected as member for the Youth Parliament of Malaysia in 2014.
Having begun in 2015, their session will end in January 2017 to make way for their successors.
Prior to their sitting, different committees within the Youth Parliament will vote a list of motions to be tabled and during this time, a great deal of campaigning has to be done to ensure one’s motion is debated on the floor.
After that, motions approved by the Youth Parliament will then be presented to the Cabinet by the Minister for Youth and Sports, as the will of the youths.
“For the past two years I have pushed for several initiatives. One of the major issues I addressed was the reformation of our federal economic system so that it will be less centralised. I have also pushed for more voices from Borneo in our national narrative and for further understanding between the peoples of Peninsular Malaysia and the Bornean states,” he said.
“Having said that however, I am not ashamed to say that most of what I have achieved were ‘paper victories’. They look good on paper but lack the real political will by the powers-that-be to push through,” said Syed Nizamuddin.
In 2015, he penned a motion asking for the adaptation of the ‘New Economic Geography’ as the blueprint of our economic development programme which was tabled by his colleague from Sabah at the Youth Parliament.
“One of the key points we had was to shift away from the current centripetal-periphery economic model that puts Sabah and Sarawak as the hinterland of natural resources – with the capital centralised in Kuala Lumpur.
“But it is incumbent upon the respective ministries to see through our proposals. Some gave their feedback. Some didn’t,” said Syed Nizamuddin.
Despite the approval from the Youth Parliament, the motion and the concept of New Economic Geography seems forgotten, but Syed Nizamuddin pointed out that Sabahan Tan Sri Andrew Sheng, a Board Member of Khazanah Nasional Berhad, Malaysia has highlighted the same issue recently.
“He reaffirmed the same points that I’ve argued back then – that geographical consideration and the concentration of capital in certain region within a country need to be addressed to lessen the inequality of wealth within the nation,” said Syed Nizamuddin.
As his term as a member of a Youth Parliament comes to an end, Syed Nizamuddin said that he planned to continue empowering the youths back home to speak up and speak out on issues that they hold dear.
Currently, he has been active in his involvement with non-profit and non-governmental organisation, Angkatan Zaman Mansang (AZAM) Sarawak, having being invited as speaker for some of their programmes.
For Syed Nizamuddin, the youths in Sarawak are not given enough opportunity and the right environment to flourish.
“Our youths in Sarawak have the inherent capability and capacity to compete. Trust me, our youths could go far. But what I am saying is that the room and exposure given to our youths in Sarawak is at best – minimal. We are not allowed to do mistakes – and with no mistakes, you learn nothing and achieve no progress,” he said.
“Take my colleague in the Youth Parliament, Mieza Nawawi, for an example. She is a highly opinionated, intelligent lady who speaks her mind freely. But just because of what she said and how she voiced her opinion was not in accordance to our custom or norm – she was shot down by many older Sarawakians.”
In 2016, Nurwynie Sharmiza Nawawi, also known as Mieza, came under fire when she posted a status on her Facebook regarding Petronas.
In her post which went viral, she criticised the state government’s decision to put up a moratorium on working permit applications for non Sarawakian Petronas staff working in Sarawak.
She later apologized for her comment.
“It is an undeniable fact that most of those who chastised her were from the older generations – which is sad since this scenario did not give our youths the courage to speak out their minds,” he added.
When asked how the youths could be more proactive in helping their country, Syed Nizamuddin said that as tough as it may be, one can help by getting a job.
“That is the first start. Forget about being a saviour if you are not from a privileged background and if you need to sacrifice your duty to your family just to be an ‘activist’.
“While it is indeed noble to fight for others – never forget that your first duty is to your family,” said Syed Nizamuddin.
To the youths back home
As a major component of Malaysia, Sarawak serves as a fixed pole to show inhabitants of other states how to coexist with one another.
For generations, Sarawakians of different races, religions and worldviews have been living peacefully with each other.
Syed Nizamuddin pointed out however that it was dangerous to assume Sarawak was immune from conflict and that it was the issue of unity that most young Sarawakians took for granted.
“It was not an easy achievement to build the sense of mutual trust that is prevalent in our homestate. Each and everyone of us needs to maintain and enhance that,” he said.
“The Jews and Germans coexisted peacefully before Adolf Hitler came to power. Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks built mosques and churches next to one another for centuries before the Balkan War shook the world. Shiites and Sunnis live side by side openly in many Arab countries, even in Syria. And today what happened?”
“The Korean War was perhaps also one of the worst – brothers killing brothers for the sake of political ideology, despite being from the same race, ethnicity and civilisation,” he said adding that the younger generations are the ones that must ensure peace prevails.
Based on the data from the Statistics Department and Jobs Malaysis, Borneo Post reported in March 2016 that there are about 15,000 to 20,000 unemployed graduates in Sarawak.
“Our economy is pretty much affected by the global slowdown. That means that our job market is also affected – decreasing the number of employment among youths.
“Compounded by the mismatch of skills between the industries and the available workforce – this may as well be a long-term issue that all sides: government, public sectors and educational institutions must address immediately and comprehensively.”
While unity may not be an issue here in Sarawak, he believes that the issue about source of income shall remain a paramount concern for all Sarawakians – youths or otherwise.