CHALLENGER Malaysia
What do you think of Malaysia’s political scene?

I think political systems reflect the electorate. I think a lot of the electorate in Malaysia is very focused on identity, for example, you’re either anti-establishment or you are pro-establishment. I think this reflects in politics, because then you have politicians who focus on matters like these, for example, issues like should we have mathematics and science taught in Malay. I think the political system could do a lot better if the electorate was a lot more informed. If people are more informed, they start asking the right questions and then politicians are forced to actually answer these questions to change things. A lot of people don’t know that you can call your MP to ask them about the state of affairs and submit your own opinion. It then goes back to the failure of education, where we don’t learn enough about it in school and we don’t have constructive discourse at home.

Do you think it is easy for youths in Malaysia to gain access to information on politics?

No. I started to actively read about politics when I started my law degree. When I first did it, it was largely from the Malay Mail, Malaysia Today and The Star. I realized that even if I was accessing these sources, most of what I knew came from across the table conversations among relatives and so on, which I think is an echo chamber. There’s a problem in terms of how easy it is to get information. Even if there’s a bunch of articles that are released on the latest news, that article most likely requires pre-requisite knowledge on other areas before you can fully understand that one article. An average person, faced with such a news source would not be able to understand what they are reading and will be turned off by it and instead live in blissful ignorance. I personally try to make the effort, but I also recognize that’s not the average person.

I think news website should be accessible and an average person should find it easy to read, that’s the benchmark that should be reached. If everyone finds it appealing, that’s how information is spread most effectively. If you don’t appeal to the lowest common denominator, you leave out a lot of people. And then only a niche crowd remains informed. I personally had to go through many articles to understand one issue, which is not the most efficient way. For example, with American politics, you have vox.com that have explainer articles. Although its quite left leaning, the information remains factual, which is what’s important.

It would have to strike the balance between informative and too controversial so it would be less likely to be taken down by the sedition act. I would like to believe that the majority in this country has access to internet and would like to know what is going on and being informed outside of their echo chambers might make a difference.

Calan Eskandar, 22, Law Student