PETALING JAYA: A group of young Malaysians have started a new campaign to address what has been described as political fatigue in Malaysia, even as the country gears itself for the most closely contested general election since independence.

#ForwardTogether is a campaign spearheaded by the Organisation for National Empowerment (ONE), aiming to reach millions of youths, as the debate over boycotting the elections under the hashtag #UndiRosak rages on the social media.

The movement’s spokesman Danni Rais spoke to FMT on the group’s objectives, and tells how it seeks to reverse the youths’ attitude from one of indifference to one with a positive outlook for Malaysia’s future.

In a line, tell us about #ForwardTogether?

It is a campaign to affect change in the attitude of Malaysians to constantly strive forward.

Why now?

We are now approaching the election, by virtue of having a forward-thinking attitude, Malaysians have the responsibility to vote and choose the party which they believe can take the country forward.

Why does #ForwardTogether matter for the election?

There has been too much negativity about political parties, to the extent that there is a group of youth driving the #UndiRosak campaign, calling for people to spoil their votes and not take part in the electoral process in the right way.

Although we acknowledge that there are issues that need addressing on both sides of the political divide, they cannot be a hindrance to voting as it is the rakyat themselves who will lose out in determining their future.

Why is ONE spearheading this campaign?

As a nation-building NGO that focuses on youth initiatives, this is an opportune time for us to assist in educating the people on the importance of positive democratic development, rather than abstaining from voting.

ONE was established in 2014. Since then, we have been actively involved in nation-building initiatives. Our projects centre around education, democracy, technology, women empowerment and entrepreneurship.

One of the key focus areas of ONE is to seek improvement to the quality of our democratic system. And that begins with increasing the participation of the people in the democratic process. Hence, we want everyone to vote!

We have a membership of 1,000 youth and a yearly online reach of two million young Malaysians, which is growing rapidly. We believe we have the obligation to use our influence and reach to encourage people to vote.

#UndiRosak claims that it is their right to spoil their votes. Is #ForwardTogether denying that right?

It is in fact your democratic right to spoil their votes, but we believe it is a backward approach while others strive to strengthen our democracy.

To strengthen democracy, we need as many people as possible to play a part in deciding who gets to lead this nation. The mandate is needed for a government to function smoothly.

#ForwardTogether is the antithesis of #UndiRosak. We aim to encourage the youth to vote to empower their future.

What does having a “forward mindset” mean when it comes to voting?

#ForwardTogether is not just about voting. It’s about having a positive and forward-thinking attitude.

But when it comes to voting, we encourage youths to do so objectively, not emotionally. For a moment, forget about the political parties competing in GE14. We need to ask ourselves, what are the things that really matter to us?

Affordable housing? Education? Career development? Infrastructure? Stability? Certainty? Good healthcare services? Religion? Economic opportunities?

Then, look at the track record of the political parties. It’s important for us to vote as it will determine who will represent us in the next 5 years.

If you’re saying we should vote on positivity, does this mean we ignore the negatives?

Definitely not! But we have to acknowledge that both sides have baggage.

We must go all out to demand accountability. However, at the same time, do not lose sight of the things we stand to benefit from which both parties have to offer.

How does ONE plan to empower the youth to vote in line with “#ForwardTogether”?

The time has come for the youths to evaluate the competing political parties and make a decision. We are youngsters who can think for ourselves. Don’t be influenced by political drama and rhetoric.

Originally published on Free Malaysia Today on Monday, February 26, 2018.