The Mistake of #UndiRosak: What is Our War?

I’m writing specifically to anyone who believes Malaysia needs a systemic revolution.


There are at least three groups of us today. Between (1) those who support #UndiRosak, (2) those who support Pakatan Harapan for GE14, and (3) those who are not sure whether the #UndiRosak risk is worthy, we hold three common assumptions:

  1. We have a common rival in at least Barisan Nasional.
  2. We want a free Malaysia.
  3. We are in a two-side war. Those who support Pakatan Harapan see a war between two coalitions. Those who support #UndiRosak see a war between the people and the politicians. The rest of us suffer from indecision.


Here, I want to help us clarify about what war to fight, which is not any of the above.

I strongly believe the two-side war is between, first, the people and Pakatan Harapan, and second, Barisan Nasional. I have two reasons for my conclusion and my stance against #UndiRosak:

  1. The reason of conservatism.There are us, and then there are the others who support Barisan Nasional. Those who support the current regime do not want change; they don’t see the need to consider spoiling votes; and they make up a large proportion of the population. Before securing their agreement to the need for change, #UndiRosak will have no effect on supporters of Barisan Nasional, and likely, no effect on the political system.


  1. The reason of risk.#UndiRosak is risky. If #UndiRosak ever, ever, fails, Malaysians will suffer from five more years of Islamofascism, most likely under Barisan Nasional. Moreover, the probability of this #UndiRosak failure seems high, because there are B.N. conservatives, and because many of us don’t identify with risk. 


Finally, I have three reasons to support Pakatan Harapan:


  1. Women for political leadership.

This recent period of political turmoil amplifies the voice of many female leaders. We have Nurul Izzah, Chong Eng, Marina Mahathir, Mariah Chin Abdullah, Siti Hasmah, and Wan Azizah, among others. We have Sisters in IslamBersihWanita Ungu MalaysiaWanita Harapan Malaysia, among others. We have their independence from the politico-religious leadership of men. We have the feminist hope which their political actions have offered me with.

On the other hand, I have little clue of what Wanita UMNO can do under the monolithic strength of UMNO patriarchs. It is a party where men preserve power in the name of religion. Women in the current regime have to beg for more electoral seats under the structural constraint of only thirty per cent representation for women in parliament as what the Government calls: a “minimum.” In actual, the thirty per cent agenda acts more as another constraint for women, because why not fifty per cent?


  1. Dr Mahathir Mohamed.

One major reason for #UndiRosak is the vision that our fourth prime minister might be our sixth. Indeed, Mahathir constructs a humbler, apologetic identity for himself for GE14, and asking only for two years of premiership. But many of us want someone newer with progressive ambitions, whether the person is Anwar Ibrahim or someone else literally new.

It is indeed too early for us to conclude anything about our next national leader. But we can speculate categorically. There are two possibilities. One, as #UndiRosak fears, Mahathir might not keep his promises and be a dictator again. Yet, dictators can only be dictators because their followers are obedient. We don’t know whether Pakatan Harapan is willing to sustain another dictator; so, Mahathir may not become a dictator. Second, if Mahathir keeps his promises, we can work from there.


  1. Parliamentary change for the sake of symbolic change.

Malaysia must move away from old narratives. We want a major rupture. Yet, it cannot immediately be a systemic rupture, unless Malaysians are willing to conduct bloody revolutionary wars, such as those in France, America, and many others.

Currently urgent and feasible is a symbolic rupture, which, for me, is a great enough goal for one round of elections. We must show that change is an actual possibility. We must finish our job from where we left off in the previous two elections. We must have another “political tsunami,” like that in 2008, but this time, this wave will actually divorce Barisan Nasional regime from State power.


So, have we addressed the need for a revolution? We can and we will, but we must first know what ‘real change’ is. I want to quote two intellectuals who have shaped my political thought.

First, my professor of media sociology. After my first ever class with him, I asked him how we can overcome the existing exploitation. He told me, and I quote him in actual: “Keep speaking up. Read more. Revolution doesn’t happen in one day.”

Second, Michel Foucault. He said:


“Are there no great radical ruptures in massive binary divisions, then? Occasionally, yes. But more often, one is dealing with mobile and transitory points of resistance, producing cleavages in society that shift about, fracturing unities and effecting regroupings, furrowing across individuals themselves, cutting them up and remoulding them, marking off irreducible regions in them, in their bodies and minds.”


Our resistance to the traditional system cannot be impulsive because resistance – unless we have military power equivalent of the State – does not happen through one electoral period. We must, this year, show that resistance and change are possible in a country like Malaysia, and then, continue with our rebellious work after the elections.

Elections don’t change systems, we humans do; but electoral results help manifest our unified power.


Written by Teoh Sing Fei

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Views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of IGNITE.

"All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." (George Orwell, in Animal Farm, 1945)

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