Family: Husband Greg and daughters Sacha, Adele and Sabrina.
Location: Potomac, Maryland, USA.
It was 6:40 in the morning and there was a long line outside our voting center, a community sports facility in Maryland. I was voting for the first time in life.
I’ve never voted before in Malaysia. I’m not sure why. Maybe because there was no Bersih movement back then?
I remember meeting then Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed when I was 13 years old; and being so star-struck and thinking, “When I grown up. I want to be just like him.” Seriously, what was I thinking? That’s a pretty laughable idea since I come from a minority race in Malaysia.
When I was finally eligible to vote, I decide not to.
Call it my take-away education about the Malaysian political process: I had decided that the ruling national coalition said nothing to me. Nothing they said had any relevance to me or my life or my values. And their minority partners said even less to educated, young Malaysians of middle class values.
So I stayed away. I never thought to have my vote counted or heard.
At the time, there was no credible opposition.
I left Malaysia to work overseas just when the reformasi movement was coming together. The reformasi movement of that age isn’t the Bersih movement you have today. It was too young. It wasn’t populated with the young white-collar professionals you have today in the Bersih movement, offering a different choice to the electorate; a choice for those willing to have enough heart to take a chance and vote.
That brings us back to November 6, 2012: Election Day in the United States
Earlier this year, I took the pledge of allegiance in front of a US judge, a decision I made heart-whole. I was embracing everything that came with it, most importantly the freedoms for which people before me had fought for, including the right to vote and be counted.
I was ready, and so when I woke up that morning at 5:30 a.m. I knew where I wanted to be.
I wanted to vote, I wanted to be counted; I needed to know that I had done my bit to cast a vote for the President of the United States.
It didn’t matter that Maryland was a traditionally Democrat-learning state, so another vote for the Democrats wouldn’t change things. It was a great feeling to leave that polling booth an hour later, having ticked off my choices for President and Vice President, Senator, House Representatives, Judges, Board of Education members and various ballot measures including whether should gay couples have civil union rights.
And then, like everyone else, I waited for the election night results to come in.
Finally, at 11:14 pm, we heard that Ohio had swung for the president. Barack Obama had gotten his four years and people like me – Asians and Latinos and women and young people – had put him back there in numbers and with a margin that would give him a mandate to govern.
We wanted him to finish what he started four years ago: Create jobs, opportunity, and a fighting chance for the middle class.
As his rival Mitt Romney would say magnanimously in his concession speech, “Let us pray for the president to be successful in guiding the nation.”
KL boy Jahabar Sadiq gave up life as a globetrotting TV producer for a news agency to come home and cover a subject close to his heart – Malaysia. It’s been a crazy ride trying to do objective journalism … read more
Some years back, I volunteered at my newspaper’s booth at a big convention organised by the Asian American Journalists Association. Journalists flew in from all around the US for the meeting in Minneapolis. My task was to talk to job-seekers and pass on the … read more
Every year, another wave of Malaysians moves away, drawn by school, work or love. Or for the freedom to be who they want to be. They go to Singapore, Australia, Europe and the US, and increasingly to less traditional destinations – China, Indonesia, South Africa.
And every year, a few swim against the tide and return.
This is a small attempt at stripping away the judgement, getting the diaspora talking.
After all, a Malaysian in Milan, Miami or….(fill in the blanks) is still a Malaysian at heart.