What do you think is the most pressing political challenge facing your generation?

The answer may differ if political challenges are assumed to mean either challenges to the political system or issues that would require solutions at various political levels.

For the former, one can cite representation, political polarisation and legacy issues to be a challenge, particularly where some systems may face difficulties to include minorities, moderate or younger voices in governments. Legacy issues can be the systems that enable and sustain polarisation whilst placing barriers for inclusion.

In terms of the latter, on issues that require solutions at various political levels, these would be inclusive of growing the economy amidst shifting geopolitical conditions and rivalry, issues such as demographic changes and the environment.

Do you feel optimistic about the future of your country?

Overall, sure, particularly after the display of a maturing democracy such as on May 9, 2019 (the Malaysian General Election). What it promises is perhaps political conversations that are not dominated by a single party for some time to come. However, this also raises the sustainability of polarisation along party or ethnic lines.

The blight in possible optimism is if challenges of social cohesion remain unaddressed or under-addressed. These involve fundamental conversations on identity, be it for the meaning of ‘Malaysia’ or the racial identification of a ‘Malaysian’, has not reached a particular conclusion.

What is your perception of government as an institution?

The government is an important institution for the implementation of policies, legislation and strategies agreed upon by the respective political systems. The institution should be supported by the bureaucracy and bureaucratic processes that are efficient, transparent and at best, effective.

Which other countries inspire you and why?

We can learn different things from different nations. For instance, South Korea’s take on modernising industries and making them competitive; China’s internal policies on innovation; Indonesia and Timor-Leste’s inclusion of civil society to solve national or pertinent issues; or Singapore’s consistent preparation forward.

Different countries have found different solutions to issues plaguing their societies, which makes for great reference and lessons to be learned.

Who do you admire? Who is your hero?

(This is a tough question)

I admire greatly two women who I have come to know in this line of work: Ms Elina Noor, Visiting Fellow at ISIS Malaysia (also lecturer at DKI-APCSS) and Dr Hoo Chiew-Ping, Senior Lecturer at Centre for Policy and Global Governance, National University Malaysia. Both display the tenacity and drive to be better, with a great body of work to display as achievements.

What is one thing that you would like to preserve for the next generation?

The sense of common courtesy. Perhaps because cyberspace place forums and words on a single page, the art of ‘agreeing to disagree’ may be marred by communication spanning across the globe. Content can hold equal authority whilst two or a few parties attempt communication but this process may be affected by differences in semantics. Courtesy, a learned and social behaviour has to consistently be taught for it to be preserved.

Farlina Said is an Analyst at the Institute of Strategic and International Studies, Malaysia, focusing on Cybersecurity and Radicalisation.