Who is He?
Born on the 6th of December 1992 in Johor, Malaysia, Syed Saddiq is the son of a former Singaporean construction worker, Syed Abdul Rahman Abdullah Al-Sagoff, and English teacher, Sharifah Mahani Syed Abdul Aziz. His academic qualifications include his time at the Royal Military College (RMC), and International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) pursuing a Bachelor of Laws (LLB). He even championed in an international debate competition- the United Asian Debating Championship (UADC) which led to him being offered prestigious Oxford University scholarships which he allegedly rejected in order to concentrate on his active pursuit in Malaysian Politics.
According to the young politician, he is a completely different person now compared to who he was 5 years ago. Apparently, he couldn’t speak English very well nor score strongly on English papers although “English papers in Malaysia are not difficult”. “My knowledge was shit. I thought Africa was a country, Egypt was a continent”.
Syed Saddiq also proceeds to admit though not proudly, that he was once a racist and Islamic radical, “Like I’ll only mingle with Muslims”. But he strongly claims that people can change and applies himself as an example. “People always say oh no, this person is racist or a radical and cannot be changed. No, no, no, I was exactly that and I have changed”.
Through his academic background exploring military and legal impacts on the country, Syed Saddiq realises that “Politics is the epicentre of change”. He explains that if he is to change the fate of his country, he has no choice but to participate in politics, be it directly as a politician or indirectly as an activist.
At the age of 25, carrying the title of youngest to be appointed to office and second youngest MP in Malaysian History, under former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in the Pakatan Harapan (PH) administration, he served as the Minister of Youth and Sports from July 2018 to the downfall of the party in February 2020. He has further served as Muar’s Member of Parliament (MP) since May 2018 while co-founding a new political party by the name of the Malaysian United Democratic Alliance (MUDA) in September 2020.
What Is He Doing Now?
The Malaysian United Democratic Alliance—or MUDA, a fitting abbreviation for the novel, youth-led political party, was co-founded by Syed Saddiq, inspired by the current Southeast Asian youth-centered political movements, including the Indonesian Solidarity Party. Syed Saddiq’s party strives to animate Malaysian youth into a thunderous political force, addressing the widespread disappointment towards the country’s archaic politics.
“We want to unshackle Malaysia from the type of politics based on money and power, and refresh it with young people with the right heart, mind and interests who can move Malaysia forward,”- Syed Saddiq said in an interview with Reuters.
Despite still stabilising their grounds, Syed Saddiq’s party brands itself astray from the status quo. MUDA promises a racially comprehensive, merit-based, and policy-operated administration, repudiating corporate money and the political “four hundred” customs that have grown traditional in Malaysia. Untethered from other established political parties and hence unbound by the scandals and rottenness that they come with.
Aside from attracting voters that are simply fed up with Malaysia’s deadlock political climate enforced for decades by renowned figures who have commanded the country’s governments, MUDA is likely to be the intuitive choice for disenchanted Malaysians who relied on the PH’s 2018 amelioration move which concluded in the party’s downfall. With the median age in Malaysia of 29 and the average age of office being in the mid-50s, MUDA’s message is destined to pique the interests of younger voters who are left scorned and unimpressed by the current deteriorating government.
According to the MP, it’s upsetting that the future of the nations hangs in the balance, with the burden shouldered by those in their late 50s. “I think that’s quite disturbing”. He emphasises the significance of the movement relating to “Malaysians from all backgrounds regardless of their ideological beliefs or their religion” because, at the end of the day, there is a shared aim through nationalism to protect our country.
Syed Saddiq also opened up about a time where he felt on the edge. When he was receiving threats, he felt as though his fight was impossible with the plausibility of it just demolishing his career. But he clarified that it was best to endure his journey because “I would never be able to look at myself in the future if I silence myself. Because my moral conscience will forever be corrupted due to whatever personal gains I might get if I keep quiet”.
How did the Politicians Respond?
The emergence of MUDA has brought critique to the existing political parties. Parties with similar personalities have been governing Malaysia’s politics for decades. MUDA, which means “young” in Malay, disguises itself as an alternate to this never-ending chain.
Former Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir states that it will be tough for Syed Saddiq to succeed by only targeting young people. While youths make up a large part of the population, they did not form the majority of voters in any constituency.
“Although the youth is a very big portion of the electorate, it is not enough for the people to win just because they have the support of the youth,” he told a news conference at the Perdana Leadership Foundation. He added that political parties need to appeal broadly to all ages.
“In any constituency, there will be old people, there will be young people. We are going to appeal to the young people as well,” he said of Pejuang.
As reported by CNN news, youths are under-represented in Malaysian politics. The median age in Malaysia is 30 and over 60 percent of the population is under 40. Yet around 70 percent of Malaysian lawmakers are over the age of 50.
On Thursday September 3rd, Syed Saddiq responded to the remarks of Dr. Mahathir by posting on Twitter “Thank you, Tun. We accept the criticism with an open heart,”
Syed Saddiq’s response, “This is a party led by youths for all Malaysians.”
“The majority of those who will lead will comprise of young technocrats, professionals, entrepreneurs, modern farmers, civil society leaders, and others.”
“We may be young, but we love Malaysia,” he said.
Syed Saddiq told Malaysiakini that his party is “youth-led” and not “youth-exclusive”.
Nevertheless, Mahathir mentioned that he had a good relationship with Syed Saddiq, saying that there was no problem in working with him if their objective was also to fight corruption.
How did The People Respond?
Many citizens took to social media to express their disapproval towards the new party;
“Syed Saddiq, you’re going to fail. You say you are going to form a multiracial youth-based party. Forming a party needs a whole lot of money which you don’t have. You are from a working-class family and you are no longer a minister.”
“Somehow, I have a strong feeling that even though you aren’t in Pejuang, it is Pejuang (Mahathir and Mukhriz) that is financing this party. There is a hidden agenda behind this. Maybe not you, Syed Saddiq, but there is no free lunch.”
“You are but a pawn for something grander. Those idealists who will follow his path, don’t be fooled! This new party is Mahathir’s proxy.”
However many were quick to show support to the young MP:
“Syed Saddiq, you bring a glimmer of hope to all right-thinking Malaysians. Your multiracial youth-based party brings a ray of sunshine away from those grizzled, dirty, money-grabbing, pompous, arrogant, and self-serving old politicians of Malaysian politics.”
“I am a 60-plus old dinosaur but see no political future in my generation. They are letting the country down badly. We have to leave the country in better hands. Syed Saddiq, you will have my vote.”
“Kudos. This is a bold step forward. Malaysian youth are ready to leave our racial and hero-worship politics behind. I hope this is the beginning of a new political narrative.”
Ros Rejects Party Registration of Syed’s MUDA
On January 7th, The Registrar of Societies (RoS) sent a letter to reject the registration of Syed Saddiq’s party, the Malaysia United Democratic Alliance (Muda). A Representative of MUDA clarified that Ros has sent a letter via email informing them about the rejection.
“Yes, Muda’s application was rejected by RoS via email yesterday,” a spokesman told Malay Mail.
In the email, the registrar said it had decided to reject Muda’s application, although it did not give a specific reason for the rejection.
In Syed’s statement, he expressed disappointment in RoS decision stating that the party has fully cooperated with Ros during the process and complied with all the conditions. It said RoS had no solid basis to reject Muda’s registration, adding that it would consider its next course of action, including legal proceedings.
Keep up with Syed Saddiq and his party MUDA through his social media platforms;
Or take it one step further and join his party!
Reported by: Shay Azman and Shanay Low
Edited by: Wu Wen Qi