It is vital that our nation continues to renew the grassroots leadership of the Village Consultative Council (MPK) institutions across the nation. The injection of young people into the key committee posts have to be prioritised especially so that continuity and change can be enhanced. These changes are imperative to prepare our country to face the challenges of the 21st century.

But first, the Village Consultative Council (therefore called MPK) is a social institution that was established by the Ministry of Home Affairs with the mandate to spearhead and implement social policies and projects on behalf of their respective communities. They are also the eyes, mouths and ears of the nation, and are tasked with the responsibility to reinvigorate the spirit of patriotism amongst the village population.

Led by the Chairman or the Ketua Kampong (Village Leader), the committee are either elected or appointed to the key posts every five years or so either directly by the community or indirectly by the government. According to the latest public data, there are currently around 80 Ketua Kampongs in the country. There are essentially five key posts in every MPK namely the Advisor, the Chairman (Village Leader), Deputy Chairman, Treasurer, and Secretary. Many of the people who hold these key posts are experienced veterans, many of whom have served loyally in their respective MPKs for decades.

With youths making up 70% of the overall population according to the latest JPKE data, it is imperative than ever to engage them into the village development process. Involving them at the grassroots level will enhance bottom-up development as well as to unlock new ideas in developing our respective villages forward.  Involving young people could be key to enhance village solidarity and participation amongst the population.

They do not need to be the Advisor or Chairman (Ketua Kampong), but they do need to become their village’s Deputy Chairman, Treasurer or Secretary.

However, ideas and contributions advocated by young people are only as useful as the name they have made for themselves for the community. Without proper credentials (such as education or prior experience), it would be significantly difficult to get considered for the MPK leadership posts. The only way that their ideas or contributions can take hold is to prove oneself to the veterans by having the right education as well as the boundless capacity to work extremely hard. Earning the veterans respect is difficult but it is worth it. Sometimes there will be ups and downs, but nothing ever worth it comes easy.

There are no schedules as to when the next MPK leadership post openings will be. But I highly invite young people to contact their respective Ketua Kampongs directly and to nominate themselves to the leadership posts that will be available in the next election or appointment cycle. The government and even the MPK themselves are indeed open for young people to nominate themselves. This is because they know they need the energies and fresh ideas of young people to make a change in the village.

The advantages of being in an MPK are plenty. As an elected Treasurer for a village MPK whose responsibility it is to manage the financial accounts of the grassroots organisation that represent over two thousand residents, I can personally vouch how much a valuable learning experience it can be for a young person.

Apart from learning new things, you will learn a lot on how to deal with various kinds of people from a wide range of community. Moreover, it gives you this awesome responsibility to represent the thousands of people in your village. Above all, you will be given the opportunity to voice out new ideas and to make a direct impact in your village.

There may be difficulties that you may face along the way. As a young MPK key committee member, I can share how difficult in can be in earning the respect among the veterans initially. This may be because of the cultural, language and age gaps that exist that may serve to impede social congruence. Eventually, these things can ultimately be overcomed with how good you are in delivering results on behalf of the community.

On this note, as the treasurer of my MPK, I am glad to announce that our recent event, namely the Golden Jubilee celebration for Sekolah Rendah Junjongan broke a 15-year fundraising record. The event went on to be a complete success with the help of various parties.

Therefore, the government must encourage young people to nominate themselves to these leadership posts. MPK members or village residents  must also encourage their sons or daughters to take up these positions.

Why should young people be encouraged to lead at the village level? This is so that we can equip them with the right skills and experience they need to make a bigger impact to the community someday. This reflects Deng Xiaoping’s dictum, that “young people should not rise up by helicopters; they should rise step by step”. 

There are difficulties in the recruitment of young people into these key posts, admittedly. This can arise due to the lack of awareness or interest of young people to participate in the village development process. There are also cultural, language or social factors that may impede social congruence between young people and the veterans. But these things should not serve as major impediments to people whose passion rests in public service. 

Overall, it is high time for young people to nominate themselves to the MPK posts. The opportunities to contribute towards making a change in the village are plentiful. It may be strange working and constantly being surrounded by people older than you, but their collective wisdom will pass on to you and it is this that one needs to build one’s competence in leadership.

You are, after all, the person who is going to shoulder the responsibility of your community. If it is not you, then who else? Let me also borrow the quote from John F. Kennedy, “Do not ask what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”.

I invite you to nominate yourself and become a key member of the Village Consultative Committee.