Get youth involved in Village Consultative Council institutions

IT IS vital that our nation renews 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 MPK is a social institution that serves under the purview of the Ministry of Home Affairs with the mandate to spearhead and implement social policies and projects on behalf of their communities.

They are also the eyes, mouths and ears of the nation, and are tasked with the responsibility to reinvigorate the spirit of patriotism among the village population.

Led by the Chairman or the Ketua Kampong (Village Head), the committees are either elected or appointed to the key posts every five years or so either directly by the community or indirectly by the government.

There are essentially five key posts in every MPK namely the Advisor, the Chairman (Village Head), Deputy Chairman, Treasurer, and Secretary.

Many who hold these key posts are experienced veterans, many of whom have served loyally in their MPKs for decades.

With youth making up 70 per cent 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 unlock new ideas in developing our villages forward.

Involving young people could be the key to enhance village solidarity and participation among the population.

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

There are literally hundreds of posts that will be up for nomination within five years time across Brunei Darussalam.

There are no schedules as to when the next MPK leadership post openings will be.

But I invite young people to contact their village heads 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.

The responsibilities of an elected Treasurer for a village MPK is to manage the financial accounts and as a key member to represent 2,000 residents of my village.

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 people from a wide range of fields, be it with the police, imams, school authorities, media and government officers.

Moreover, it will give you the responsibility to represent those who are in need 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 it was to earn the respect of my veterans initially.

This may be because of the cultural, language and age gaps that exist that impede social congruence.

Eventually, I overcame these things by producing good results.

On this note, as the treasurer of my MPK, I am glad to announce that our recent event, namely the Golden Jubilee celebration for Junjongan Primary School broke a 10-year fundraising record.

The event went on to be a complete success with the help of various parties.

I would say that the government must continue to encourage young people to nominate themselves to these MPK leadership posts. MPK members or village residents must also encourage their sons, daughters, cousins, relatives, 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 in 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, as was my case initially.

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 and nation.

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 Council Committee.

– Abdul Malik Omar