On the night of 13 May 2009, I attended a public forum entitled “From May 13 to 1Malaysia – The Future of Malaysian Nation Building” at the Civic Hall, MBPJ. This was a forum organised by ADUN Lau Weng San in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the May 13 incident.
Speakers of different backgrounds and age were invited to explore the new slogan of “1Malaysia” envisioned by the Prime Minister and to share with the audience their vision of our common destiny – Malaysia’s future. Just like sharing a pack of yummy potato chips, I shall share the gist of some of the speakers’ views.
“Setelah 51 tahun merdeka, sukar untuk beri kuasa kepada rakyat kalau rakyat tidak boleh bahas!” That was Anwar Ibrahim.
To the Parliamentary Opposition leader, to achieve 1Malaysia, we need to improve the standards of our institutions – the police, judiciary, prosecution and most importantly, media. Without a thorough implementation of fair and just policies and programmes meant for the rakyat, the bare new slogan 1Malaysia alone can never be the solution. This somehow reminded me of those wicked businessmen repackaging old products with new labels and new promotions trying to trick customers but only God knows that the contents of the products are exactly the same!
Our President, Ragunath Kesavan reiterated the Bar Council’s stand affirmatively that “Political crises cannot be resolved in the court of law”. No court of law can decide on who is the Menteri Besar of Perak. Touching on the “Perak fiasco”, Ragunath commented that the lesson we should learn from it is that the ruling government cannot rely on race and religion to divide the people. He also asserted that Nizar Jamaluddin is the Menteri Besar for the Malays, the Chinese and the Indians, and most importantly, for the Bar Council, he is also the Menteri Besar for the orang asli in Perak. Ragunath’s ideal symbol for new Malaysia is Malaysia with no consideration for race and religion but justice and the rule of law.
Echoing what Anwar said earlier, Azmi Sharom voiced his own vision for the future boldly, “Future depends not on what a man and woman is but what a man and woman does”. The emphasis is ACTION.
I could still recall the thunderous applause received from the floor when Nizar, the so called “Tun Perak” equated the use of racial and religious elements particularly the May 13 incident to divide the people to the tactics used by the colonialists. Such elements embedded by the British continue to be used by the ruling government to terrify, influence and induce the people. The media too has played a role in injecting fear into the mind of citizens.
Tricia Yeoh, research officer at the Selangor Menteri Besar’s office, proclaimed her ideal Malaysian future by calling for “institutional reform” and an immediate “road map” of the existing policies which she termed “cosmetic surgery”. The younger generation should be educated such as to be able to think out of the Pandora Box of racial and religious elements.
Likewise, I too wish to convey my inspirations of 1Malaysia to our PM. Technology advancement nowadays has widened the gap between people. For the sake of convenience, those who live under the same roof more often than not choose to communicate by way of emails rather than to speak to each other. Nation building involves bridging and uniting a population of over 26 million Malaysians with different backgrounds and cultures. Achievement of true national unity and racial harmony is indeed a lengthy route full of obstacles for every country, a goal not easy to reach but yet attainable if there is strong commitment by the government leading the people. By simply launching a blog purportedly to welcome any comments regarding governance, or illustrating how a chapatti is made in a Sikh Temple to so-called symbolise the moulding of all nations into one Malaysia is superficial.
Integration of vernacular schools into national schools is also not the correct way. Vernacular schools should not be faulted as the source of lack of national unity and greater polarisation. The human mind ought not be shaped through force and law. Unity has to be instilled by mutual respect of each other’s languages and cultures, and by patience. People have to value diversity and treasure the uniqueness of Malaysia with a multi-racial and multi-religious population. Vernacular schools should not be seen as segregating races and be singled out but rather should be seen as protecting multi-racialism and multi-culturalism which are part of our national heritage.
On the contrary, in order to strengthen national and racial unity, not only must there be a halt to any practice of hypocrisy and favoritism but immediate substantive reforms based on principles of effective equality. We talk about 1Malaysia 1nation, and logically there should not be any borders between each ethnic and religious groups. Yet, the continued summoning of “Ketuanan Melayu”, “Bangkitlah Melayu” and other racially-charged publications by the BN-controlled media will not only serve no purpose in nation building but the manipulation of racial sentiments by political actors harbours feelings of resentment. The media must exercise responsible journalism and not succumb to wicked political manipulation such as to stir racial emotions by their reporting.
The creation of a more open political environment and transparent government by abolishing all draconian laws like the Internal Security Act, Printing Presses and Publication Act, Sedition Act and Official Secrets Act so as to reaffirm our rights to express ourselves without fear while receiving a free flow of information is an essential catalyst to accelerate the achievement of 1Malaysia.
52 years after achieving independence, we hope 1Malaysia will not be yet another empty shell and empty slogan as we aspire for real political will and sincerity to fully implement policies and programmes to reflect justice, humanity, fairness, equality, freedom and openness.
We Malaysians are ready and courageous to walk away from the haunting May 13. The crucial question however is whether the government is ready to do the same.