1 MALAYSIA: A blurred vision

COMMENTARY by Tunku Abdul Aziz

(From My Sinchew of May 02, 2009)

THE PRIME MINISTER’S 1 Malaysia has very quickly caught the imagination of the Malaysian public. It has, as to be expected, produced some mixed reactions ranging from sheer ecstasy, utter disbelief with a heavy overlay of cynicism and the standard non-committal shrug of the shoulders. The message is clear. We will believe Najib when we see the colour of his money.
It is not an unreasonable attitude to adopt given the well-known intractable position of UMNO on such a fundamental issue as equality of opportunity for all. There is no hope in hell or heaven, take your pick, that Najib will be able to persuade UMNO members to jettison their only political capital, howsoever acquired, that has enabled them all these decades to remain on top of the heap, irrespective of the highly questionable moral and ethical “legitimacy” of racial discrimination as their comprehensive, over-arching national policy.
The government as we all know has taken the soft option – that of giving in to the demands of one section of the community and unapologetically denying, the rest who make up an important and very substantial minority, their rights as citizens of this country. Many labour, and justifiably so, under a deep sense of deprivation and neglect.
Najib’s 1 Malaysia will forever remain an idea whose time has not come unless he is clear in his own mind that the starting point of his media savvy slogan is national integration.
The process must start with a conscious political decision to dismantle discriminatory policies, systems and procedures. These policies as practised today are the antithesis of nation building, national unity and racial harmony.
They must go, and the sooner these iniquitous practices are made illegal and replaced with policies which are inclusive, fair and equitable, the sooner will we achieve national integration and identity. We may have a country, but strictly speaking, if we persist with the current policies, we may never in a thousand years succeed in creating a nation.
Najib is being presented with both a challenge and an opportunity to recreate and reform Malaysia into a country that draws strength from its tangle of peoples, cultures and religions. We share much in our diversity and let us focus on those common values and virtues that unite us. Instead, many of us would rather spend our waking hours looking to highlight issues that divide us.
One tragic consequence of Malaysia’s officially-sanctioned racial discrimination is the alienation of our non-Malay children of Chinese and Indian origin. How, in all fairness, can we expect them to love this country of their birth if they know that in practice they are treated differently from Malay or even Mamak children?
It is not surprising that many make their way to schools in Singapore under Singapore’s Asean scholarships scheme. We have lost over the years thousands of our brightest young Malaysian Chinese and Indian children to Singapore to the detriment of our social and economic development. Few return, only to leave again for greener pastures. We cannot subject people, at the most impressionable stage of their lives, to discrimination, especially in education and employment, and expect them to be patriotic and die for the country.
Najib is being watched carefully by the people of this country to see whether he has the stomach for meaningful reform, the sort of reform that will thrust Malaysia into the ranks of respected democratic nations, fully observing the central tenet of justice, fair play and equity in the governance of a multi-racial people. His credibility, both as a person as well as prime minister, will suffer irreparably if he does not deliver the promised package of goodies as understood by the people of this country. He is under considerable pressure to explain in clear, simple terms, what he means by 1 Malaysia. We wait with bated breath for the ceremonial rolling out of Najib’s great vision for Malaysia. He will have our support in this magnificent endeavour if his version coincides with justice and equity for all Malaysians.
There is perhaps a need to remind ourselves of the very real anxiety, rightly or wrongly, felt by most Malays that while they are continually being asked to make one concession after another, what are their non-Malay cousins bringing to the table, they ask? If we are talking about equality of opportunity, why stop at economic, social and educational opportunities?
As Malaysians, should we not also want to share the sacrifices made by the largely Malay police and the armed forces in protecting and defending our Malaysia in peace and war? Privileges and responsibilities are somehow intertwined, and we cannot have one without the other. Food for thought.