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Do not sow the seeds of hatred

  • Let’s not gamble with the future. It's not just the prosperity that matters to us, but the continuity of a nation based on understanding and tolerance as envisioned by our forefathers.

By Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar

Like most Malaysians I was expecting Pakatan Harapan’s win in the 2018 general election as a new marker in race relation in Malaysia. It was supposed to herald a new era of openness, tolerance and respect for each other. We are supposed to start a new leaf for interracial and inter-religious understandings.

Sadly it didn’t happen. In fact it got worse.

Many were blaming politics for the sad state of affair of race-relation in our country before 2018. We were blaming politicians for playing the race card. In order to survive, Umno was said to upped the ante in racial politics. On the other hand, Umno was blaming DAP for trying to drive a wedge among the races in the country.

The people have enough of that. Barisan Nasional was booted out after six decades of rule. Enough is enough, they say. The voters largely welcomed PH which seemed to embrace the true spirit of tolerance. Political pundits were trying to justify the win as a rejection of racial politics. Despite a small percentage in the swing vote towards PH among Malay voters, PH wrestled Putrajaya from BN.

Malaysians were elated. They believed they have thrown out a klepto government. Corrupt leaders were punished. It is time to clean up the government. But more importantly to start a new phase in race politics. PH is seen to be a coalition of equals, manifesting itself as inclusive, representing people of various races, in the true sense of the word.

They are supposed to start a new era of “muhibbah”. Things will change for the better. We are looking at a better Malaysia. A new Malaysia or Malaysia Baru.

But sadly, it didn’t last long. For too long many of the leaders in PH have been in the opposition. Many were caught in the “opposition mindset.” Many of them have difficulties in making adjustments. They were relentless even vicious when they attacked the BN government. But now they are the government. In most cases they are on the defensive. The very tools they used to attack BN is now being used against them. When it comes to Malay and Islamic agendas, they seemed to have lost the narratives when pressured by the opposition.

Some are even having serious doubts about whether the present coalition is the right formula. They are beginning to realize that “out there” people are losing hope in them. On the one hand there are many election promises unfulfilled. On the other hand, there are those who still believe that voters will support them come what may. Voters are wiser now.

The saddest thing is, things are getting worse race relation-wise. This time the race card is being used unashamedly. In fact, in a manner never seen before in Malaysian politics. PH’s enemies are using race and religion effectively. The Umno-PAS cooperation is one classic example. It is getting traction on the ground. There is a mass movement to galvanize the anti-PH sentiment by accusing the present government of ignoring the Malay and Islamic agendas. And that they are being used by DAP.

At the same time there are certain segments of the non-Malay community who are reacting unwisely and responding irrationally on certain matters. The reaction to the introduction of Jawi and Khat by certain groups for instance is giving ammunition to the government haters. The Zakir Naik issue is supposed to be a non-event, but escalating into a national catastrophe. It was badly managed by the government of the day.

Hate begets hates. Anger begets anger. As we are celebrating our 62nd Merdeka Anniversary, we are looking at almost a bleak scenario in race relation in the country. Toxicity is in the air. Hate speeches are in abundance. The social media is full of racially-charged postings. A minor accident on the road could easily become a racial issue. There are movements to boycott goods and services by other races.

Where are we heading? Is this the Malaysia that we want? Is this the promise of nationhood we wanted our children and grandchildren to live in? Are we sowing hatred just because we want to be heroes of our race and community? Whatever happened to a united color of unity?

Rules and regulations can’t save a country from turmoil. No amount of policing can stop the mayhem when we fail to live together harmoniously. Playing the racial card will win votes but it is a potentially dangerous recipe for a multi-racial nation like us.

This is the best time to reflect on our future. It is now or never. Our children and grandchildren will harvest the seeds of hatred we sow today. Let’s not gamble with the future. It is not just the prosperity that matters to us, but the continuity of a nation based on understanding and tolerance as envisioned by our forefathers.

The ideals of nationhood based on diversity and differences is at stake.

Let us ponder about the future, just for a while.

Dirgahayu Malaysiaku!

(Tan Sri Johan Jaaffar was a journalist and the former Chairman of Media Prima Bhd. He is currently a columnist with The Star.)


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