13/10/2021
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Malays should have more faith in our pluralism

By Kuik Cheng Kang, Sin Chew Daily

The local Chinese community still has reservations about what Ismail Sabri Yaakob has said. Apparently the prime minister needs to work a lot harder to win the trust and support of the community.

“We are family” and “1Malaysia” have been the loudest political slogans of then deputy PM Anwar Ibrahim and PM Najib Razak, Along with Ismail’s “Keluarga Malaysia”, they have all been designed to build a distinct personal image for the leaders.

In the past Anwar and Najib had on numerous occasions chanted the “We are family” and “1Malaysia” slogans in political events and had indeed sent the spirit soaring. Unfortunately soon after that everyone was back to the rude political reality, as Chinese, Indians and other minority communities continued to bear the agonies of their queried identities.

As the leader of the nation, he must make sure that he himself, his party comrades and the government he helms walk the talk in order to win the trust and support of the people.

To be fair, when Najib was the education minister, he did make a very bold move to amend the Education Act 1961 to break the shackles that had been put on the country’s Chinese education development, taking an enormous risk that could bring an abrupt end to his rising political career. For this the former PM indeed deserves a mention in the country’s Chinese education development history. 

Clause 21(2) of the Education Act had authorized the education minister to convert national-type primary schools to national primary schools whenever he deemed appropriate. And Najib was only a small step from full recognition of the UEC certificate.

Amidst widespread skepticism, Ismail Sabri was lucky enough to have ascended to the pinnacle of power. Sure enough he wants to prove his worth and do something that will earn him a place in the country’s history. He will have a place in the country’s Chinese education development history if UEC eventually gains full recognition from the government during his premiership.

In his inaugural national address as PM, Ismail proposed the “Keluarga Malaysia” concept for the first time.

While many believe it is just another ostentatious but hardly practical political jargon, I personally feel that we need not be that negative and let the time prove everything. And since we do not want our leader to come up with yet another Malay- or bumi-first slogan, why not just give him a chance to fulfill his “Keluarga Malaysia” aspiration and pledge?

As the citizens of this country, our duty is to supervise the government and make sure the “Keluarga Malaysia” slogan does what it is intended, to put the diverse Malaysian population on the track of solidarity.

Taking a close look at the soft launch of Ismail’s “Keluarga Malaysia” concept on October 8, we could spot a pleasant surprise on the sidelines of a glittery slogan in the form of a “Squad Keluarga Malaysia” comprising over 10,000 volunteers to be deployed nationwide to disseminate the positive value of our diversity.

According to the prime minister, the spirit and philosophy of “inclusivity, common ground and contentment” will be ingrained in every operation of his administration, as he vows to deliver the nation out of the tangle of erstwhile racial conflicts and divisions. We have a lot of anticipation for this, and let’s wish him godspeed.

A grand and official launching ceremony has been slated for October 22 in Kuching.

But why Kuching? I asked communication and multimedia minister Annuar Musa during a recent dialogue. His reply was straightforward and compelling: “Sarawak is the capital of Unity.”

Indeed, East Malaysia has always been a hub of cultural diversity, inclusivity and interracial integration. Whenever unity is mentioned, East Malaysia–Sarawak in particular–will come into mind.

It is inconceivable for Ismail and his team to be totally ignorant of the calls of Malaysians for change, especially those of young people who will automatically become voters from this December.

Young Malaysians today cherish the universally accepted values. They want to see social justice, equality and human right, and abhor corruption, greed and abuse of power.

In view of this, anyone who aspires to resuscitate the old Umno’s racist antics will get wiped out by time and tide.

In this big family of Malaysia we have the Orang Asli, the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Bajaus, Muruts, Bidayuhs, Melanaus, Ibans, Dusuns and more. The society we are in is like a symphony orchestra in which each member plays a different tune in our day-to-day living, but never once have these divergent styles sounded discordant to the listeners.

There are many Malaysians who shine brightly on the international stage, and they are not applauded only by people from a specific ethnic community.

In our day-to-day living, we have come to appreciate, accommodate, respect and accept one another’s languages, cultures, customs, music and food, but when it comes to politics, we are like dream walkers faltering in tight, pitch dark tunnels, crashing, jostling and assaulting one another.

All this could be blamed on instigation by selfish and shameless politicians who mislead and incite innocent people in the name of religion, language, culture and “bumi agenda” in a wicked attempt to create intercommunity clashes with the ulterior motive of winning the support of people from their own communities.

We are living in a paradise but are helplessly lugged into the Hades, day after day and year after year for decades. Is this what we want?

We have never once felt offended hearing different languages while walking in the market, but why should anyone feel uncomfortable with the existence of Chinese primary schools?

Today, Malay students make up almost 20% of SJKC enrolment nationwide, and this speaks volumes of the fact that quality education is the choice of Malaysians.

Malay is the language people naturally use when speaking to people from a different ethnic background. In other words, the status of Bahasa as our national language and Islam as the country’s official religion is beyond question.

As such, the Malays should have more faith in themselves, and have more dignity standing on this culturally diverse land to live and prosper together with all other peoples that also call this place home.

Poverty knows no racial distinction. Stop trumpeting the bumi agenda which is verily a disastrous policy that will not do anyone any good but will erode the competitiveness of the bumis themselves in the long run, while crippling free trade and our business environment.

The bumi agenda will only accentuate the wealth disparity between the haves and have-nots in the Malay society. It further fattens the wealthy Malays, businessmen and anyone with good ties with the government while the overwhelming majority of underclass Malays continue to stifle under pressure for survival.

If the government is really serious about liberating the Malays from poverty and creating a sizable Malay middle class, then it should muster the strengths of the entire nation to help the underprivileged irrespective of race, so that in the end the bumiputras who make up more than 70% of the country’s population will still benefit the most from the government’s policy.

Now that the prime minister is seeing the whole country as one big family, then this family must be one that we genuinely care for one another, one that we grow together, a safe haven we long to return to.

It should be a place we cheer together in happiness, weep together in sorrow, and go through the good and bad times together.

And since we are “family”, we should more than ever live together in harmony and learn to accept, respect, support and care for one another despite our many differences.

As the Chinese saying goes, a peaceful family prospers. We should appreciate the true significance of happiness once we understand the simple moral in this saying.

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