The image of NASA’s Perseverance rover touching down on Mars on Feb. 18, 2021 – its mission on Mars is astrobiology, including the search for signs of ancient microbial life. The rover will characterize the planet’s geology and past climate, paving the way for human exploration of the Red Planet, and be the first mission to collect and cache Martian rock and regolith. Image source: NASA/JPL-Caltech
- Education Malaysia 2011: One School System Revisited
- Malaysia 101: Making of United, Strong Bangsa Malaysia
- Governance 101: Rukunegara, Things That We Have Forgotten
- Vision 2020: Within our Sight & Destiny?
- Slaying the Real Bogeyman
One thing our local champions on race and religion have forgotten is that the rest of the world has moved on with issues far more important for the future of humanity and technology. The notion of race and religion has indeed become trivial.
Yes, when it comes to racisms and unfair treatment, no country has excelled in showing great unity and fairness. Even the United States of America had a bad history of slavery and 400 hundred years later appointed an African American as their President still had its dark episode of Black Lives Matters. It is still a long way to go for unity and fairness.
Biggest Threat to National Unity
Back in Malaysia where the notion of race and religion in daily lives is nothing new or discreet, it will be foolish that there will be a genuine drive to enforce unity and fairness among the various races by politicians in the country. Even this is acknowledged by the Prime Minister himself:-
Malaysians should be wary of the manipulation of racial sentiments by politicians, said Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Speaking virtually at the launch of the National Unity Policy and National Unity Blueprint 2021-2030 today, the Prime Minister said that was the main challenge in almost all multi-racial countries.
“Politicians who try to gain political mileage by exploiting racial sentiments must be avoided,” he said at the event streamed live on the Ministry of National Unity’s Facebook.
He said the government was aware that Malaysians would never sacrifice social solidarity and national unity they had enjoyed for so long for personal goals.
“The government will never compromise in matters that could jeopardise national unity. It was based on this principle that the Ministry of National Unity was created — to shoulder the responsibility to ensure the success of the national unity agenda,” he said.
“We need to continue to nurture this feeling (empathy) in order to understand racial issues from a more balanced and comprehensive perspective. Like in some other multi-racial countries, sometimes we only look at racial issues from the perspective of a certain race or group,” he said.
He believes this perspective needs to be improved to make it more balanced and holistic and that it should be nurtured through the education system and the media.
Therefore, he said, all parties must always ascertain that their intentions are right and to jointly strengthen their efforts to ensure Malaysia remains a strong nation and the people are strongly united, not only for our children and grandchildren but also for the future generation.
Muhyiddin said Malaysia’s image as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious and multi-cultural country was often used as a model of a united nation.
“Although sometimes there are differences, rivalry and conflict, but the social integration that has existed for so long in the society has maintained our unity until today, making other countries to want to learn from us,” he added.
National Unity Action Plan (Blueprint) 2021-2030
So it was surprising that in the midst of political tussles within Pakatan Nasional politicians, the Prime Minister unveiled a unity blueprint.
The government has outlined 12 strategies in its national unity blueprint, from placing greater emphasis on the Rukun Negara to encouraging the learning of other languages and narrowing disparities among the people.
The National Unity Action Plan (Blueprint) 2021-2030, launched by Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin earlier today, contains three aspirations and 12 strategies, each with several strategic actions.
The aspirations are to build a patriotic and democratic society, develop a national identity and strengthen the unity ecosystem.
The strategic actions contained in the blueprint include:
1. Greater emphasis on the Rukun Negara in education and the organising of more programmes to strengthen patriotism.
2. Promoting integration through social, cultural and sporting activities and the creation of more unity-themed creative content like patriotic songs.
3. Narrowing social, economic, digital and development gaps among different districts and communities.
4. Increasing the use of Bahasa Melayu as the national language for official matters in government agencies and also in the private sector.
5. Encouraging the learning of other languages, including an emphasis on basic Chinese and Tamil lessons, from the pre-school to university levels as elective subjects.
6. Increasing exposure to the different cultures, ethnicities and religions in the country from pre-school level to university levels.
7. Addressing racial and religious issues on social media, including monitoring and enforcement and educating the public on the ethics and laws of using social media.
8. Strengthening the role of social mediators including community and religious leaders who can help resolve disputes among communities.
9. Strengthening the role of schools and other educational institutions as mediums of integration. This includes national schools organising sporting events with the vernacular schools in their areas.
10. Ensuring the rule of law is applied equally by taking action against anyone who threatens the unity and harmony among the people.
Challenges to National Unity Blueprint
10 strategic action plans on paper may seem simple and is in fact, nothing new but then again, the question is how a Government that is already facing multiple challenges to be in power plans to pull this off.
Different Schools, Different Races
Some of the action plans like increasing exposure to the different cultures, ethnicities and religions in the country from pre-school level to university levels will be an uphill battle if we still have different types of school in the country – national schools and vernacular schools.
We already are causing major disunity by having separate Tamil and Chinese schools (which attracts Indian and Chinese students from national schools) instead of combining all in one school and then have these key languages as an optional session.
We need to enforce one school for all for unity to work and start from the school level.
A former boarding school head today pointed to the success of a multi-racial boarding school programme in promoting unity through education.
Shukri, who was the third dean of the Victoria Institution boarding school from 2013 to 2017, said the focus of the programme was to encourage racial and religious tolerance by having students of all races live and carry out activities under one roof.
“That is how unity is achieved. Not by learning a specific module but through them spending time together in their dormitories, because they see and talk to each other every day,” he said.
He added that even Form 1 students who were from vernacular or Malay-majority national schools would eventually learn to mix with other races once they reached Form 4 or Form 5.
Myself, my wife and my kids all of us went through or going through national schools despite the allegations of poor quality of education as compared to others. We still believe in the idea of having one school for all is the right way to go to forge unity and have common understandings between all races in the country.
Enforcement on Racial & Religion Disrespects
Given that race and religion is a sensitive matter in this country, it needs greater enforcement from anyone who says anything bad and a great disrespect to anyone’s religion and race. And yet we hold back and treat foreign fugitives like Zakir Naik who does not only disrespect other’s religions and twist the facts to a clueless audience but always wanted for terrorism and money laundering. And we also have local politicians who don’t think twice about belittling other race or religions.
Since the last general election, the political narrative in Malaysia has centred around issues concerning race and religion, particularly the position of the Malays and Islam.
Speaking at UTM Skudai in Johor last night, former finance minister Daim Zainuddin addressed this issue and described the claim that Malays are under threat as nothing more than nonsensical political rhetoric.
“There is so much anger and indignation when non-Malays were appointed to high posts in the government as if this is something new.
“Why is there not the same anger when we are confronted with facts of corruption and kleptocracy of the highest order among our Malay leaders?
We don’t feel offended when it was prime news all over the world. Instead, we respond with “Malu apa? (Ashamed of what?)”. Kalau “tak malu,” apa jadi kepada iman kita (If we are not ashamed, what has happened to our faith)?
And many years before, one university professor went on wild allegations that a book from an opposition politician who is clearly a Christian promotes Christian values.
On 10 May, Universiti Utara Malaysia’s (UUM) Institute for Malaysian Political Analysis (Mapan) director Dr Kamarul Zaman Yusoff, wrote a Facebook post titled, ‘Hannah Yeoh contoh hipokrasi terbesar DAP’ (Hannah Yeoh is an example of DAP’s biggest hypocrisy).
In the post, he said that DAP has constantly called for political and religious affairs to be separated but they are the ones who are actively mixing politics and religion together. Kamarul singled out Yeoh’s autobiography as an example that DAP was a hypocrite.
“A book that was written by Selangor State Assembly Speaker and Subang Jaya assemblyman Hannah Yeoh titled ‘Becoming Hannah’ is one of the proofs,” he said, adding that Yeoh “openly admitted” in her book about how her involvement in politics was supported by Christians and how she used her position to preach about Christianity.
Does it make sense? Does this professor expect a Christian to preach Buddhism instead in her personal book?
Will there be a difference this time for the non-Malays and non-Muslims?
Strict or Selective Rule of Law?
The politicians in this country like us to believe that the rule of law applies without any favour or fear and there are no double standards. And yet, we have this kind of news in the papers:-
A source close to the plantation industries and commodities minister sought to downplay the incident by saying the PAS leader tested negative on arrival, but Malaysians quickly noted that the test was part of the standard operating procedures, after which the quarantine was still compulsory.
Some asked if ministers were above the law, pointing out that ordinary Malaysians who did not observe their quarantine have been fined and even imprisoned.
And there are more double standards that are raised in recent times:-
Malaysian lawmakers from across the political divide have spoken out against a decision to allow Cabinet ministers returning from official overseas visits to undergo a three-day observation period instead of the standard 10 days.
They were referring to a federal gazette signed by Health Minister Adham Baba, which stated that Cabinet ministers who return from such visits “shall undergo observation for three days or undergo surveillance until they can be discharged without posing a danger to the public”.
In a Facebook post on Tuesday (Feb 9), former prime minister and United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) MP Najib Razak highlighted that a three-day quarantine for ministers returning from overseas is “dangerous” because the average incubation period for COVID-19 is five to six days.
Despite the challenges on the horizon, it is still good to know that the Government irrespective of the underlying motives is still trying to find ways to unite the nation and its people. We have seen where a disunited people will ultimately cause frictions and it will blow up destabilising the country as well. A united people will make a stronger country and will capitalise on each other weaknesses and strengths.
This is why if even some politicians twist and do not support unity in a real sense, all Malaysians should not stop trying to ensure that we ourselves are united and put the country forward no matter what is our race or religion.