PETALING JAYA: Five working groups will be set up to address various unity-related issues when the National Unity Consultative Council members meet for the first time next month.
Its president Tan Sri Samsudin Osman said that the working groups comprise legal and the promotion of national harmonious policies, national building and cross-cultural understanding, inclusive development, youth and unity, and national integration.
“The members in the council are made up of a diverse group, with people of various backgrounds and age groups who are rich in experience,” he said yesterday.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the launch of the council on Monday to replace the National Unity Advisory Panel which ceased to function after the Emergency Ordinance was abolished.
Samsudin said that a lot of work had been done by the Prime Minister’s Department in collaboration with Institut Kajian Etnik of Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) and the council would work closely with them.
On critics doubting the council would have enough bite to carry through its recommendations, Samsudin said: “We are hopeful. The PM (Prime Minister) has given his assurance.
“The recommendations will be looked at by the Cabinet. We need to come up with policies that are pragmatic and can be implemented.”
Council member Associate Prof Dr Madeline Berma from the UKM’s Tun Fatimah Hashim Women’s Leadership Centre said she was glad the Government was putting a serious effort in uniting the various ethnic groups.
“I hope the work we do is not confined to consultative efforts. We want action,” said Dr Madeline, an Iban from Sarawak.
Another council member Audrey Goh, a life member of the Sarawak Federation of Women’s Institute said she saw her role in the council as a “bridge builder”.
She said she would use skills of advocacy and inquiry to engage and enlighten the community on unity and encourage participation and “bridge building” initiatives.
Another council member Zubedy (M) Sdn Bhd managing director Anas Zubedy said it was important for the council to create “bridge builders”, including people or system processes that bring people together.
He said it was important for all of society to play a role in unity efforts so that the negative action by a few would be diluted by the good most people promote.
Another council member Lim Chee Wee said the hostile discourse on race and religion over the past few years required the participation of as many people as possible to reduce the tension.
“The biggest challenge is to reach a consensus on steps that would be effective for achieving national unity while the ultimate test is whether the Government and people will accept and carry them into effect,” added the former Bar Council chairman.