SERDANG: The Deputy Prime Minister has called on non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to play a bigger role in assisting the Government in promoting the spirit of muhibbah (goodwill) among the various races.
Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said that promoting racial unity was too important a task to be left to the Government.
“It is the duty of not just the Government, but also non-governmental organisations and sporting bodies to come up with plans and programmes that promote racial unity,'' he said when opening the Mega Unity programme organised by the National Unity and Social Development Ministry at Universiti Putra Malaysia yesterday.
He said he detected a growing trend of racial polarisation in the country of late.
He said that students were no longer mingling with those of other races and religions.
“We have to work together to arrest this trend which can disrupt racial harmony,” he said.
Abdullah said that national service was introduced because of the Government's concern over racial polarisation.
He said he hoped parents would be supportive of the programme by encouraging their children to participate.
“I hope everyone chosen by the computer will accept it as an honour and participate proudly,'' he said.
He said that benefits of the programme, among others, would include instilling a sense of discipline and patriotism among participants.
“What is equally important is that it will allow our children to mix, and through the process will help erase the prejudices that they may have,'' he added.
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak announced on Wednesday that national service would kick off in February next year involving 100,000 youths, both male and female, born in 1986.
Abdullah said he hoped no one would refuse the call to participate in the programme.
In Kuala Lumpur, the finale of the Mega Unity programme at Dataran Merdeka culminated with a free flow of food and refreshments for those who turned up.
National Unity and Social Development Minister Datuk Dr Siti Zaharah Sulaiman said she was encouraged by the public’s response towards the programme.
“I'm happy with the outcome as the message we want to send is that unity should not merely be superficial but something which evolves into a way of life in a community as diverse as ours,'' she told reporters at a press conference during the event.
“Currently, there is a need for all to spend more time together by eating and interacting as a community to face the reality that we live in a multi-racial and diverse society.
“The fusion of food is indicative of the community's diverse cultures and we are using food as the bridge to bring the races together,'' she added.
Dr Siti Zaharah said it was the first time for the Mega Unity programme to be carried out at national level.