Dompok: Race, religion remain stumbling blocks to nation-building


  • Nation
  • Saturday, 14 Sep 2019

Tan Sri Bernard Dompok (second from left) with Upko president Datuk Seri Wilfred Madius Tangau (third from left) and other panellists during the Malaysia Day forum 2019 on Saturday.

KOTA KINABALU: Race and religion have become the biggest stumbling blocks to Malaysia’s growth and nation-building, says former federal minister and Sabah veteran politician, Tan Sri Bernard Dompok.

“Growing up watching P. Ramlee movies, I feel that perhaps this is how I thought Malaysia would be," said Dompok, who was Malaysia's first ambassador to the Vatican City.

“We can feel the universality of P. Ramlee.

"Religion was not worn on the sleeves. Race was not a big problem. It has changed from that to something that is more complex today.

“Freedom of religion was one of the first things written in the 20-point (agreement to incorporate Sabah into Malaysia), and this is what is heavily missing today,” he said at the Malaysia Day forum entitled “56 Years of Malaysia: The Way Forward” on Saturday (Sept 14).

“To my mind, race and religion are the two biggest stumbling blocks to achieving the aspirations of this potentially great nation that we have.

“When I was in the government, I saw quite a few things on racial harmony. I could talk with others of different background and everything was good.

“But when they are talking to the electorates, the question of religion and race comes up.

“How can we have a nation that talks about race, that somehow this or that race must call the shots?

“Here in Sabah, and Sarawak too, we have the chance to promote our harmony, what Malaysia should be.

“I hope it is not just for the time being that we are enjoying relative harmony. I hope it will continue but it is up to us to achieve.

"This is what the government of the day should be looking at,” he said.

Dompok applauded Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohd Shafie Apdal's efforts in ensuring racial harmony.

“We see him (Shafie) going to Tambunan, announcing funding for church. That was a very good gesture,” he said.

Dompok said based on his time at the Vatican City, where he met representatives of different religions, he found it was important to find common ground among the Abrahamic faiths (Muslims, Jews, Christians) to solve the current problems in today’s world.

“So you start from there.

“What about Buddhist and Hindus, people might ask? You look at most problems (caused in the world today) are from the Abrahamic faiths. So if you solve this, you can solve others,” he added.
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