PETALING JAYA: Malaysians are exhausted from racial and religious rhetoric, says Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof, urging the public to continue to reject and condemn those fanning discord.
Those in Peninsula Malaysia, he added, also have much to learn from the harmony and unity in Sabah and Sarawak, which was why the Gagasan Parti Sarawak (GPS) threw its backing for the unity government.
“Expectations from Malaysians for the unity government is high. All of us need to be parts and pieces of that (unity) bridge to instil the true Malaysian spirit.
“Firstly, we must accept that Malaysia is a multireligious and multiracial society. For us to respect each other, we must all return to the fundamentals of being a human being.
“We are all the same – irrespective of your position, race and religion or whatever standing you have in society.
“We must respect each other with sincerity. Once sincerity is in place, everything else will fall into place. Make things simple – do not complicate matters.
“Yes, there are differences among us – be it religion, race or customs – but we have to accept that,” said Fadillah to a question about the Jom Ziarah programme.
The event, which was an initiative under the Youth and Sports Ministry, took youths to visit houses of worship but the programme had to be called off after some groups questioned if it was proper for Muslims to visit non-Muslim houses of worship.
Malaysians, said Fadillah, should not use their values to judge others as others have their own values, cultures and beliefs.
“If we accept that, we will have harmonious relationships between all races in Malaysia,” he said.
On his appointment as the first deputy prime minister from Sabah and Sarawak, Fadillah said this would serve not only to bridge the gap between the peninsula and the Borneo states but would also allow the latter to promote the culture of unity and acceptance which they are well known for.
“This is why GPS decided to throw its weight behind Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s unity government after the last general election,” he said, adding that there is also a need for a politically stable and united Malaysia.
“One of the concepts of Madani Malaysia – which is the unity government’s theme – is inclusiveness and fairness. We should not filter everything through the lenses of race and religion,” said Fadillah.
“We never expected to be given the deputy prime minister’s post. I would never have expected it. It never crossed my mind.
“I am thankful. It is a position with a very important responsibility. I must deliver. Although I hail from Sarawak, I am deputy prime minister for all Malaysians, which means I represent everyone,” said Fadillah.
The soft-spoken five-term Petra Jaya MP from Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu pointed out that Sabah and Sarawak parties are not based on race and religion, unlike many in the peninsula.“PBB, for example, is a party that represents not only Malays but also the Iban, Bidayuh and Orang Ulu. (The) same goes for SUPP, which has Chinese and Bidayuh representatives.
“For us in Sabah and Sarawak, bridging means creating a meaningful harmony in our diversity and (one that is) impactful to us in closing the development gap in Borneo,” said Fadillah, citing the festivals in Sabah and Sarawak as examples of how everyone would come together and enjoy themselves with no one judging one another by ethnicity or religion.
“Just look at how we celebrate festivals there. Gawai in Sarawak and Kaamatan in Sabah are harvest festivals celebrated by the Dayak and Kadazandusun communities, but everyone joins in to celebrate a shared cultural heritage.
“These festivals are marked by traditional dances, music and food that bring together people from different communities in Sabah and Sarawak to promote unity and harmony.
“We proudly celebrate our cultural diversity – with no fear of being judged. These celebrations serve as positive examples for the rest of Malaysia to follow for a more inclusive and harmonious society.”