Time for people to unite, not for divisive politics

PETALING JAYA: Mixing politics and religion is what mainly drives racial and religious polarisation in Malaysia, say advocates of national unity.

The special National month of August, which should have been used as a time to spread messages of unity and reflect on the sacrifices of the country’s forefathers, has instead been turned into a political battleground, they observe.

Following the results of the six state polls on Aug 12 that have laid bare the divisive electoral politics taking hold in Malaysia, these proponents of unity say “enough is enough” and call for the authorities to come down harder on those who spew racially and religiously charged remarks.

Malaysian Unity Foundation trustee Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said that when it comes to the National month, it is a time for the people to unite and not for divisive politics.

“Unfortunately, the recent six state elections showed us how the extent of politics has divided the people and all this happened during the National month,” he said when contacted yesterday.

Lee said that after 66 years of the country achieving independence, it is time for Malaysia to have more mature and responsible politicians who could set the right example for the younger generation.

He acknowledged that while some politicians are exemplary in their conduct and leadership, there are others who frequently make insensitive and incendiary statements which cause uneasiness and tension among the people.

“It’s not that they know no better, but they become errant only because they do not have any positive qualities that will win votes for them so they resort to people’s basic instincts and prejudices, exaggerate them and then spew disunity and discord.

“So we need leaders who go back to the basics and play their role as mature and responsible politicians to serve the people and the nation,” he said.

Lee said unity is the key to solving Malaysia’s internal discord, adding that the older generations had stronger unity among the various ethnic groups.

“But the newer generation is being indoctrinated. Attempts are being made to keep them apart through religious and racial segregation.

“This is the work of some politicians who mix politics and religion. These two should never mix,” he said.

Lee added that Malaysia already has adequate laws to punish divisive, hateful and seditious statements and speeches but what is needed now is for the law to be applied equally to everybody.

“For instance, we should haul to court any politician who calls Malaysians ‘pendatang’,” said Lee, adding that the education system should also be reviewed to ensure that it can play its role effectively in uniting the students of different racial and cultural backgrounds.

Tawfik Ismail, the son of Malaysia’s second deputy prime minister, Tun Dr Ismail Abdul Rahman, said the main problem stems from the lack of knowledge of the Federal Constitution by lawmakers.

He said some lawmakers do not have an understanding of federalism and separation of powers as well as the duties and functions that each branch, including the royalty, has in the governance of the nation.

“The problem lies with political parties not educating their members on the law of the land and basic principles of government.

“MPs and state assemblymen are not properly briefed on the limits to their influence and sometimes their encroachment into administrative areas can lead to misunderstanding and duplicity of roles,” he said.

Tawfik added that politicians who use race and religion to inflame supporters should be blacklisted and the law enforced on them.

National Patriots Association (Patriot) president Brig-Jen (Rtd) Datuk Mohamed Arshad Raji said politicians are the biggest culprits in dividing the people.

“Look at the amount of mudslinging! They should sort this out among themselves before they sort out the public,” he said.

He said that growing up in an urban area in the 1940s and 50s, he had always been in a setting where people of all races were united, adding that he also went to a school with a multiracial demographic and that the armed forces were multiracial too.

“I am a Malay and I have commanded troops of other races and I have also had non-Malays as my commanders.

“We didn’t have that feeling (of divisiveness),” said Mohamed Arshad, who lamented that this kind of unity is lacking in today’s Malaysia.

“I look back to the years I grew up among my friends; until today we are friends, they could be Punjabi, Indian or others,” he said.

He called for race-based political parties and any race-centric elements in the education system to be done away with.

“The education system is the most important way to bring about unity,” he said.

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Merdeka , unity , independence , politics , National Day


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