A lesson we can learn from the Timah controversy


IT appears to be a happy ending as Timah whisky finally gets to keep its name, but each and every Malaysian is a loser in this whole rotten farce that can destroy the country's frail interracial relationship while also exposing the ignorance in politicians.

For these politicians, uniting the people has no place in their heads as they always put votes above the interests of the nation and its people.

Although this issue was first brought up by an Amanah rep, leaders from Keadilan, PAS and Umno soon jumped into the fray and Prime Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob failed to put out the fire in the first instance by warning his Cabinet colleagues to be more careful with their remarks.

However, as the politicians are busy playing up racial and religious issues during this election season, it is reassuring that many peace-loving Malaysians from different ethnic backgrounds continue to nurture this land of exceptional diversity all around us.

Take the Shake & Bake Cafe along Ipoh’s Jalan Gopeng for instance. It is a haven of unity created by young Chinese, Malay and Indian Malaysians who shun sensitive racial issues and work together to prepare great food that appeals to all Malaysians irrespective of race.

On the November 14 in the “Kita” column, Sin Chew Daily published the story of this establishment winning the “Unity Cafe” award from the National Unity Department.

“Kita” is a weekly column first introduced in 2018 with the objective of promoting greater unity and inclusivity in our culturally diverse society.

I believe that many of you might have watched a video on social media lately about a makcik by the name of Rosni Mohd Yusof speaking in fluent Tamil with Chinese-Malaysian woman Jolin Toh at a Turkish airport. Indeed, at an unexpected corner somewhere in the world, there is always something that warms our hearts with joy and inclusivity.

Although this incident took place back in 2018, it drew a lot of attention among Malaysian social media users when the video was uploaded and went viral lately, seeing that Indian Malaysians celebrated Deepavali two weeks ago.

Like the Malays, they have started to distribute angpaos to their children over the past few years, albeit in packets of different colours; red for the Chinese and purple and green for the Indians and Malays during Deepavali and Hari Raya respectively.

When it comes to food, the Malay delicacy of nasi lemak is the undisputed national

dish loved by Malaysians of all races. Like roti canai, it is what many Malaysians will miss dearly when travelling abroad for business or vacation.

All these point to the fact that the three major ethnic groups in this country have already influenced one another culturally in a big family.

This is also where Ismail Sabri’s “Keluarga Malaysia” spirit lies, where inclusivity, unity and gratitude are all we need.

Unfortunately, the Timah controversy and KL’s liquor sale ban have exposed a severe lack of one very important element in the “Keluarga Malaysia” spirit: empathy.

To some people, inclusivity is a one-way ticket and not bi-directional. They will never think how they will feel when the same thing happens to their own community.

What is meant by two-way tolerance? Take for example whenever the Malays are enjoying a beef meal at a restaurant table, Buddhists who refrain from eating beef

would never feel offended because they respect the Muslims’ choice of food with an accommodating heart.

Similarly, if some Chinese are consuming non-halal food or alcohol, we hope the Malays and Muslims will not feel offended too.

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