Nation-building needs good ethics, values

PRIME Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad disclosed that the “Look East” policy he initiated in 1982 was more about adopting the work ethics and value system of the Japanese.

He pointed out the Japanese have a very strong sense of not wanting to be ashamed and would strive to do the best they can – something that is lacking among Malaysians.

I couldn’t agree more, and have often written about loudmouthed individuals who do a lousy job yet are not ashamed and are even proud of themselves.

I also concur with the call made yesterday by columnist Johan Jaaffar to place culture and arts under a dedicated ministry and not lump them with tourism (“Keep culture apart from tourism”, The Bowerbird Writes, June 11; online at

The business of tourism could be placed under the International Trade and Industry Ministry without the need for separate offices overseas.

Culture goes beyond stage shows or entertainment for tourists. If we wish to promote our culture, a most effective way is to market the Malay bersanding ceremony for foreigners to celebrate their wedding anniversary in Malaysia; this is something that could be organised in any village, town or city.

Apart from the couple seated on the wedding dais getting married all over again and being treated as king and queen for the day, family members and friends could also wear Malay dress and learn Malay dances. upon returning to their country, they could show others back home what they have learned about Malay culture.

If we are truly proud of our culture, we should be actively sharing and exporting it. The French have done it with the Alliance Francaise, which operates more than 850 language and cultural centres in 137 countries.

It is understandable that those who champion our national language may not have the resources to set up overseas centres, but they could easily do so within the country.

Tens of millions of foreign workers have passed through our borders over the past decades. If we had opened up language centres where they could have improved on their pasar (“market”) Malay, many of them could have become proficient in the language. Some could set up similar centres in their home country to propagate the Malay language, which could also serve as orientation centres for new foreign workers coming to our country.

But many loudmouthed champions took the easy way out by condemning other languages being taught in the country, sadly, while it is the norm for Europeans to master three or more languages.

There is good and bad in every country, society and religious group. We should look up to those who have done well for their fellow human beings, regardless of their ethnicity or religious background.

The Japanese are well-known for being courteous and disciplined, and were unshakeable even in the aftermath of the 2011 tsunami – photos of people affected by the disaster queuing patiently for their turn at vending machines for drinking water went viral around the globe. In other countries, not only would the machines have been ripped apart, whole stores would have been looted by people made desperate after a catastrophe.

In Malaysia, what we need most is already enshrined in the fifth tenet of our national philosophy commonly known as Rukun Negara.

But our education system is centred on rote-learning to pass exams. All school children can recite the Rukun Negara but many grew up without practising courtesy, which can only be learned by example, through practise and good examples shown by adults.

Our work culture too leaves much to be desired.

When I used to go regularly to Putrajaya, I noticed the canteen was often crowded during mid-morning, while visitors were kept waiting in the offices.

Some companies in the private sector are just as atrocious. If salary is based on productivity, many office staff getting more than the minimum RM1,000 salary would be overpaid, particularly fresh graduates without knowledge and skills required by the industry.

It is time for all Malaysians, including political parties, to put aside the rhetoric and concentrate on what is good and sustainable for our country and people.

Nation-building has to start with good ethics and values, not championing race, religion and language by condemning others.

C.Y. Ming

Ampang, Selangor

Letters , culture , arts , education system , Rukun Negara