THERE is increasing public alarm about the current state of national unity and social harmony in our country.
The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, at his installation on July 30, expressed his concern and cautioned that people should “refrain from inciting misunderstanding by raising matters that could undermine and destroy harmony in the country” (“Newly installed King cautions against undermining, destroying harmony”, The Star; online at bit.ly/star_caution).
More recently, the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Nazrin Muizzuddin Shah, said that the voices that instil hatred between races and religions were still growing even after 62 years of independence, and that, “These excessive provocations between races and religious groups are a threat to our country (“Sultan Nazrin: Stop hate speech”, The Star, Sept 2; online at bit.ly/star_hate).
Every day, in print and on social media, concerned Malaysians from all walks of life are objecting to racism, hate politics, toxic rhetoric, polarising polemics and religious bigotry. Commonly, the task of stopping all these is assigned to “our leaders” or “the authorities”. One recent suggestion was for the National Unity and Social Wellbeing Minister to draft a declaration to be called the “Putrajaya Unity Declaration 2019”.
But, as Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said in his speech at the Agong’s installation, “The efforts to increase unity among the people does not rest on the shoulders of the government alone, it is a collective responsibility” (“At King’s installation, Dr M says unity is also govt’s priority”, The Star, July 30; online at bit.ly/star_unity).
While we can continue to vent our frustrations, express our concern, assign blame and urge action by our leaders and the “authorities”, it behooves concerned citizens to consider what we can do ourselves, as individuals and groups of individuals in organisations to counter this unhealthy trend.
It is in line with the notion of “shared responsibility” that a group of concerned citizens representing a number of civil society organisations established, in 2016, the Dialog Rakyat initiative as a citizens’ platform for promoting national cohesion and unity.
Now that national unity and social harmony are being blatantly undermined, it is important and timely to remind the rakyat – and inform those who do not know – of the Dialog Rakyat Code of Ethical Conduct that was drawn up at the end of the first dialogue in December 2016.
These principles can guide our attitudes and behaviour towards each other in a multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, multilingual and multireligious Malaysia. They embrace the values, wishes, aspirations and hopes that have frequently been expressed in the media by many concerned citizens.
The code begins as follows. “We, concerned and responsible citizens of Malaysia, undertake therefore to adopt a set of behavioural patterns that embody Moderation, Respect, Understanding, Trust, Transparency, Tolerance and Accommodation that reflect:
> Respect for one another regardless of ethnicity, religion, geographical region, status or political leaning.
> Recognition of our similarities and acceptance of our differences.
We, concerned and responsible citizens of Malaysia, agree to:
> Respect the Federal Constitution and uphold the Rukunegara so as to preserve the independence and sovereignty of our nation.
> Promote activities that nurture civic consciousness, civic nationalism, patriotism, national cohesiveness, harmony, and unity at all levels of society.
> Advocate justice and fairness, and transparency and integrity in all aspects of management and governance.
> Resolve contentions and differences through constructive engagement, always seeking equitable, mutually beneficial outcomes.
> Refrain from actions that offend, insult, humiliate or intimidate others.
> Reject any form of discrimination, bigotry, extremism, unjustified acts causing harm to any individual or group, including any actions that can disrupt harmony and cohesion.
> Fight corruption and kleptocracy at all levels and in all their manifestations.
We, concerned and responsible citizens of Malaysia, resolve to:
> Adhere to and promote this Code of Ethical Conduct.
> Mobilise citizens towards a Citizen Movement for National Cohesion and Unity.
The code has been promoted and translated into actionable practices at individual and group levels through a series of Dialog Rakyat organised together with joint conveners such as residents’ associations and Rukun Tetangga groups, and universities and schools.
The Dialog Rakyat initiative is now promoting the concept of “Harmoni-Mesra” as a means of achieving enduring national cohesion, unity and harmony.
This concept is based on two factors: Firstly, recognising the importance of, and the need to increase, “harmony moments”, ie activities that bring members of communities together to interact, socialise, break down barriers, exchange experiences, strengthen friendship and rekindle the spirit of muhibbah and neighbourliness.
Secondly, to enhance the benefits of “harmony moments” by encouraging meetings and discussions to promote the understanding of our national heritage, cultures, values and national aspirations.
Future Dialog Rakyat initiatives will promote “Harmoni-Mesra Malaysian Communities” among neighbourhood communities such as residents’ associations and Rukun Tetangga groups, as well as “Harmoni-Mesra Generation” among school and university communities.
TAN SRI OMAR ABDUL RAHMAN
On behalf of the Organising Committee and Joint Conveners of Dialog Rakyat