We have made tremendous progress in many fields of national development, and we must rightly be proud of this. But what are our major shortcomings and challenges in the years ahead?
I don’t think many will disagree that we have not done too well in nurturing national unity. That has been our biggest challenge for many years and will remain so for many years to come if we do not embark on the right measures to address the issue.
After all these years, we are still grappling with issues regarding race and religion that are brought up from time to time by irresponsible people.
Race and religious matters must never be exploited and turned into issues affecting national unity. The biggest obstacle to unity is extremism, as has been pointed out by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at a meeting of Islamic NGOs on Saturday (“PM: Stern action will be taken against those who spread extremism”, The Star; online at bit.ly/star_extreme).
Malaysia must implement moderation as the fundamental principle for greater integration and unity in a country of diversity like ours. However, moderation must not be a mere slogan, it must be reflected in all government policies for the benefit of the people.
The irresponsible actions and racially hateful utterances that affect interracial harmony and national unity must be halted.
Since such actions have largely gone unchecked, they have contributed to tension and ill-feeling, resulting in social polarisation.
Needless to say, this is a very unhealthy situation. We don’t need these issues, especially at challenging times like this.
It is important for the government to pay serious attention to this seemingly escalating problem. It should consider reviving the Rukun Negara (National Principles) to negate such negativity. Rekindle the Rukun Negara spirit and make it a way of life for all.
The immediate task facing us all, especially political leaders, is to stop the drift towards race-baiting, and racial polarisation. We should instead focus on our commonalities as expounded in the five principles of our Rukun Negara.
This is not the time to applaud “ethnic heroes” but to identify more ethnic bridge-builders to break down racial divides in the larger interest of improving ethnic relations in the country.
We need more mature politicians and supporters. We need the politics of civility.
It is now time for Malaysians to be aware and take a firm stand against divisive forces that can tear apart our social fabric and cause disunity.
Multiracial living is part of our history and heritage. Let’s always remember that “United we stand, divided we fall”.
Unity is a priceless gift. We must never lose it.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Trustee, Malaysia Unity Foundation
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