The adviser to the government on social cultural matters Tan Sri Rais Yatim recently wrote well and publicly on the subject “Let’s walk the talk, Malaysia is our home”.
He is right! But we should also walk more and talk less to strengthen national unity!
At this time, we seem to talk more rather than walk more for national unity.
The good former minister proposed that we need to return to the basics of high culture, of good breeding and positive values.
These values are intrinsic in our Constitution and Rukun Negara, but they have been neglected, he says, “in the abyss for far too long”.
As a result, he argued that we have not achieved the maximum dividends of national unity via Rukun Negara.
Tan Sri Rais is spot on. Indeed, we have become less united over the years ! We have instead experienced more polarization.
Tan Sri Rais clarified that we teach too much of “what I get” instead of “what I give”. He compares the education of our students at a nearly age, in good breeding or what he calls “high culture” that is taught to Japanese children. This makes them, he argues, more united and patriotic.
He believes that patriotism which is so essential — especially as we celebrate our 60th Merdeka anniversary — will come in naturally from the teaching of these high culture values of good breeding.
But, if we continue to teach values of “what I get” rather than “what we give”, we cannot as Tan Sri Rais indicates achieve more national unity or even greater patriotism!
He is frank and his comments are worthy of wide discussion, especially in our 60th Merdeka anniversary!
Policies that earn less unity and patriotism
We have to be honest and admit that our national policies do not all lend themselves to creating more national unity and patriotism. Instead, some can even be deemed divisive and will weaken national unity rather than strengthening it.
This is because our policies and teaching are based on “what we get” and not “what we give”. And we all know that many Malaysians get much more than others on the basis of what we get rather than what we give.
In fact, some of our so-called unity policies promote disunity, greed and exclusiveness even among the low-income bumis and others whom the government pledges to help.
Indeed, those Malaysians who get more are the elitist groups based on ethnicity and religion, the already affluent, the specially privileged and strongly protected. These include those who are not worthy of getting the extras, and the cream on the cake.
So, those who are neglected and marginalized from all races will naturally feel alienated.
Thus, the marginalized have understandably a lesser sense of belonging and patriotism and even less national unity.
For these left-outs, their enthusiasm for Merdeka and the celebrations and future are filled with trust deficits and even some sense of hopelessness. This is ominous for our future national unity and resilience and is not healthy in the long term for the country.
Those who feel neglected, frustrated and alienated are those deserving Malaysians who can’t get jobs, scholarships, promotions, contracts, licences and other perquisites, although they would ordinarily be qualified for these opportunities.
These are the marginalized groups who cannot be won over with grand Merdeka celebrations and exciting and expensive SEA Games and all the showbiz.
To these neglected Malaysians, we need to add those who feel religious persecution, those who are victims of corruption, and those who experience an unfair sense of justice and a lack of hope in the future
New policies and a new way forward
Hence, there have to be new policies and a new way forward to provide a more even playing field for all Malaysians. They need to experience much more Inclusiveness and not exclusiveness. Malaysians need to feel that they have got a stronger basis to be more patriotic.
Just being exposed to the basics of high culture is necessary, but not sufficient, to build greater patriotism and to strengthen national Unity.
We need to do more than just talk to strengthen national unity. We need to practise what we preach, lest we get more disillusioned with achieving national unity.
The trust deficit has to be wiped out sooner than later for Malaysia to move forward.
New Malaysian values that are fairly conceived and properly implemented must be devised based on the Constitution and Rukun Negara. They have to be applied equally to all Malaysians — inclusively and not exclusively.
The New Economic Model must be implemented in full and not causally or sparingly, and its abuses must be eradicated like white ants.
Then, and only then, will we as Malaysians be able to walk and not just talk about strengthening patriotism and national unity for a better future for all!
Let this be our challenge and resolution for our 60th Merdeka anniversary.
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam is the Chairman of ASLI Center for Public Policy Studies.