Dec 11, 2006

The urgent mission of forging unity

(The Sun) It is telling that the prime minister has focused on the challenges that stand in the way of our efforts to achieve national unity.

The mission that Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi signalled for the nation to achieve was outlined, significantly, at the trade launch of the 50th Merdeka celebrations this week.

(BERNAMA) "It can lead to disunity and we do not want that. We also don't want only a semblance of unity but with festering undercurrents on the inside," he said when officiating Media Prima Bhd's launch of its 50th National Day celebrations here Wednesday night.

Abdullah hoped that everyone would take the opportunity from the golden jubilee celebration to learn from history and correct their mistakes and weaknesses.

"If there are shortcomings, let us work together to overcome them," he said.

As that milestone in our national life approaches, our thoughts will naturally dwell on what we have gained and lost in the past five decades as one country.

Firstly, as Abdullah said, we need to recollect the spirit of cooperation that guided the Malay, Chinese and Indian leaders in their negotiations for independence from the British. The founding fathers realised that the various communities needed to stick together to beat the colonialists' divide-and-rule policy.

Unfortunately, today, we have yet to overcome the hang-ups over our racial origins, but rather continue to allow this parameter to define our lives. The affirmative action policy that was meant to erase identification of occupation with race instead emphasises the bumiputra/non-bumiputra divide.

Why this is so is a question that needs to be carefully thought over, and the sticking points addressed.

Abdullah also stressed that we need to learn from history in order to move forward. This maxim holds the key to a viable future for the generations that will inherit the nation from us.
(Lim Kit Siang's Blog) However, when the Prime Minister told the editors that he had instructed the Education Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein to ensure national unity be forged and nurtured at the primary school, it is entirely negative as it shows that the Prime Minister has not understood why race relations is “not good, fragile and brittle” on the eve of the 50th National Day celebrations.

It is clear that the Prime Minister simply does not understand that after his keris-wielding for the second consecutive year at the Umno Youth General Assembly, in the midst of extremist, racist, incendiary and seditious speeches threatening May 13 riots, bloodshed and running amok, Hishammuddin has forfeited the confidence of parents that he is capable of being the role model of Malaysian national unity.

If Hishammuddin wants to win back public confidence as a leader for all races in Malaysia, he must demonstrate remorse, understanding and greater sensitivity as to why there had been such strong and valid reactions to his second keris-wielding in the midst of extremist, racist, incendiary and seditious speeches, altering the perception of the keris from a symbol of power and justice to a symbol of aggression and violence.

Unless and until Hishammuddin is prepared to do this, he will continue to be the problem rather than the solution.

What kind of nation do we wish to leave behind for them? We need to think about what we are doing to our institutions and social structures and the effect they have on the national psyche. And if the analysis shows that we have gone wrong, let us face up to the mistakes that have been made and have the courage to right those wrongs.

Clearly, it is not acceptable to leave our children with a society that is uncomfortable with itself, one in which unhappiness is simmering under the surface, and a nation whose heart is not where it should belong.

The time to act is now, while we still have time to set things right. This will take more than nice words that make one feel good, but concrete actions to reach out to others who are outside our fold.

It is certainly not easy to overcome entrenched prejudices, to erase discrimination and to show fellow feeling to those who are not like us. This is a task that requires commitment from all of us, no matter what the feelings of aggrievement that have held us apart in the past.

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