When Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin officiated at the 50th anniversary of Rukun Negara recently, he sent a clear signal to all Malaysians that the principles embodied in Rukun Negara should form the bedrock of our nation-building project.
The five aspirations and principles of the Rukun Negara must act as a reference point that Malaysians, irrespective of their ethnicity and religion should aspire to uphold.
This is attributable to the fact that the five aspirations and principles are values that transcend ethnicity and religion.
As a relatively young nation, it is a well-known fact that the multi-ethnic and multi-religious character of Malaysian society stands in the way of nation-building.
The fractious nature of the Malaysian society needs a clear reference point that can be the glue that binds its citizenry.
The Rukun Negara acts as a moral compass and a national philosophy that can unite a fragmented society.
Sending unmistakable signals about things that the state approves and disapproves, regardless whether it is a democratic or autocratic regime, is crucial for nation-building as states lead by example, by precept, and through the power of the purse.
While politics in a democratic society often accentuates differences, a nation-building philosophy like Rukun Negara is the sum of all principles that transcend not only ethnicity and religion but political differences as well.
Confronted with ethno-religious and political differences brought about by intense politicking from both sides of the political divide, reiterating the relevancy of the Rukun Negara is needed now more than ever.
In order to see how different, the foundations of Malaysian society, and in order to see how new shoots are being grafted onto its stem, and how newer ones yet might be, we must begin by looking closely at the five aspirations and principles of Rukun Negara.
In recent years, many Malaysians have adopted values, customs, and habits that contrasted sharply with the Rukun Negara. This has prompted the Council of Rulers to issue a lucidly worded statement that emphasised that the aspirations and the principles of the Rukun Negara should become “the guiding compass for all, leaders, administrators and the people as a whole.”
An understanding and appreciation of the Rukun Negara require much more than mere memorisation of its aspirations and principles.
As with any other philosophy and ideals, understanding and internalising its values and objectives are key to the success of turning the Rukun Negara into a living document.
It is not far-fetched to say that up to this point, the Rukun Negara has failed to resonate into the imaginations of most Malaysians.
The challenge is the actual application of its aspirations and principles. Society as a whole – and not just the government of the day – should assess and evaluate the implementation of the Rukun Negara.
To what extent have we lived up to the rule of law, or how much have we achieved in our journey towards a progressive society orientated towards science and technology?
The choice regarding the ideals of Rukun Negara is clear.
The character of Malaysian society would be exemplary for the rest of the world to follow if all Malaysians were to internalise the aspirations and principles of Rukun Negara.
In order to live harmoniously and meaningfully in a fractious society like ours, principles that promote mutual understanding and respect must be in place.
The Rukun Negara was established to achieve a common ground among the different ethnic groups in Malaysia.
It is incumbent upon every sector in our society to promote a greater understanding of the principles and the aspirations of Rukun Negara.
To ensure that the Rukun Negara becomes a living document, its recitation in school assemblies is not enough.
In order to make Malaysians eat, live, and breathe the Rukun Negara, its relevancy must be reiterated repeatedly.
This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.