Aren’t we all Malaysians? Time to bury divisive politics and revert to tenets enshrined in Rukun Negara

Shashi Tharoor, the Indian National Congress MP, raised the ire of the BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) leadership when he suggested that the intent of the ruling party was to rewrite the Indian constitution to create a “Hindu Pakistan”.

For context, Pakistan is the breakaway state formed to house erstwhile Indians of the Muslim faith during the independence negotiation from British colonial rule.

Hence, two self-governing independent nations came into existence on Aug 15, 1947 – Republic of India and the Federation of Pakistan. Pakistan became the Islamic Republic of Pakistan in 1956 and East Pakistan broke away to become the People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 1971.

Shashi argues vehemently that India was founded based on Hinduism, which is inclusive and non-judgmental, while the BJP supported the Hindutva Movement, which is a political doctrine based on exclusion.

Put simply, one is premised on ‘India for Indians’ of all creed and ethnicity, while the other, asserts the Hindu faith as above all else.

Our founding principles

After our darkest hour on May 13, 1969, the National Operations Council decided that the nation mustn’t take things for granted and commissioned some wise folks to spell out the ambitions of our founding principles, which are as follows:

• Achieving and fostering better unity amongst the society (unity in our diversity);
• Preserving a democratic way of life (freedom to choose);
• Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner (hinged on the New Economic Policy);
• Ensuring a liberal approach towards the rich and varied cultural traditions (to each his own);
• Building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology (education for all with emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

In parenthesis is how I understand our ambitions. I think it was purposefully designed to be devoid of scriptures-type passages. That is quite a solemn pronouncement that we are not theocratic.

What I find really distressing, and quite maddening at times, is when politicians in government disregard our Rukun Negara.

The guiding principles are:

• Belief in God (In the almighty)
• Loyalty to King and Country (Loyalty to Head of State and country of birth)
• Supremacy of the Constitution (Our supreme law)
• Rule of Law (Nobody is above the law)
• Courtesy and Morality (Unwritten, but widely practiced social norms)

How much have we kept faith with these principles? Remember these slogans – Kepimpinan Melalui Teladan (Leadership by Example) and Bersih, Cekap, Amanah (Clean, Efficient and Trustworthy)?

As we scrutinise the text, we will note that:

• There is no citing of any particular faith.
• There is no mention of any particular community. It is about our (Malaysian) society.
• It asked that we have an open mind because of our pluralism. It is not confined to one correct logic.
• There is no mention of corruption, nepotism and cronyism (They only became rampant, notably from the mid-1980s).

Share the country with other people?

In a recent interview after Pejuang’s successful registration, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had said: “We formed a Malay party because the country is originally a Malay nation,” and “We are willing to share the country with other people, but not until the sharing results in us becoming the poorest or most downtrodden”.

“Willing to share the country with other people” and “… not until the sharing results in us becoming the poorest and most downtrodden”? Surely, he cannot be serious?

Just to be clear, it had been an Umno-dominated government, uninterruptedly from 1957 to 2018, and Dr Mahathir was a significant player in 30 of those years. The good news is time is still on our side.

Gosh, did we wish!

After the Pakatan Harapan (PH) victory in GE14, a groundswell of optimism swept across the nation. Here was a chance at a great re-set. Could Dr Mahathir redeem himself this second time around? After all, it was 15 years later, and he was 92 years old. Gosh, did we wish!

The Institutional Reforms (IR) Committee was set up with overwhelming support from civil society. From the standpoint of good governance, Dr Mahathir couldn’t refuse the IR’s ideas, but oversight committees tended to constrain his “I know best” personality. The recommendations were submitted to the Council of Eminent Persons in August 2018. The PH government only fell in February 2020.

In just 17 months as Indonesian president (May 1998-October 1999), B.J. Habibie liberalised the media and political party laws, got Suharto’s relatives to resign from government positions, released political prisoners, offered East Timor special autonomy, and most critically, secured the Indonesian National Armed Forces’ (TNI) commitment to be a professional military force.

This was immediately after General Suharto’s 31-year, military-propped rule. It is unimaginable what Habibie had to surmount.

Us and Them

Shashi vigorously defends the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi/Jawaharlal Nehru’s India-for-all legacy, while some local politicians are still fixated on creating a Malay state, which is contrary to Tunku Abdul Rahman’s vision of a Malaya/Malaysia-for-all – a shared destiny embedded with well-defined provisions. The special position of Malays can never ever be usurped.

A good buddy who habitually travels on business, opined that Malays shared the kinship with Malaysians when overseas, but instantly reverted to being “Malay” when on Malaysian soil.

Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi chose the 57th Umno General Assembly platform (held in 2006) to reiterate that he was also the prime minister for all Malaysians. I suppose he was doing his own re-set after his predecessor’s divisive wanderings.

Postscript

Our founding fathers, in their collective wisdom, agreed on integration, rather than assimilation, as non-Malays comprised some 40 per cent of the population then. This is quite unlike in the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand, where the mostly immigrant Chinese only formed low single-digit percentages.

Our dearest Tunku once contended that over time, all ethnicities will identify themselves as Malaysians first and foremost. Don’t we all, already?

Well, except for one of two blokes.

This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Twentytwo13.

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