MALAYSIA’S UNITY & ITS CHALLENGES
The months of August and September in our annual calendar are of great significance to all Malaysians.
On the 31st August every year we celebrate our HARI MERDEKA or Independence Day while on the 16th of September we commemorate HARI MALAYSIA or MALAYSIA DAY. And this year we celebrated Malaysia’s 50th birthday.
As we commemorate these two very significant events we should take pride in the fact that ever since our Nation secured Independence in August 1957, it has remained peaceful without facing major security threats that could jeopardise its stability, peace and harmony except for the May 13 1969 racial riots and the recent Lahad Datu terrorist incursion.
Malaysia today stands out in the world as an example of how different ethnic communities can live in peace and harmony and work together for the progress and well-being of the nation.
As a country of diverse races, cultures and religions, Malaysia is indeed unique in proving how its diversity could be united and harnessed for nation building.
Despite the different political ideologies and contrasting view and opinions, we have been able to respect and appreciate one another. We were able to conduct 13 General elections peacefully and without bloodshed.
We have been a harmonious society and it is necessary for us to further enhance and strengthen our inter-racial understanding and trust for one another despite whatever differences.
We should continue with greater fervour and determination to strive towards building our multi-racial nation into a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny.
National Unity is very vital and is the key to Malaysia’s success. Whether Malaysia will become a fully developed nation by the year 2020 will depend on a number of important factors, the most important being national unity.
Unity should therefore be the basis of all programmes and activities for nation building. Malaysians should be more conscious of their role and contribution towards national unity which is paramount to the nation’s growth and development.
National development would not be meaningful without understanding, harmony, goodwill and trust among the multiracial people.
Racial and other forms of polarisation are the biggest hindrance to national unity and it should be the responsibility of all Malaysians to reject racial polarisation in whatever form that is detrimental to national unity.
The process of establishing a united Malaysian nation is fraught with challenges and what has been achieved so far must be nurtured.
In this regard policy makers, planners and implementers have to be committed to the principle that their thoughts and deeds would always be guided and governed by the objectives and standards of Rukunegara and the sacrosanctity of the Federal Constitution.
All plans for growth and development and all corrective measures for social imbalances will be meaningful only if they are geared towards the attainment of national unity.
Malaysians must continue to aim at nurturing and strengthening the spirit of love and loyalty for the country and pride in being Malaysians. The spirit if patriotism must always be cultivated and nurtured and we must continue to strengthen racial harmony and religious tolerance at every level. All activities must be geared towards uniting the people which is the best recipe for nation building and the achievement of Vision 2020.
The immediate task of all political leaders and all strata of society is to prevent any further drift towards racial polarization.
MALAYSIA NEEDS ETHNIC BRIDGE BUILDERS AND NOT ETHIC HEROES
In this connection what Malaysia needs most at this point of time are ethnic bridge builders instead of ethnic heroes to neutralize the politics of hatred, racial polarization and racial exclusiveness which seems to be on the rise now.
The time has come for us to identify more ethnic bridge builders and emphasize on their crucial role, at this juncture, to breakdown any serious racial divide in the larger interest of improving ethnic relations in our country.
It is the responsibility of all Malaysians to take a firm stand against divisive forces that can tear apart our social fabric and cause disunity.
EDUCATION IS THE KEY TO BUILDING UNITY
Education plays the most crucial role in sowing the seeds of unity among the people particularly among the young generation. In order to unite the young people through education, the following measures need to be sustained and reinforced:-
1) Ensure that educational programmes and teachers’ training at all levels from school to college and university are directed towards national unity.
2) Enhance the integration of students of various races in co-curricula activities and associations, in class and at hostels;
3) Enhance the teaching of universal values and local traditions of various races in all schools;
4) Reject the formation of race-based clubs or associations or disallow the conduct of race-based activities in schools as well as in public and private universities;
5) Eradicate inter-racial and intra-racial polarisation among students in primary and secondary schools; colleges; and public and private universities by implementing activities which encourage them to interact among each other including the sharing of hostels at university; and
6) Establish unity clubs in primary and secondary schools, colleges and public and private universities to foster unity among students.
Social development through community activities such as sports, work camps, formation of clubs and organisations, unity gatherings, festivals, “gotong-royong” and others are needed to enhance integration and promote the spirit of neighbourliness.
National unity is of utmost importance in achieving peace, stability and wellbeing of the nation and in the creation of Bangsa Malaysia as enshrined in Vision 2020.
UNITY THE BASIS FOR SUCCESS
National unity is the responsibility and obligation of every individual. Political will is the most important element in ensuring that the country is united in making Vision 2020 a reality. National unity and integration is the responsibility of all. The peace we now enjoy can only be sustained if every Malaysian strives to ensure harmony.
Malaysians must respect each other irrespective of social status, cultural background, religion and race. Malaysians especially our youths and teenagers need to be prepared to play their role in building a society that is steeped in noble values, knowledge and with a sense of self-worth. In order to preserve peace and harmony, it is imperative that we create a society that is rooted in unity and understanding.
The vision of Bangsa Malaysia can be achieved through education. This meaningful vision must be embraced by all especially the youths. Racial diversity might be one of the unique features of Malaysia but without strong understanding and citizenship responsibility, the desire to create a Bangsa Malaysia may never be realised. Diversity, when managed makes Malaysia a truly unique and special nation.
NATIONAL UNITY: THE CORPORATE SECTOR’s GREATEST SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
In conclusion let me emphasise here that every peace-loving Malaysian must be fully committed to promoting a culture of peace, harmony and unity.
Even if economics, science and information technology are the driving force of this era and in the future, we must not lose sight of racial harmony and unity.
In the final analysis economic development would not be meaningful without understanding, harmony and unity among the people.
To me building unity in a multi-racial society is our Nation’s biggest challenge – the challenge that is key to our very survival.
It is therefore the responsibility of every Malaysian to meet this challenge. Apart from the Government and the people, the corporate sector in Malaysia has also a key role to play in responding to this challenge.
We have been hearing over the years about the social responsibility required of the corporate sector in bringing hope, care and assistance to the poor, the less fortunate and the underprivileged in a variety of charitable deeds ranging from medical attention to social and welfare and environmental friendly projects.
However very little is said or heard about the corporate sector’s social responsibility towards the promotion of unity.
While I wish to pay tribute to the respective corporate companies for having delivered that social responsibility towards many charities, I would also like to see that they spare a thought to fulfilling a greater social responsibility towards the nation.
No social responsibility is greater than ensuring that the Nation succeeds in uniting the diverse communities that make up our society.
Based on my observation the corporate sector has not done much, for example, to promote unity or to help civil society groups to play their role in fostering national unity.
It is undeniable that in other social concerns like the environment, health care education and helping the less privileged, the corporate sector has made significant contributions although much more could be done.
If the corporate sector can step forward to help civil society on national unity, it would be investing directly in the nation’s stability which is critical for business to flourish and economic activities to grow.
What I wish to see is private sector companies include in their social responsibility agenda activities and programmes which are targeted towards promoting unity in our multi-racial county in addition to what has been done so far.
It is important to emphasize local private sector support since foreign funding for national unity programmes would not be advisable in the larger interest of the nation. National unity is one area where Malaysians should exercise total sovereignty in determining the destiny of the nation.
The private sector should realize that supporting citizen initiatives on unity is not like supporting other types of community programmes. Unity among the different communities is the crux and core of our survival as a nation. It is fundamental to the stability which is the pre-requisite for our economic development and prosperity.
The challenges facing this fundamental essence of our survival have become more complex than ever before. The corporate sector knows this and it would be able to fulfil its social responsibility by prioritizing national unity.
One of the most effective ways of prioritizing unity is by providing financial support to genuine efforts by citizens groups to promote and enhance national unity. The State and society should in turn reward and honour private corporations that prove through deeds that they are totally committed to national unity.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
1 MALAYSIA FOUNDATION
Speech given by Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye in conjunction with the Launch of Global Peace Convention 2013 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
The convention themed “Unity in Diversity – Building Social Cohesion and Sustainable Peace Through Universal Aspirations, Principles and Values” took place in December 2013 in Kuala Lumpur attended by 800 delegates from over 40 nations.