New Malaysia be­longs to all

The Star Malaysia - - Views - ZAID KA­MARUD­DIN Chair Gabun­gan Bertin­dak Malaysia

AS we cel­e­brate the first Malaysia Day un­der a dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ment from the past 54 years, let us re­mem­ber amidst the eu­pho­ria that the “new Malaysia” be­longs to all Malaysians, di­verse not only in eth­nic­ity, re­li­gion, lan­guage, cul­ture, lifestyle and so­cio-eco­nomic con­di­tions, but fun­da­men­tally, in as­pi­ra­tions of how our coun­try should be­come. It be­longs to not only the 48% vot­ers who made his­tory by elect­ing in a Pakatan Hara­pan (PH) new gov­ern­ment, but also the 52% whose votes were split be­tween Barisan Na­sional (BN), Parti Islam Se-Malaysia (PAS), Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM), nu­mer­ous Bornean par­ties and other con­tes­tants.

For the New Malaysia to thrive, ev­ery­one must recog­nise that the na­tion be­longs to us as much as those who dis­agree with us. Recog­nis­ing our dif­fer­ences may in­evitably slow down some changes when those changes trig­ger fear or ap­pre­hen­sion amongst some Malaysians. We can­not ig­nore those fears and ap­pre­hen­sions to bull­doze changes. In­stead, we can ex­pe­dite changes by pro­mot­ing di­a­logue to build trust, forge con­sen­sus and find in­clu­sive so­lu­tions.

Mean­ing­ful and sin­cere di­a­logues how­ever, can­not hap­pen in a vac­uum but re­quire two con­di­tions.

First, the fun­da­men­tal re­spect that ev­ery­one has the right to be heard, no mat­ter how un­pop­u­lar the view may be. We eman­ci­pate our­selves from au­thor­i­tar­ian pro­vi­sions that sti­fle our mind in the Sedi­tion Act, Of­fi­cial Se­crets Act (OSA), Print­ing Presses and Pub­li­ca­tion Act (PPPA), Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Mul­ti­me­dia Act (CMA), Uni­ver­si­ties and Univer­sity Col­leges Act (UUCA). We also need an eman­ci­pa­tion from the cul­ture of self-right­eous­ness that de­monises our dis­si­dents with la­bels like fa­natic, racist, ar­chaic, sub­ver­sive, un­pa­tri­otic, im­moral or ir­re­li­gious; or worse, threat­ens oth­ers with vi­o­lence.

Sec­ond, ev­ery­one’s le­git­i­mate in­ter­ests must be taken into ac­count in pub­lic de­ci­sion-mak­ing, which re­quires our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem to be more con­sen­sus-based than win­ner-takes-all. When pow­ers and re­sources are highly con­cen­trated in the hands of the Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment, and power can change hand with a mi­nor swing un­der First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) elec­tions, it is un­der­stand­able that many Malay-Mus­lims feel ap­pre­hen­sive over mul­ti­party com­pe­ti­tion in Malay pol­i­tics and are sus­cep­ti­ble to pro­pa­ganda that the Malay-Mus­lim com­mu­nity is un­der siege. To move away from eth- no-re­li­gious mo­bil­i­sa­tion, the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem must make sure no dra­matic changes can hap­pen with­out a clear con­sen­sus so that vot­ers feel more se­cure in mak­ing their choices, what­ever those may be.

Em­brac­ing diver­sity with an hon­est will to deal with its com­pli­ca­tions should be at the heart of our cel­e­bra­tion for in­de­pen­dence and na­tion­hood.

Our 61 years of one-party rule, though striv­ing to­wards good eth­nic and re­li­gious re­la­tions, de­te­ri­o­rated with our fail­ure to deal with diver­sity, dif­fer­ences and com­pe­ti­tion, even driv­ing us to­wards au­thor­i­tar­i­an­ism for pur­ported rea­sons of na­tional se­cu­rity and sta­bil­ity. This has led to fear and sus­pi­cion of each other.

This Malaysia Day, let us em­brace our plu­ral so­ci­ety whole­heart­edly, with a de­ter­mi­na­tion to make diver­sity our big­gest as­set. Let us re­mem­ber that we hu­mans are made dif­fer­ent so that we may know each other. Let us sim­i­larly ap­pre­ci­ate that Malaysia is made and sus­tained by very di­verse pop­u­la­tions from three very di­verse re­gions of Penin­su­lar Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak, so that we may know – as per the Malay say­ing, “tak ke­nal maka tak cinta” (can­not love with­out first know­ing) – and love each other.

Let us talk and lis­ten to each other on how we can make our po­lit­i­cal sys­tem more open and in­clu­sive to be com­pat­i­ble with our so­cial com­plex­ity.

Let’s build a bet­ter Malaysia! Se­la­mat Hari Malaysia!

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