“We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation” – Tunku Abdul Rahman
GOPIO Malaysia appreciates the National Unity Blueprint of Malaysia announced by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin on 15th February 2021. Malaysia is a multiracial multicultural nation and the initiative by the government of Malaysia to strengthen national unity through the introduction of the National Unity Blueprint is crucial and commendable.
The Three Aspirations
- A patriotic and democratic society.
- Develop a national identity.
- Strengthen the unity ecosystem.
The aspiration of the blueprint based on the principles of Rukun Negara reflects on the seriousness of the government in addressing issues related to unity among the various races and ethnicities in Malaysia. The action plan for the period 2021-2030 with three (3) Aspirations and twelve (12) Strategies is indeed a timely and well-thought agenda for the wellbeing of the nation.
Rukun Negara – the National Principles of 1970 to achieve the Malaysian Ambition
Looking back to the 1970s, Rukun Negara was the pillar of the nation where every citizen was compelled to memorise the five principles and schoolchildren took oath in assemblies and classrooms of schools of all language medium. Rukun Negara drawn by the National Consultative Council or MAPEN in 1970 created harmony and unity among the various races in Malaysia.
The Rukunegara itself was drawn to achieve the following Malaysian Ambitions, worthy of revisit:
- Achieving a more perfect unity amongst the whole of her society;
- Preserving a democratic way of life;
- Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together fairly and equitably;
- Guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions; and
- Building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.
The Malaysian Ambition was in due course embedded in the people and became the Malaysian way of life, instilling a strong sense of unity in every citizen. Unfortunately, subsequent political leaders overshadowed these ambitions and began championing the agenda of a particular race. This again began to divide the people and resulted in a deteriorating relationship among races.
After 51 years of the Rukun Negara, 64 years of independence and more than a century of co-existence, Malaysia is still attempting to develop a national identity. Before identifying themselves with their own racial identity, the people of Malaysia must be proud Malaysians first. Political Leaders should demonstrate this through leadership by example and it has to be cascaded to the People at every level, right from preschool to the highest of office.
Highlights of The 12 Strategies
- Greater emphasis on the Rukun Negara in education and organising more programmes to strengthen patriotism.
- The Rukun Negara was an effective initiative for a Malaysian Malaysia agenda. However, as early as the 1980s, the emphasis was diverted elsewhere by the then leadership to fulfil other agenda and the Malaysian national unity was compromised. Reviving national brotherhood and promoting patriotism now based on Rukun Negara although late, is forward-thinking. No son of Malaysia is a lesser son of the soil.
- Promoting social, economic, cultural and sporting activities and the creation of more unity-themed creative content like patriotic songs.
- A patriotic song alone may not achieve the desired results. Rather, integrative activities should be cultivated from a young age since preschool. The government should coordinate a concerted effort for the various types of schools in Malaysia, namely national schools, national type Chinese and Tamil school and religious schools for desired results. Greater efforts are also required to unite the East Malaysians with West Malaysians.
- Narrowing social, economic, digital and development gaps among different districts and communities.
- This is a tall order for the government to implement unless there are practical solutions and effective activities. It should start with the States, narrowing social, economic, digital and development gaps among states and communities.
- Increasing the use of Bahasa Melayu as the national language for official matters in government agencies and also in the private sector.
- Bahasa Melayu is already the national language since Merdeka. Every Malaysian learns Bahasa Melayu as a subject in school and converse in the language. The present requirement should be to increase the level of proficiency of the language among Malaysians. At the same time, to be practical, English proficiency is equally important in this globalized world. As an export-dependent and FDI (Foreign Direct Investment) dependent country, English is an important international business language for Malaysia. Languages must be seen as tools of communication that enhance unity and not the other way around.
- Encouraging the learning of other languages, including an emphasis on basic Chinese and Tamil lessons, from the preschool to university levels as elective subjects.
- Pupil’s Own Language (POL) is available in some national primary and secondary schools. Currently, Tamil language studies are offered by University Malaya and Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris. This should be extended to other universities. Measures should be drawn to emphasise the teaching and learning of Chinese and Tamil from preschool. It may require preparing thousands of personnel to teach pupils from preschools to secondary schools. Careful study is required to effectively implement this policy.
- Increasing exposure to the different cultures, ethnicities and religions in the country from preschool level to university level.
- This is an important move as it increases the understanding and acceptance of the different cultures, customs and beliefs. National education is complete when it emphasises teaching and exposing every child to the values of the cultures, ethnicities and religions of fellow Malaysians. The successful implementation of this one programme alone is enough to deliver half the victory for the entire Blueprint.
- Addressing racial and religious issues on social media, including monitoring and enforcement and educating the public on the ethics and laws of using social media.
- Social media is misused by many to grow enmity and throw racial insults and profanities. Such disgraceful behaviour by certain irresponsible quarters is detrimental to any effort to strengthen national unity, especially when it is aimed at minorities. In addressing such issues, the law and its enforcement should be equal and fair to everyone.
- Strengthening the role of social mediators including community and religious leaders who can help resolve disputes among communities.
- If all other strategies are properly implemented, then there is little need for this. However, Community leaders should themselves be open and ready for integration. Leading their respective Communities towards acceptance of every other cultures, ethnicities and religion is itself a mammoth victory. The Community and Religious Leaders should first be exemplary in embracing unity in diversity.
- Strengthening the role of schools and other educational institutions as mediums of integration. This includes national schools organising sporting events with the vernacular schools in their areas.
- The Ministry of Education should ensure the implementation of these activities with both intensive and extensive campaigning. Every Member of Parliament and Member of State Assembly should adhere to this guideline. A Parliamentary Committee should monitor the programme and report the progress to the Parliament.
- Ensuring the rule of law is applied equally by taking action against anyone who threatens the unity and harmony among the people.
- Based on recent issues among Malaysians of various race and religion dealt with by the authorities, only a handful of cases reflect proper and fair investigation without prejudice. Malaysian law has to be fair not only in terms of policy but also in enforcement of the law. Authorities should be well trained and equipped with sufficient knowledge to tackle every issue that threatens national unity.
Towards Awakening the Resolute Spirit of Unity in Diversity
The People of Indian Origin, in the spirit of unity in diversity, believe in the concept of Vasudeva Kudumbakam, that the whole world is a single-family. The sentence stems from its literal Sanskrit meaning, ‘Vasudha’ (earth) + Eva (one and only) + Kudumbakam (family).
Malaysia can be a great example of Vasudeva Kudumbakam as she is among the few countries in the world blessed with a unique feature of a grand mix of multiple races, ethnicities, traditions, cultures and beliefs. As aspired by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Father of Independence and our forefathers, this uniqueness must be upheld at all cost through the resolute spirit of unity in diversity.
In conclusion, the blueprint is excellent on paper. But the fruits of this mission can only be reaped through concerted dedication and careful application by the government and political leaders themselves.