The past few weeks witnessed talks on unity from across political lines. Whether in political cooperation, or Malay Unity — I have always been consistent of efforts to unite Malaysians at all levels.
We must realise that this effort has been undertaken since before independence. In 1946, my grandfather Datuk Onn Jaafar convened a meeting of more than 40 Malay organisations, uniting the Malays to oppose the British Empire and the formation of the Malayan Union. While this led to the founding of Umno, he realised an independent Malaysia will not be able to succeed based only on Malay Unity. This led to his resignation from Umno in 1951 because they rejected his proposal to open Umno membership to all races.
Though not exactly, history is repeating itself. Whether it was through Muafakat Nasional or by the Kongres Maruah Melayu — the central focus of these events may be seeds which have been planted to grow into a larger theme of unity which involves the other races that make up our multiracial nation.
I know, and it is expected, that the racial rhetoric surrounding these events have led to the other races feeling sidelined and attacked, shadowing any good intentions these events may have aimed to achieve. This threatens to unravel the fragility of our society. Instead, we should focus our attention on the struggle and determination of the leaders to unite the Malays who represent the majority of our population. Non-Malays, however, must not be worried, as we understand that Malay unity cannot come at the expense of the unity of all Malaysians — it is purely the foundation of a larger, all-encompassing effort to unite our divided country.
As I have said before on July 8, “I remind all parties linked to the unity of the Malays not to be arrogant as others are watching, including the party that offered cooperation in discussing this unity, which is important for the Malays. And what of the unification of other races in the future? All sentiments must be taken into account”; and on Aug 15, “Strengthening social harmony and unity is more important now than ever. There’s too much negativity out there”.
Malaysia seems to be stuck in a whirlwind of hate speech and fake news, fueled by worsening racial relations from both sides of the political divide.
But who must lead the solution? As political leaders, we must take charge and fix this before it gets worse. This may not be an easy journey but we must persevere. There may be many incidents where lashing out will seem like the easiest option, but don’t give in. Good sense and sincerity must prevail.
If we truly care about the good people of our nation, we must take leadership and heal those who are hurt.
Admittedly, the economy has also taken a hit due to this political uncertainty following the aftermath of the 14th general elections. Commodity prices are falling, unemployment is on the rise and people are not feeling the boost in their wallets that they were hoping for. Austerity measures and belt tightening only serve as short-term stop gap measures and do not benefit the nation in the long run. Whatever policies implemented today will be only be overshadowed and not have a positive impact on the people until political stability and certainty is restored.
(Editor’s note: The 2020 Budget tabled on Friday, however, serves to drive demand and boost growth for Malaysia with higher allocations for all sectors).
Now is the time to heal. It will take courage, and decisions may not be popular, but this is crucial and needs to be addressed and deliberated with sense and not emotion.
We must do more to create a nation which our children and grandchildren will be grateful to be living in. The good people of Malaysia want to see some sense in all this chaos, and they must see these efforts as foundations laid down for a brighter future. It has to start somewhere, and the Malays have taken a proactive initiative with our own household, but it must not stop there. We must be optimistic in bringing a positive narrative forward, to build on what has been done to include all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion and creed.
To work patiently, to unite our fractured nation, to heal the divide, and to endure whatever tomorrow will bring. Always remember, Malaysia deserves better.