Unity enjoyed under Tunku sorely missed
Published on: Sunday, February 23, 2020
By: tan sri lee lam thye
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FEB 8 this year would have been the 117th birthday of Malaysia’s Bapa Kemerdekaan (Father of Independence) Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj. It is regrettable that the day went by without any mention of it or any significant event to mark it.

The legacy of Tunku has touched the hearts of many, young and old, from different racial and religious backgrounds all over the nation. He was a great statesman and I still remember vividly some of his outstanding remarks as our then prime minister. They include:

“Every one of us must respect each other’s right and feelings, be tolerant of each other’s religion, customs and habits for in diversity we can find real unity.”

“We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that united us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”

Tunku should also be remembered for his simplicity, sincerity, integrity, strong sense of patriotism and, above all, his unwavering stand on harmony and unity in a multiracial nation.

The values he stood for were exemplary and his ways were an inspiration for all Malaysians who strive for a united nation.

In recognition of Tunku’s legacy of unity, let all Malaysians irrespective of race and religion re-dedicate themselves to working towards national unity through “mutual respect of each other’s rights and feelings, religions, customs and habits, for in diversity we can find real unity”.

If Malaysians, in particular politicians, are able to put into practice Tunku’s words of wisdom, Malaysia today would be a more harmonious and peaceful nation.

Looking at the present situation, the nation has yet to be united even though it has enjoyed six decades of independence.

In the 1970s till the late ‘90s, the spirit of friendship and neighbourliness was based on sharing and respecting each other regardless of social, economic and religious backgrounds.

It was the way of life. We played, studied, camped and visited each other with no worries and qualms of hurting each other with our actions. Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and other festivities were celebrations for all.

But today, our nation has become polarised along race and religion. All religions encourage their followers to do good, be courteous, humble, honest, respectful and above all not to hurt one another even unintentionally. Unfortunately, we have deviated from these virtues.

Crime, social behaviour, politics, education, health, laws and even festivities have been infused with the element of race and religion from the negative perspectives. At every opportunity, an incident is viewed from a racial or religious angle.

Malaysia today is going through a very critical phase of its existence in view of the continuous articulation of extreme views by several quarters.

Speaking ill of, casting aspersions and making hate speeches against fellow Malaysians are most undesirable, uncalled for and will certainly not help to forge inter-racial harmony and unity. We need to go back to the 1957 Merdeka Spirit and work towards genuine racial and religious harmony.

For those who persist in making incendiary and insensitive statements and instigate racial and religious tension, our law enforcement agency should take action on them without fear or favour and help restore public confidence in the process.

The immediate task of all political leaders and all strata of society is to stop the drift towards racial polarisation. Politicising every issue and problem will not benefit the nation.

We need to be sincere to find solutions to the nation’s problems. Malaysians are disappointed and even disenchanted when certain politicians play the race card to gain popularity.

This is the time for all level-headed patriotic Malaysians irrespective of race to reject all forms of religious and racial extremism, and stand up and be counted in furthering the cause of mutual respect, harmony and unity.

n Lee is Trustee Malaysia Unity Foundation

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