By Jahaberdeen Mohamed Yunoos
Though I was very happy when Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced the 1Malaysia policy, I did expect diverse reactions to it, particularly from within UMNO. In fact, I believe I was probably the earliest blogger to “expand” and try to give meaning to the policy with the first posting on April 8, 2009 (I believe too that even then, Najib did not yet outline his concept!). Since then, there has been more than 10 postings on the subject.
I truly believe that 1Malaysia concept is relevant, and the way forward. It is a good start and a bold one by an UMNO President considering that it could easily turn out to be a major political risk for him. I knew then that it will be misunderstood by some people in UMNO as abandoning the main objective of UMNO – ie protecting Malay rights. While UMNO’s stated objective of “protecting Malay rights” is exclusive, 1Malaysia policy promotes inclusiveness – every citizen’s rights. Such a shift will certainly require time for UMNO leaders in general to understand and to subsequently embrace it.
1Malaysia calls for a paradigm shift - away from the used way of doing things to looking at the same things with fresh eyes and new approaches. Changing habits is never easy but 1Malaysia motivates the need to change for the better – for the general good. The Nation itself is still on the learning curve and we are learning that the way we are used to is not necessarily the best way to achieve positive results. Admission of past failures and our collective weaknesses is the first step towards realigning the Nation towards greater things. 1Malaysia, I believe provides us the channel to do this. In this regard, the Quran itself challenges us to reevaluate ourselves:
“Fighting is prescribed for you, and you dislike it. But it is possible that you dislike a thing which is good for you, and that you love a thing which is bad for you. But God knows, and you know not” (Quran: 2.216)
Confused apprehension of 1Malaysia coupled with engineered ignorance
As I expected, there were sections of the Malay community that were anxious that 1Malaysia will erode their special position that are enshrined in the Constitution. Not surprisingly, NGOs like Perkasa came into being to act as some sort of a pressure group to “remind” the Government not to “sideline the Malays”. While I respect the democratic rights of these NGOs to freely express their concerns, I must state that their “fears” are actually unfounded. I presume that their unfounded fears arose because of several factors, including confusion, ignorance of the Constitution and ignorance of the demographic facts. I shall explain below:
It is a fact that many UMNO members are also part of Perkasa. There has been an unhappy feeling among UMNO members since Tun Abdullah Badawi was UMNO President. There seems to be a perception that he has weakened UMNO and the unprecedented loss by BN in the 2008 general elections seems to have lent credence to that perception. Further, the unhappiness of UMNO with Abdullah Badawi resulted in him relinquishing both the offices of the Prime Minster and UMNO President. To be fair to Abdullah, he did introduce several liberal reforms or at least did give space for various “sensitive issues” to be publicly discussed. However, this liberalism was seen as his weakness rather than a result of his policy. This public discussion of “sensitive issues” were also seen by many UMNO leaders as UMNO becoming weak. This is a scenario which they have never seen before especially since some of the participants airing the issues were educated and young Malays! It was becoming a Malay-Malay dialogue on the reality of the multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic
. You now have Malays championing not only Malay rights but also non-Malay rights – very Malaysian in perspective. Malaysia
Further, the loss of 5 states to the opposition also seemed to have ‘embarrassed’ UMNO leaders/members. Malays, who are not UMNO members but UMNO sympathizers, also seemed to lose confidence in UMNO’s ability to look after Malay interest. Barisan Nasional’s (seen as UMNO’s) erosion of political power is confused with “erosion of Malay rights”.
All the above factors I believe caused confusion in the mind of some Malays. The confusion being between rapid phase of political changes, weak leadership, a bigger than usual opposition, and legitimate Malay interests. It is this confusion that led some people to wrongly saying that Malay political power has eroded when in actual fact, we have the biggest Malay representation in Parliament since merdeka!
It is also this confusion that led to some people wrongly saying that “Malay rights” in the Constitution are being challenged when in actual fact (a) the Constitution has always spoken about “Malay and natives special positions” and (b) there has never been any legal or Parliamentary challenge to Article 153. I have written about this in three parts here. http://jahaberdeen.blogspot.com/2010/02/hak-melayu-terhakis-bhg-satu.html)
It is noteworthy that these self-styled “champions of the Malays” have conveniently never taken the initiative to educate their Malay audience on the entrenched provisions in the Constitution. It is as if they want to perpetuate the ignorance of their audience on the said provisions so that they can “pump up the emotions” without putting the “brain in gear”.
Of course, as in any political community, there will always be vested interests who will take advantage of the existing confusion to promote their selfish interests at the expense of the majority. These are people who will pretend to care for the community but in actual fact, they do not care beyond the perpetuation of their own wealth, power and influence. Such a hypocritical behaviour has been pointed out in principle in the Quran:
“Ah! you are those who love them, but they love you not,- though you believe in the whole of the Book. When they meet you, they say, "We believe": But when they are alone, they bite off the very tips of their fingers at you in their rage. Say: "Perish in you rage; God knows well all the secrets of the heart." (Quran 3:119)
Inclusive or exclusive vision for the Nation?
Race based politics may have been relevant pre-Merdeka when possibly the diverse ethnic groups were unable to communicate with each other and lived in their own respective villages with very little inter-mingling. Race-based politics is certainly exclusive. It only promotes the well-being of one race to the exclusion of others. Such a political approach is bound to create conflicts and tension in the long run.
Today, the situation in
is completely different. People from diverse ethnic backgrounds inter-mingle freely on a daily basis – schools, places of work, neighbourhood, festivals, businesses, etc. Inter marriages are common. Bahasa Malaysia and English has enabled them to communicate with each other and allowed them to understand that they have common fears and hopes. Malaysia is the only home that most common Malaysians have though the elitists may have alternative homes in other countries. Malaysia
There is a real bond between common Malaysians with the “soil of
”. In this sense, all Malaysians are “sons of the soil” or “bumiputra”. The term actually is unimportant compared to what it entails to be a Malaysian in reality. In the final analysis, it is they who have to collectively defend Malaysia if it is under attack from external or internal enemies of the Nation. It is they who have to collectively develop this Nation. Malaysians know and realize that if any Malaysian in suffering it will subsequently affect the well being of the others. Malaysia
You cannot have what you want for yourselves and yet deny the very same for others. Such an approach is primitive, unjust and is a recipe for long term social conflict, strife and disaster. Denying others the equal and legitimate right to available resources is oppressive. I believe the right to God’s resources cannot legitimately be denied by man made laws.
“We have honored (karamna) the children of Adam; provided them with transport on land and sea; given them for sustenance things good and pure; and conferred on them special favors, above a great part of Our creation.” (Quran: Al-Israa 17:70)
We are all children of Adam and as siblings we are required to share the resources that God has given us. We are required to care for each other regardless of ethnic, cultural or religious differences. By now, we should have evolved into thinking beings who know that one of the biggest myth is that tribalism is security for the members of the tribe. Good and bad people are sprinkled into every tribe. Our diversity is not a weakness but a strength that we should collectively draw upon. The Quran lucidly refers to the strength of diversity as such:
“O humanity! We have created you from a single male and female and have made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another (not that you have pride over one another). Verily, the most honorable (أَكْرَمَكُمْ ) of you in the God’s Sight is the one most righteous. And God has full knowledge and is well acquainted (with all things).” (Quran: Al-Hujraat”, 49:13)
The mark of a civilized society is that which takes an inclusive attitude towards each other. I believe 1Malaysia contains this very important ingredient of inclusiveness. As Najib himself has frequently pointed out, 1Malaysia is not a new phenomenon in
. We have been living peacefully developing this Nation together. 1Malaysia policy however puts into motion a vision for us to focus and to work out tangible reforms that will entrench this idea into the system. Malaysia
Incidentally, last week I met Bassam Abu Ali, a Palestinian who is residing in
. He is here on a short trip and we exchanged notes. He strongly expressed his view that he is proud of the 1Malaysia concept being put forward by a Muslim majority country. He felt that Athens is an outstanding example of a Muslim majority country that lives peacefully with others. He also felt that this concept should be brought to other Muslim countries so that they can learn. Malaysia
Anyway, back to us, I believe each of us should give meaning to this 1Malaysia concept and make it the foundation of our Nation. Any attempts by vested groups to thwart this vision should be opposed.