I had had a privilege to join YB Hannah Yeoh, Assoc Prof Azmi Shahrom, V Ganabathirao and Leon Donald in a forum moderated by YB Tony Pua; organised by YB Lau of Kampung Tunku.
The forum was held to commemorate Malaysia Day and to reflect what does it really mean to be a Malaysian – and that was where I had a difficult time trying to contribute as a panellist, as the issue is not really my forte.
Trained as an engineer and a chartered accountant, I am a lot more comfortable with figures; things that are definite. National unity is not really an area that I am comfortable, yet it is the most pressing national agenda that should top any political party’s priorities.
There will not be any progress to national unity until we start to view any issues from the Malaysian perspective; not from the warped perspective of our respective race.
The issue of the lack of progress in the national effort to increase Malays/bumiputra’s participation in the economy is a national issue that should concern all Malaysians, because it is in every one’s best interest that the nation moves beyond this preoccupation, yet without a steady progress there will always be extremists who can manipulate the issue to the detriment of national unity.
Similarly, extending equal treatment to all Malaysians is not a zero sum game where Malays/bumiputra lose its standing to the non-Malays/bumiputras – it is imperative to allow the best of the best among all Malaysians to progress so that the country can make a leap forward.
Yet these issues will remain thorny and in all probability can create an uneasy spark, unless there are good souls out there who take the higher moral ground to listen and understand of each community’s fear and concerns. They may not be real, but they exist nevertheless.
It’s only when we can knock down the wall of distrusts that had been erected all around us, that we can start to have meaningful dialogues to understand each other’s fear and concerns. Only through understanding can we extend sincere hands and work together to resolve the fear and concerns of each community collectively as Malaysians – not as a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Dayak, Kadazan or any other ethnicities.
Otherwise we will continue to live in dichotomies – we enjoy and benefit from the richness of our surrounding due to the infusion of culture and knowledge of our different backgrounds, yet will never be able to use the richness in diversity to forge a new strength as a nation, because we refuse to empathise with each other.
Happy Malaysia Day!