Posted on 17 March 2013 – 07:56pm
IN the good old days the exercise books we used in school had the 26 letters of the English alphabet and multiplication tables on the back page. These were later replaced with the Rukun Negara and these days, depending on the printer and the school, various messages are printed.
Nothing wrong with that – the messages convey inspiring words or those which will be beneficial to those in school. Last week, a reader sent me excerpts of a speech made by our first education minister, Tan Sri Mohd Khir Johari, which I believe should not only be printed on exercise books, but also carried in the pockets of every Malaysian.
At the annual speech day of the Victoria Institution in Kuala Lumpur on April 9, 1958, Mohd Khir said:
“Over and above the ties of locality and race there are bonds of national unity, and transcending the loyalty of one’s community or nation there is a higher loyalty to the entire human race. There is no ready made road towards this; we all have to unite to build that road. I am a Malay – born a Malay. I had no choice to be otherwise when I was born! But now I am a Malayan citizen – a citizen of a free and independent Malaya just like any one of you here. In other words, I am a Malay by accident but a Malayan by choice. You may be of Chinese or Indian or Eurasian origin but I want every one of you to consider yourself first and foremost a Malayan. It is only through having that attitude of mind that we can resolve our differences and prejudices and work solidly for the good of the country.”
These prophetic words need a few amendments to incorporate the changes the nation has gone through in the past 55 years. Perhaps “Malaya” and “Malayan” have to be changed to “Malaysia” and “Malaysian”. Also, the indigenous races in the country should be added to signify the big nation we have become.
This nation was built by our past leaders based on the fact that only unity can take us forward. Hence, there was consensus and understanding that as Malaysians, there should never be a racial divide.
The politics and the policies of the Alliance government which brought us independence inculcated such values with the three major parties representing the various races working as one to guide us into the future.
Where did we slip up? Where did we go wrong? Why did we stray from the winning formula? Why have those who share the same views and values of the likes of Khir Johari and Tunku Abdul Rahman disappeared into oblivion, leaving the nation at such crossroads? Why aren’t our leaders speaking up on the same lines and instead choosing righteousness and one-upmanship?
Over the years, we have been divided by narrow-minded rhetoric and venom spewed out by those obsessed with power. We have seen and heard them all. From those wanting to ban vernacular schools and those wanting to burn religious books, they have all had their five minutes of fame.
It’s all over. It’s time for a new Malaysia in which every citizen can pride himself or herself of being part of.
The time has come for all citizens – irrespective of colour, creed, race or religion – to take pride in considering ourselves as Malaysian. The issue of unity must be confronted in a rational and non-emotional perspective with the leaders on both sides of the political divide showing the way.
One cannot fathom the need to attach labels on each other based on race, religion or gender. Aren’t we all citizens of a blessed country called Malaysia? Aren’t we all loyal to the King and country?
Why then are attempts to display such steadfast allegiance viewed with contempt and suspicion? Does questioning the legality of an issue make me less a citizen than one who chooses to be silent? Does demanding for accountability and transparency of public funds make me less of a Malaysian?
Our identity cards describe us “Warganegara Malaysia”. It does not state Kelas Satu, Kelas Dua or Kelas Tiga? Why then the one-upmanship that one is superior to the other? Why the uncalled-for classification of pendatang?
Civility must return. Never mind the political alignment or allegiance. Never mind the ideology or philosophy. Mindsets have to change. Let us agree to disagree without having to throw race or religion into the fray. Let’s create a society which is able to question itself on principles – not on anything else.
It is time for all of us to put on our thinking caps to encapsulate the words uttered in the hallowed halls of the Victoria Institution. We should simply call ourselves “Malaysians”. Period.