By Jerry Francis
I was thrilled and jubilated as most Malaysians over the recent Merdeka and Malaysia Day celebrations.
Despite some initial concerns that a certain terror group might cause disturbances in the country during the celebrations, all had gone well in peace and harmony. There has been no report of any untoward incident. The celebrations marked yet another milestone as the country forge towards building a prosperous and developed nation.
However, what worries me are the continuous calls by politicians, including our national leaders, for unity among all Malaysians. Their speeches were filled with emphasis on the need for unity. Even this year’s theme for the celebrations “Sehati, Sejiwa (One heart, One soul) is reflecting on unity.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak in his Malaysia Day speech, assured that the people would stay united in facing threats that would affect the security and sovereignty of the nation.
“Rest assured, we will stand together in facing threats against the country, just like we did during the Lahad Datu intrusion,” he stressed. His deputy Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, too, urged Malaysians to be united and maintain national stability.
Why it is necessary after more than five decades since independence, that the political leaders are still harping on unity? Was the show of patriotism and joy during the celebrations only superficial? Are Malaysians still far from being fully integrated and united?
Judging from the calls of the politicians, I would think so. The politicians themselves who are sometimes behind the breakup of unity, should know better, as they are always close to the rakyat and are therefore able to gauge their feelings on unity.
When can we, in full confidence, say all Malaysians are united? Or do we have to go on for yet another five decades hoping to attain full integration and unity? What has gone wrong with the national efforts to unite all Malaysians? Instead of moving forward, we seem to be moving backward.
There is a need to examine the causes and take steps to remedy them. Otherwise, there will always be dissatisfaction and distrust among the various races in the country, resulting in disunity.
The older generation can always recollect with fond memories of the harmony and unity they experienced in the early post-Merdeka days.
Even in sports, particularly soccer and hockey, we had excelled, not because the training then was better, but because there was unity and dedication among the various races participating in sports.
It is my view that the biggest obstacle in national unity is race politics. As long as it is in existence in the country, racial issues will always emerge as some young politicians would champion certain sensitive issues to gain popularity at the expense of unity.
The appointment of special affair advisers in the national and state levels based on race to deal with the people, are also creating an impression that an officer could only be “fair and just” when dealing with someone from his own community.
So Chinese are appointed as advisers for Chinese affairs, Indian for Indian affairs, and Dayak for Dayak affairs.
What about those like me – who are classified under “lain-lain”? Well, we do not have the numbers, so it does not seem to matter.
First of all we need to trust every officer, from the highest to the lowest tiers of the government and its agencies, to look into the problems of every Malaysian, irrespective of race or religion, without bias.
Loyalty and unity can only be gained by treating every Malaysian with goodwill and understanding, not just by urging.
Otherwise, we can go on calling for unity year after year, decade after decade, and yet fail to achieve national unity.
By Jerry Francis