Assoc. Prof. Dr. Azmi Sharom, University of Malaya / Star columnist, speaking at ASLI-CPPS' National Unity Forum
The National Unity Forum on “Strengthening the Voice of the Moderates, Moving Forward Together” was organized on 4th September, 2014 at the Palace of the Golden Horses, Selangor. Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, YB Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Joseph Kurup delivered the keynote speech. Approximately 249 participants, with representation ranging from government agencies, political parties, academia, civil societies, NGOs, corporate leaders and members of public attended the event. The forum aimed to promote the voices of moderates, and strengthen the spirit of moderation. The forum envisioned contributing toward a better and more untied Malaysia. The forum reflected upon the need for a renewed effort to work towards maintaining national unity - as it is critical for enabling Malaysia to continue being a peaceful and stable country. National Unity is also vital for Malaysia’s progressive development and growth. The discussion centred on the need to restore the spirit of accommodation that underlies the Federal Constitution and the principles of Rukun Negara. For national unity to happen, rejection of intolerance and incitement to violence on the basis of religion are fundamental to the sustainability of long preserved peace. One of the most valuable aspects of this forum was the opportunity to discuss how different segments of society, ranging from ordinary grassroots citizens, youth, senior leaders and policy makers could come together to address the forces pulling the nation apart.
At the core of the discussion, there was a distinctive level of realization that irresponsible politicians are playing the racial card to cause fractions and dissent. A lack of strong leadership in creating an enabling environment in de-legitimatising extremist voices also contributes to the rise of extremism in this country. The influence of media has been, and remains profound. So much so that media has further intensified the voice of extremists. Lack of unity is also primarily conceived in terms of intra-religious harmony despite protections for certain groups being placed in the Constitution. Strengthening regional unity between Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia is seen as one of the pre-requisites to achieving national unity in the country. Important steps towards achieving national unity include, but are not limited to strengthening gender equality and priority in embracing diversity, the evaluation of all initiatives introduced by the government to promote national unity, and unity a impact assessment to be introduced and undertaken prior to any initiatives in developing policies. As Rukun Negara serves as a fundamental tenet to national unity, more needs to be done to strengthen the nation’s commitment to uphold the federal constitution, rule of law and to encourage citizens to be more morally obligated. ASLI has proposed the adoption of six-key measures to strengthen National Unity:
Firstly: let us uphold the Federal Constitution and defend the Constitution as it encapsulates the social contract upon which this national was founded and accords protection for the rights of all Malaysians.
Secondly: let us all uphold and practice the Ruku Negara as our way of life.
Thirdly: we should refrain from making extremist remarks or doing extremist things. Moderate Malaysians must stand up to condemn extremist voices and extremist actions.
Fourthly: we need to compromise and seek a win-win solution for any conflicts or disputes we may have in resolving or mediating disputes.
Fifthly: we must accept, tolerate and recognize each other’s sensitivities and the sensitivities of all races and religions practices in Malaysia.
Sixthly: we must celebrate our diversity and come together as a nation, as we did so on 22nd August – the National Day of mourning for MH17.
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