Pak Lah should lead the way

Most Malaysians will applaud former Prime Minister Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s brave and bold appeal for “the political leadership to take a firm stand against espousing extremist views”.

I wish the good Tun or Pak Lah had come out strongly much earlier and that he will now lead again in urging firm pressure, to seriously promote moderation, instead of giving the impression of just giving lip service to the vital pursuit of moderation.

If the minority racial and religious extremists had been warned and apprehended earlier, a great deal of the present polarisation could have been avoided.

There would also be far greater faith in our country’s future and much more international and domestic confidence in our socio-economic prospects.

Bank Negara’s fourth quarterly report is encouraging. But it would have been much more favourable and the rating agencies would be more positive if these racial and religious risks are better managed.

These risks are now seen by an increasing number of analysts as being inadvertently allowed to fester and undermine our economy.

Our national unity, stability and longer term outlook, as opposed to the success seen on a quarterly basis, could be jeopardised.

After all, it is long-term economic progress and its sustainability that matters.

We are not doing enough to fight extremism and that will erode our future economic growth, our income, especially of the poor, and also the employment prospects of our youth.

We could be stuck in the middle-income trap and decline.

Of course the World Bank will be too diplomatic to comment on our racial and religious risks and their adverse effects on investment and business confidence, and the brain drain and capital outflow.

As a former Prime Minister and also senior civil servant, Pak Lah feels the pulse of the people and understands them intimately.

Hence, as he honestly points out “we cannot think that only the Malays have a place here and others do not, so bye to them. No such thing. We all are in this together.”

To follow through with Pak Lah’s pragmatic advice, race and religious-based policies and practices must be phased out at a faster pace.

We have to move more actively to promote moderation that focuses on the lower 40% income earners, regardless of race. We have to be “fair to all Malaysians” .

I am sure that my former civil service colleagues in the Group of 25 Malay intellectuals and the Group 33 Malaysian Moderates and indeed, millions of other Malaysian moderates, will support Pak Lah and others who want Malaysia to follow the noble principles of our founding fathers, Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tun Abdul Razak.

We all understand, empathise and share the sadness that Pak Lah feels at the state of polarisation and the soft handling of extremists.

We should take the queue from Pak Lah and monitor all extremists and their supporters and resolve to vote against extremists of all kinds and from all quarters at elections at all times.

Only then will Pak Lah and our collective aspirations and dreams, that “we should not and cannot allow the more extreme elements to hijack this country from us”, come true. Hence, we want a firm stand against extremism.

So dear Pak Lah, please lead us to fight extremism firmly and consistently and thus help our Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and most Malaysians build a better Malaysia for posterity.

Article published in The Star.

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