Resolve not to let our posterity down

I REFER to Mohamed Ghouse Nasaruddin’s learned and thought-provoking letter “Long road to integration” (The Star, Feb 9) in which he argues that integration has been elusive since we achieved independence 60 years ago. Regrettably, he is largely right.

He also asserts that “there is a serious need to address these issues to prevent further disintegration”, which is fair. His views are timely, especially before the 14th general election (GE14).

In fact, all Malaysian leaders in the political, professional and academic fields, and youth leaders especially, should spend more time discussing and debating vital issues on national integration before it is too late.

Let’s address the issues that Ghouse has raised.

The solution would be to adopt in full the New Economic Model which the Government has accepted but unfortunately did not implement in its entirety. Actually, if the same policies and principles of the NEP are implemented and applied on a non-racial basis, there would be greater national support for the New Economic Model. Then there would be far better national unity and integration.

With GE14 fast approaching, we urge all political parties to present manifestos that will promote national integration. Those parties that continue to stress race rather that a basic needs approach to socioeconomic development should be rejected at the ballot box. Then we will have national unity rather than disunity.

2. A common education system has been promoted by Ghouse, who states clearly that we had more national integration under the old “English language medium schools, where children of various races learnt, played together and conversed in English.”

That is certainly true. But instead of using English alone as the medium of instruction, we are now using Malay, which is as it should be since we must be proud of our own national language, Bahasa Malaysia.

But where we went wrong was to relatively neglect the teaching of English and practically discourage the teaching of Chinese and Tamil as our mother tongues in our national schools. This kind of narrow nationalism has been the main problem for our national integration. Chinese and Tamil could have been encouraged and seriously taught in our national schools – and why not? Other countries are teaching more languages in their schools and successfully too.

If we had been more broad-minded, liberal and long term in our thinking, like in some other multiracial societies, we would be indeed more united as a nation by now. Furthermore, with the rise of China, India and the Middle East, we would have been better equipped to take up the tough challenges of international trade and globalisation and the age of digitalisation. As it is, we have been sadly and unnecessarily losing out to nations that were once behind us.

3. Occupational distribution is racially biased, according to Ghouse. Here again he is right but unfortunately he does not explain how we came to this sad situation. When I joined the Malaysian Civil Service (now Administrative and Diplomatic Service or PTD), the recruitment of officers was based on the race ratio of 4:1, that is for every four Malay officers recruited, one would be a non-Malay. What it is today, I have no idea.

In the private sector, employment is very mixed. With the government-linked companies in abundance now, the employment of bumiputra officers is impressive and non-Malays could feel excluded.

The pure private sector, of course, has to be open and competitive to get the best talent available in view of the chronic brain drain. Therefore, the private sector cannot afford to lose out by employing non-competitive staff and ignoring competent Malay job seekers. Some companies may be biased but they will do so at their own peril if they ignore able staff for parochial and silly racial reasons. But here again, our weak education system does not always provide enough critical and articulate English-speaking graduates. So who is to blame?

4. Racial bias in demography, as Ghouse has pointed out, is a real problem. But no one should be blamed for the past era. This is a historical problem where those who had, and have, higher incomes accumulated savings to buy houses in more prominent residential urban areas. This is a universal phenomenon. But it is not true that, as Ghouse claims, “most of the Malays are in the rural areas and Felda enclaves.” Today, nearly 70% of our population live in urban areas, so most Malays are no longer in rural areas.

However, the Government could provide more incentives for the poorer segments of our society to own or rent houses at affordable rates. To be fair to the Government, this is being done and we have to be more understanding and patient too.

5. The race-based political landscape encourages segregation, according to Ghouse. Yes, I agree that this is a problem but again this is a historical development which, I am sorry to say, will stay with us for many more years. But the way out of this problem is for these race-based political parties to promote and implement class-based policies and not carry on with business as usual.

After 60 years of independence, all Malaysians should genuinely be treated fairly and as one Malaysia.

Finally, I would also commend Ghouse for courageously stating that we can “eliminate discrimination by treating all Malaysians as sons and daughters of the soil.” The time has come for us all to be called Malaysian bumiputra regardless of race, religion or geography.

Ghouse also bravely suggests that the elimination of discrimination “would lead to a lasting integration of the mind and body of Malaysians.” Let me please add the word “soul” to this. It’s the soul of Malaysia that also has to be enriched. Let’s resolve not to let our posterity down, especially before GE14 where we should reject racists, bigots and the corrupt.

View article in The Star.

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