this email from a good friend and the content of the view of this
prominent person who has hold numerous significant postions in the
government, has taken me deeply.
would like to share his view over here and for us to ponder about,
hopefully something better, even how small it is, conciously or
unconciously can be done.
Dominating role not
healthy for nation, I think we are farther apart now than we were in
1969. But you have to remember that I grew up going to an English
school, to a university where there were people of all races. At that
time, although we did think in terms of race, it wasn’t in the way
people do now. We felt that we were Malayans. We socialised much better
than we do now.
Bahasa Malaysia can
be a unifying factor. But it can be a factor separating people, too. As
Sukarno would say, “The important thing is the jiwa.” You don’t have to have a common language, if you have the same jiwa (heart, spirit, passion, devotion). This is what we don’t have right now....
In 1956, the
historical society of Universiti Malaya went to India . There were lots
of Indians in the group, but they didn’t think of themselves as Indians,
they thought of themselves as Malayans. That’s the jiwa. But later on, because of certain reactions, suddenly people stayed away from this jiwa - they don’t feel as though they are fully Malaysian. They are made to feel that way.
When I was in the
service, there were lots of non-Malays in the civil service, holding
good positions. But do you see them now? If you go to the universities,
where are the non-Malay professors? After 1969, suddenly there was this
drive to make sure that all university vice-chancellors and faculty
deans were Malay. So, in the end, we chased away all the best brains
among the non-Malays.
When schools say
you must start school with a doa (Muslim prayer recitation), you push
away all the non-Muslims. When I was at school, we never had any
prayers. Whatever we learnt in religious class was a separate thing. I
think it’s more important that we bring people together, rather than
pushing religion so hard that it alienates other people. This is what’s
happening. I can’t blame the Chinese and Indians; why should they go to a
sekolah kebangsaan (national school), when they have to do all these
All the things are
breaking down. Our school system is not as it used to be. We are
producing supposedly so many students with so many As, but what do they
know? Are we happy about it? The leaders seem to be happy about it. We
came up with the Rukun Negara because, after 1969, there was the feeling
that the nation was breaking down.
forgotten what it was all about. So, we thought we could bring people
back together - unite them. That’s what the first part of the Rukun
Negara is about: the objectives of the nation. Unfortunately, we did
practically nothing to promote an understanding of the Rukun Negara. And
when schools make mistakes, nobody corrects them. That should have been
the role of the Department of Information.
In the beginning,
Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie did try to apply the test of whether something
was in consonance with the Rukun Negara or not. But then, the government
just forgot about this.
We are supposed to
be a united nation, not only in terms of state, but also in terms of
people: that they would all consider themselves as Malaysians, and that
this was their country and their nation.
We wanted all these
people to share the wealth of the nation. One of the things we thought
contributed to ’69 was the economic disparities, joblessness. The New
Economic Policy was a policy for all Malaysians; not just for the
Malays. But we wanted to restructure the economy so that the Malays
would come out of the rural agriculture sector into the commercial
We wanted Malay
participation at all levels of economic activity. We wanted to uplift
the Malays without reducing the position of the others.. - “eradicating
poverty regardless of race”. And this was supposed to be in a situation
of growth. Not just sharing the existing cake, but the cake must grow,
so that these people also have the opportunity to grow.
At the same time,
we also hoped that the Malays would grow a little faster. So, they set
this target of 30 per cent equity in 20 years. I was not much in favour
of that because I didn’t think it was achievable. I felt that
participation was more important than wealth.
We never thought
that we would produce multi-billionaires. That was never the intention
of the NEP. If some people can come up as everyone comes up, it’s okay.
But it wasn’t supposed to be about some people getting contracts. We did
say that we should have Malay millionaires just as we should have
Chinese and Indian millionaires, but not so much so that you don’t have
to do anything.
You must differentiate between dominance and domination. As Tun Dr Ismail said, “We want to be dominant, but we don’t want to dominate.”
Dominant in the
sense that we wanted the Malays to be everywhere; but not to dominate
all the others. But we seem to be dominating; and I don’t think that’s
healthy for the nation. It’s not about taking your share and not caring
about the rest.