The British are forever remembered as the progenitors of the divide-and-rule legerdemain that has fed and nurtured the existing abrasive political culture of its former colonies.
Reported history tells us of the United Malayans National Organisation (Umno), conceptualised and mooted by that great Malayan — Dato’ Sir Onn Jafaar — as he became wary and uncomfortable with the policy that began to side-line non-Malays.
Malayan annals also confirm that this champion of racial unity faced political calamity after the Alliance Party won the elections in 1955 held during the Emergency (1948-1960).
The subtle hand of the divide-and-rule policy reigns supreme, and still rains vitriol on race-based politics in Malaysia in defiance of any remedy or solution to bring all Malaysians under one unifying political umbrella.
The constitutional frown upon national unity can be found in Article 153 FC which offers some communities a “special position” while assuring the safety and security of the “legitimate interests of all other communities”. Constitutional doublespeak at its zenith.
History is vague as to whether the British bargained with indentured labour immigration as a constitutional bet for the “special position” standing because locals were not genetically amenable to working under the hot sun in tin mines, road-works and rubber plantations.
Be that as it may, political divisions along race, religion and region in Malaysia should become an anachronism. It should become the paramount opposition by the discerning rakyat to permanently rid the ensuing national calamity to national unity.
National unity cannot and should not be legislated, or left to government policies as we have witnessed the incessant downgrading of equality entrenched in Article 8 FC. This 19th century trishaw mentality has no shade under the Malaysian sun today.
But, what can the discerning rakyat do to change the status quo?
First, American style town meetings must be held every month in every community, every village, every town, and every city for people to come together and voice their reasonable expectations in the presence of their elected representatives in Parliament.
These town meetings must be attended by judges and ministers, whether retired or otherwise, to reflect the constitutional commitment of the three organs of government. NGOs must be welcomed.
Town meetings offer greater and better insights into the people’s expectations instead of the once-in-five years appearances by political aspirants cuddling babies, offering refreshments, and taking selfies while seeking votes.
Second, the media must quit being government-centric and become more governed-centric in its reportage. The discerning public must be regularly fed news concerning someone who innovated something to bring greater happiness to their communities.
Third, the government must pass laws consistent with the belief encapsulated in the adage that “we are each other’s harvest; we are each other’s business; we are each other’s magnitude and bond”. That, and that only must be the government’s business to engender, not endanger, national unity.
The discerning rakyat must do the needful to prevent government wading into uncharted waters. As responsible helmsmen, the rakyat must necessarily guide the vessel of government which cannot function without them as the hands-on crew.
Laws and policies which emanate from each other cannot furnish the remedy or solution. Young, caring and committed intellectuals must voice their opinions and beliefs to get government to listen to fresh national unity policies.
Laws, regulations and policies with constitutional twists, bumps and spins in interpretation cannot and should not determine the people’s aspirations and expectations unless a unifying dialogue is initiated between the governed and the government.
The establishment of the lacklustre Ministry of National Unity by the present government has clearly echoed the prime minister’s call that “Malaysia is known around the world as a country that has a composition of many ethnicities, cultures and religions. A solid inter-ethnic unity is a determinant of the continuity and survival of our country”.
Inter-ethnic unity can only be realised and sustained if unity abundantly becomes synonymous with equality and political equity. The entity causing ill-will and disaffection amongst the various communities in Malaysia is the very hand that rocks the cradle.
Maybe the word “unity” is a meta-term subtly summoning one community alone to stand united.
“Unity is something to be desired, to be striven for, but it cannot be willed by mere declarations,” observed Theodore Bikel.
National unity should be immune to desecration and corruption to prevent a national calamity.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.