The Sungai Besar by-election on Saturday is expected to be a close fight between the UMNO/Barisan Nasional and AMANAH/Pakatan Harapan candidates with the PAS candidate taking a poor third position.
If the Sungai Besar by-election is a close battle with the victor winning by a very slim majority, then the 820 Indian voters in Sungai Besar will be the “king makers” who will decide whether Pakatan Harapan candidate Azhar Shukor or Barisan Nasional candidate Budiman Mohd Zohdi is elected as MP for Sungai Besar on Saturday.
I call on every single voter, whether Malay, Chinese or Indian to come out to vote so that there is an even higher voter-turnout than during the 13th General Election in May 2013 when over 88% of the voters cast their votes.
Voters should cast their votes, not as Malays, Chinese or Indians, but as Malaysians to ensure tolerance and harmony among the diverse races, religions, languages and cultures as a fundamental principle for the creation of an united, democratic, just and prosperous Malaysian nation.
Malaysia will be destroyed if we allow the politics of race and religion to create distrust and hatred among the different races and religions, which is why it is important that we educate every Malaysian to respect the diverse races, religions, languages and cultures in Malaysia.
Recently, the Kelantan Deputy Mentri Besar Mohd Amar Nik Abdullah ridiculed AMANAH for choosing the colour orange, which he said was similar to the saffron attire of priests.
This is a double disrespect, to AMANAH as well as to other religions and is undoubtedly a bad leadership example in plural Malaysia when all leaders, regardless of party politics, should be inculcating the value of respecting all races, religions, culture and even all colours!
Another instance of the increasing disrespect for other races, religions and cultures is the case where Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) students are taught that Hindus preferred to be “dirty” as some Hindu followers believe dirt on the body is a form of ritual which could lead to attainment of nirvana; that the presence of Islam taught former Hindu followers “manners in life”; that Sikhism is a combination of Hindu and Islam, but its founder had a shallow understanding of Islam.
Although the UTM Vice Chancellor Prof Dr. Wahid Omar had apologised for the misleading and mischievous teaching module and slides, undertaking to remove and investigate the incident, it is clear that this is not just a problem with UTM but part of a larger national educational problem stemming from the compulsory Tamadun Islam and Tamadun Asia (TITAS) programme for all undergraduates at public universities.
There should be a comprehensive review of the TITAS programme since its introduction for some three decades to establish whether it is contributing to national unity or doing the reverse, and how it could be modified to ensure that it does not become an obstacle to promoting greater inter-racial, inter-religious and inter-civilisational understanding in Malaysia, as happened in the UTM teaching module and slides.
(Speech at the Pakatan Harapan Sungai Besar by-election ceramah in Sekinchan on Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 8.30 pm)