Understanding the bonds that make a nation

Ronald Benjamin
The Malaysian Insider
May 27, 2011

MAY 27 — An article in The Malaysian Insider about the Democratic Action Party (DAP) reaching out to the Malays through its newly created online portal caught my attention. It made me reflect on a fundamental question of nation building in the Malaysian context: What would actually bond multi-ethnic Malaysia and how would such a bond be created?

There are indeed fundamental principles and endeavours that would bridge the ethnic divide in this country and transcend ethno-religious politicking and the constant political debates between the conservatives and liberals.

The first thing that political parties in Malaysia should do if they intend to cross boundaries of ethnic acceptance is that they have to understand the bond that holds human beings together. It is vital to understand the history, religion, language and culture of a nation and take steps to acknowledge that reality through the political dialogue of understanding and action.

For instance, the DAP could show concern and come up with ideas on how to make the national language more appealing since there are many Chinese who do not speak or understand the language, as revealed in a recent survey.

Or through its speeches, the party could speak more about the historical foundation of the nation, how it has evolved over time and what needs to be done currently to enrich it. This would involve communicating the Malay-Muslim roots of the nation and its evolution as a multi-ethnic country.

It would also involve explaining how the nation’s ethnic groups have been divided through the past colonial legacy of divide and rule, which currently characterises the Barisan National government’s political structure. This means that the nation is still living in the shadow of this colonial legacy, unable to bond as a multi-ethnic nation due to continuous ethnic politicking.

The DAP, as a political party which intends to cast its net wider, has to start acknowledging that it has done little in areas that bond the nation. It could have done more to explain the importance of the national language, articulate the historical roots and evolving nature of the nation and discuss what prevents Malaysians from achieving true unity.

Unable to gain much meaningful access to the mainstream media, the party could use the online media besides reaching out to the rural population with the help of its Pakatan Rakyat partners.

The spiritual, social and political issues that bind all ethnic groups together also need to be taken into consideration. These issues of concern include the ills of corruption, poverty, abuse of power and human rights violations. All these have universal dimension and the DAP has done a consistent and excellent job in this regard.

It is vital for the DAP as a political party to strike a balance. The party needs to broaden its current political thinking by reaching out towards conservative rural Malays through an understanding of the dynamics of conservative politics such as the importance of the history, culture, and language of the nation. And it needs to integrate all this into its quest for social justice.

This would break boundaries and make DAP a credible national party, which it is capable of because of its centrist ideology. The missing link has to be connected. — aliran.com

  1. #1 by Bigjoe on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 8:12 am

    There is some truth that DAP has failed to articulate what brings a nation together rather just a party of issues and what is wrong. Certaintly for the DAP to bring an attractive ideological message in a divided country like ours is a very difficult thing, perhaps the most difficult thing.

    Nevertheless. the need for it is still unquestionable. Look at Singapore and how they have managed to deliver material well-being to its people and with a top-notch education system and national service program and yet it failed to create a Singapore identity that the people are willing to swear by in their constant panic struggle of their Darwinian world.

    This world is Darwinian and the struggles to meet the material need of, if not all, the vast majority, is still a difficult thing. Like it or not, there must be winners and losers. You are not going to unite people by promising everyone will win the way BN has done, you are going to unite the people when they agree that its still OK to be Malaysian when they lose – that message that its still OK is perhaps the toughest one of all because BN has already bankrupted the only groups that was willing to accept it for a long long time – namely the Chinese and the other prosperous minorities.

    The way DAP is doing it, as a socialist party, by promising many they will be better at the expense of the few UMNO/BNputras is a method that has never suceeded. There simply is not enough riches of the UMNO/BNputras to enable that balance to be carried out.

    Only by freeing up the abilities of those unprivilleged – the socialising of education, employment business opportunities but meritoriously can it done. Subsidizing rural education. Tax breaks for rural industries, overspending on rural infrastructure. You can’t give everything the masses want but you can lead them at least part of the way there.

  2. #2 by dagen on Saturday, 28 May 2011 - 11:51 am

    What would bond malaysians together? Actually this is one issue that frightens umno to no end. Just like in singapore. The pap government has to educate singaporeans properly so that the island nation can compete globally. Doing so gives the people there a mind and an opinion of their own. In other words, singaporeans can easily turn away from pap, given the right chemistry and environment. Here, malays chinese and indians are actually closer than what the politicians appear to be harping. Put them together, say ibrahim bin perkasa, a chinese and an indian in a cage for two weeks. What would they talk about? They will talk about football (yeeeah), saman ekor (shuaay) and teh tarik (yum yum). And they could actually be rolling on the floor lauging at some stupid samy 100yr guarantee. The point is this. We actually hv enough common culture to grow and live together. Umno knows this. And it is a problem to umno. That means umno will become irrelevant, just like mca and mic. So umno has to keep the nation divided to maintain its relevance. That is also why umno wants to portray dap as a race based political party – when dap is not and when dap now openly makes clear the party’s intention to woo malay members and supporters.

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