This is the third day of a week-long world-wide celebration of “World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014” (Feb. 3 – 9) and Malaysia, as a microcosm of global multi-racial and multi-religious society, should be in the forefront to promote interfaith engagement where people of diverse faiths can undergo a process by which ‘tolerance’ develops into ‘understanding’ and eventually lead to unity of heart and meaningful relationships.
I want to remind the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak that on the first day of the World Interfaith Harmony Week last year on Feb. 2, 2013, he set the pace of the observance of the global interfaith harmony week and visited the places of worship of the nation’s five main religions in Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, i.e. Sri Sakhti Karpaga Vinayagar temple, the Buddhist Maha Vihara temple, the Tamil Methodist Church, the Toaist Sam Kow Tong temple and the Madrasathul Gouthiyyah Surau.
On this day last year, he spoke about the need to hold on to the three principles of moderation, respecting those of other faiths, and fairness and being considerate.
But this year, not only the Prime Minister but the Department of National Unity and Integration in the Prime Minister’s Department, which is tasked with organising this year’s World Interfaith Harmony Week celebrations in Malaysia, lacks conviction and enthusiasm – which explains why the official portal of the Department of National Unity and Integration (http://www.jpnin.gov.my/home) is a blank about national-level celebration events of the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 featuring the Prime Minister when I just visited it on the third day of the world-wide week-long commemoration.
In actual fact, the government should have gone out of its way to ensure that the events to celebrate the World Interfaith Harmony Week this year should be on a grander scale and more meaningful than last year bearing in mind that inter-faith relations, goodwill and harmony had never been so sorely tested in the nation’s history as in the past eight months – resulting in the worst racial and religious polarisation in the country as a result of the incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension by a small group of reckless and irresponsible people who seemed to enjoy immunity and impunity for their nefarious and treacherous ends to provoke racial and religious strife in the country.
The government’s lukewarm and indifferent attitude to the World Interfaith Harmony Week 2014 as compared to a year ago raises the question about the commitment of the Cabinet’s positive response last week to the olive branch by the Pakatan Rakyat Leadership Council for a Barisan Nasional/Pakatan Rakyat Leaders’ Summit on national reconciliation to promote national unity and scuttle plans by a small group of traitors out to destabilise Malaysia by inciting racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension even to the extent of creating another May 13 riots.
But this is not the only incident which raised disturbing questions about the commitment, conviction and political will of the Barisan Nasional leaderships for a national consensus to promote national unity and end the worst polarization of race and religion because of incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension to cause chaos and conflagration in the country.
A week after the last Cabinet meeting which decided on a positive response to the Pakatan Rakyat’s olive branch for a national consensus on national reconciliation, the Pakatan Rakyat parties have not yet received any official contact or approach from the Barisan Nasional on proposals for the national reconciliation talks.
Furthermore, the announcement by an UMNO leader that one of the Barisan Nasional’s main strategies in the forthcoming Kajang by-election in Selangor is to peddle sex to highlight Pakatan Rakyat candidate, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s alleged sexual issues has raised more than eye-brows, as it is not only most unethical and a most dishonourable motive, it is against the whole spirit of a national consensus on national reconciliation.
The national consensus on national reconciliation cannot make political differences among Malaysians and political coalitions disappear but it must be able to achieve an overarching national concord based on at least one objective – a coming together of Malaysian patriots regardless of political affiliation and beliefs who are united in their resolve they will not allow traitors in the country to create racial chaos and religious conflagration through (1) the incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension and (2) the propagation of lies and falsehoods and other unethical and unprincipled forms of conduct.
The forthcoming Kajang by-election – regardless of who wins on polling day – should be a national showcase of the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat coalitions becoming more mature and able to unite for patriotic purposes despite their partisan differences, such as to conclude and oversee a new code of electoral ethics and conduct which will not condone, aid or abet any incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension or the politicking of lies and falsehoods.
Pakatan Rakyat parties of PKR, PAS and DAP would have no hesitation in committing Pakatan Rakyat to such a new code of electoral ethics and conduct – but are the Barisan Nasional parties prepared to commit themselves to such a new code of electoral ethics and conduct?
If the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat coalition are prepared to commit themselves to a new code of electoral ethics and conduct in the Kajang by-election as a pace-setter for all future elections, it will be a commendable earnest of what can be achieved in a Barisan Nasional-Pakatan Rakyat Leaders’ Summit on National Reconciliation when it gets underway.
Saturday will be the 111th birth anniversary of Bapa Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman. It has been rightly noted that if Bapa Malaysia is alive today, he would have been disgusted with the current state of affairs – in particular the ceaseless stoking of racial and religious fires without any check or restraint by the authorities which seemed unconcerned that they could only lead to racial chaos and religious conflagration.
The best way to commemorate the 111th birth anniversary of Bapa Malaysia is to be reminded and guided by his words of wisdom on the values and principles of moderation, tolerance, justice and fair play which are the only basis of success for Malaysian nation-building, as reflected in the following nine Tunku quotes:
● “Among other things, it was agreed that Islam would be the official religion but that there would be freedom of worship and that everyone could live in dignity as and how they pleased. Everyone must respect these promises and the agreement arrived at. No one must assume that they were greater or could ignore these promises. If the promises are kept, I am sure Malaysia will continue to be a peaceful land…”
● “We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”
● “The main thing which we have to remember is that we have got to make a home of this country and we have got to live happily together ever after. Let us contribute our share towards it, each and everyone of us, no matter what may be our race or creed.”
● “Let us never allow disunity to divide or disrupt us, for if we do, we fail. Let us always remember that with each passing year, we must ensure that the bonds of unity and goodwill, of tolerance and harmony, grow stronger and stronger.”
● “In such a country, what would one expect of a leader? One and all would say, the leader must be one who can mould a nation out of these characteristics into a united whole, for out of our diversities a united Malaysian people can emerge.”
● “The last thing people in this country want to see is a Malaysia divided into political extremes, for a nation divided against itself can only invite trouble.”
● “Our great aim must be to make Malaysia a haven of peace, harmony and happiness. We must strive for this with all our strength. We must be brave, we must be fair and we must be just, so that, come what may, we shall be ready as united Malaysian people to meet it. Merdeka.”
● “In our multiracial society, our Malaysian democracy, nothing is more fundamental than harmony between the many races which form the Malaysian nation. In fact, if I were asked to name one single outstanding quality to explain the success of Malaysia as a free nation, I would without hesitation say it is due to racial understanding and cooperation. Not only does this harmony express the trends of thought and feeling in this country, but it is a treasure of priceless value to each and every one of us.”
● “We must each always think first of Malaysia, of the national need and least of ourselves …Everyone must try to help and see that the people are one-minded, with loyalty and one aim, to make Malaysia – the land we love – a happy abode for all of us. If we all do this then we can guarantee liberty, security, prosperity and happiness for the future.”
There is no better way for the Cabinet and the country to commemorate the 111th birth anniversary of Bapa Malaysia than for it to do two things:
Firstly, no more procrastination but swift and speedy holding of the Barisan Nasional-Pakatan Rakyat Leaders’ Summit on national reconciliation; and
Secondly, to revive the Inter-Religious Council which Tunku Abdul Rahman set up in early decades of nationhood to resolve inter-religious differences and to promote inter-religious amity, goodwill, understanding and harmony.
(FOURTH OPEN LETTER to the Prime Minister and Cabinet in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday, 5th February 2013 at 7.30 am)