The issue is not Mahathir but how to unite our diverse peoples as Malaysians to fulfil the Malaysian Dream as a world-class great nation

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad yesterday explained his “DAP sometimes extreme” remark which became fodder for those who are out to tar the DAP leadership and me has having sold out Chinese rights and interests.

For the past 55 years, I have been demonised as anti-Malay, anti-Islam, anti-Royalty, a communist, cause of May 13, 1969 riots in Kuala Lumpur, a non-Malaysian who came from China when I was 17 years old, when all these were lies and falsehoods as all DAP leaders are fully committed to uphold the cardinal features of the Malaysian Constitution and the Rukunegara nation-building principles, viz;

  • Constitutional monarchy;
  • Islam is the religion of the Federation and other religions may be practiced in peace and harmony everywhere in the country;
  • the special position of the Malays and natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with Article 153;
  • Malay as the official language in line with Article 152 of the Constitution and to protect and strengthen the use of the mother tongue of all races;
  • Malaysia ‘s special characteristic as a nation of diversity — of races, language, cultures and civilisations;
  • Repeal or amend all unjust acts and laws which violate human rights; and
  • Federalism and fair relations between the Federation and the states, including restoring the rights of Sabah and Sarawak under the 1963 Malaysia agreement is upheld.

Now, after the 22-month Pakatan Harapan Government (May 2018–Feb. 2020), a new demonization has been emplaced on DAP leaders and me: that we have sold out the rights and interests of the Chinese with DAP trying to DAP to de-Chinese the DAP.

Despite my two strenuous denials in three days that there is any DAP de-Chinese, de-Malay, de-Indian, de-Kadazan or de-Iban policy as this is the very opposite of the DAP policy of integration, the demonization campaign continued and the major Chinese media in the country carried an editorial today entitled: “What right has the DAP to carry out a de-Chinese Policy?”

They are all barking up the wrong tree.

The issue is not Mahathir but how to unite our diverse peoples as Malaysians to fulfil the Malaysian Dream as a world-class great nation.

When the Jawi controversy exploded in July/August 2019 I asked in Salem, Tamil Nadu what form of nation-building should be pursued in multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-religious Malaysia — assimilation or integration?

I said: “In 1994, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in his 13th year as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia, publicly announced that the Barisan Nasional government had given up its nation-building policy of assimilation as it had realised that this was unsuitable for a plural society like Malaysia and that integration and not assimilation should be the basis of the nation-building process in the country.

“But apart from assimilation and integration, there is a third alternative of nation-building: no assimilation and no integration but where different communities live side by side but separately under the same political system.”

The third alternative is what the British writer J.S . Furnivall described of colonial Malaya before Merdeka — “the communities mingle but do not mix”.

DAP and I have always advocated integration — not assimilation or “communities mingle but do not mix”.

There are Chinese who live completely in a Chinese universe of their own, without inter-acting with other races; just as there are Malays and Indians who live completely within their own respective Malay or Indian universes.

This is not the Malaysia that DAP and I strive for.

The Malaysia I want to see is one where the Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans and Ibans come out of their own universes to interact with other communities; to learn, appreciate and accept that Malaysia is not to be identified with any one community but with all the different communities who have made the land their mother country — where a Chinese has not betrayed race and culture for his exquisite Jawi skill, a Malay has not betrayed race and culture because of his Bharatanatyam repertoire, or an Indian betrayed race and culture because of his mastery of Chinese calligraphy.

In other words, a Malaysian is a Chinese who is not 100 per cent Chinese but has an extra dimension which could be described as Malaysia-plus; a Malay who is not 100 per cent Malay but with a Malaysia-plus dimension; and an Indian who is not 100 per cent Indian but with a Malaysia-plus dimension.

One question all Malaysians must ask: Who is the “Other” in the Malaysian context?

Is the “Other” the Chinese and Indians to a Malay Malaysian, the Malays and Indians to a Chinese Malaysian, and the Malays and Chinese to an Indian Malaysian?

If this is the answer, then we have not yet succeeded in Malaysian nation-building, for the “Other” must be a non-Malaysian, whether from Indonesia, China or India or any other part of the world.

Malaysia seems to be trapped in an extraordinary situation which, if not addressed, will only lead to greater division and disunity, stagnation and failure to leverage on the best values and qualities of the Islamic, Chinese, Indian and Western civilisations which meet in confluence in Malaysia to build a great Malaysian nation.

This extraordinary situation is one where the Malays feel threatened, the Chinese feel threatened, the Indians feel threatened, the Kadazans feel threatened and the Ibans feel threatened.

Every community is made to believe that its culture and ethnicity is facing an existential threat.

But who is creating all these threats to all racial groups in the country?

Not only the various races feel threatened, Islam feels threatened and the non-Islamic religions feel threatened.

Malaysians must develop a new self-confidence of “reaching for the stars”, a new “Malaysia Boleh” spirit, to exorcise the various contrived or imaginary fears and demons for Malaysia to excel itself in various fields of human endeavour so as to achieve a golden age for Malaysia.

DAP and my stand on integration and not assimilation nor the colonial Malayan formula of “communities mingle but do not mix” has not changed in the last six decades.

During the era in the 70s when government leaders stood for assimilation, my stand in defence of lion dance and the Chinese and Tamil primary schools were regarded as extreme and un-Malaysian.

When I launched a “No to 929” campaign in 2002 to defend the secular basis of the Malaysian Constitution and oppose Malaysia becoming a Islamic theocratic state as well as Mahathir’s announcement on Sept. 29, 2001 at the Gerakan 30th Delegates Conference that Malaysia was an Islamic State, I was regarded as “extreme” by those who disagreed with me.

When Mahathir stood for assimilation and DAP stood for integration, my stand was regarded as extreme.

When Mahathir accepted the Malaysian reality that assimilation in a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural nation is not viable, perceptions change.

In my media statement eighteen years ago on 24th August 2003, I praised Mahathir for his speech a day earlier at the Gerakan’s 32nd National Delegates Conference where he said that the Barisan Nasional government was not keen on assimilation in a plural Malaysia and was interested in their integration.

He said: “And I am happy that at the end of my career this has happened. Those of Malay origin will retain their characteristics, their religion, language and culture… Malaysians of Chinese origin will maintain their culture, language and religion and similarly the Indians and people in Sabah and Sarawak … will maintain their characteristics, religion and identity.”

Mahathir said these differences should not be an obstacle for the citizens of this country to work together and integrate as Malaysians (Bernama).

I commended Mahathir for having abandoned the assimilation policy in favour of integration as the basis of nation-building in plural Malaysia and for the courage of publicly admitting such a change of mind and policy about a decade ago.

DAP faced great odds to change the Malaysian nation-building policy from one of assimilation to that of integration, and the DAP had fought many battles and campaigns from the sixties like the defence of the lion dance, preservation of Chinese and Tamil primary schools, “No to One Language, One Culture, One Religion” campaign in the Kepayang by-election in Ipoh in 1983, the “Save Bukit China Campaign”, in 1984 and the “No to 929” campaign in 2002.

As I said yesterday to Kuala Kubu Baru DAP members at the Theatre Impian, Bukit Jalil, the Malaysian Dream movement must dare to face daunting tests and obstacles but we must be fortified by the conviction that truth and justice will eventually prevail.

(Media Statement (2) by DAP MP for Iskandar Puteri Lim Kit Siang in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 18th April 2021)

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