Come Aug 31, Malaysia will celebrate its 63rd National Day. Now is the time for Malaysians to contemplate the nation’s achievements which would not have been possible if unity and harmony did not prevail in its plural and diverse society.
In the Global Peace Index 2020, Malaysia was placed on the 20th spot among 163 independent states and territories that were ranked according to their level of peacefulness. Malaysia can be proud of this achievement as it has used its diversity to advantage.
Referring to social relations among Malaysia’s multi-ethnic communities, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies associate fellow Prof Dr Mansor Mohd Noor said it (social relations) had undergone positive changes gradually over various stages.
Between the 1950s and 1970s, there were interethnic conflicts due to issues related to poverty and inequality, he said.
“There was also some social tension during the 1980s and 1990s with an incident occurring in Kampung Rawa (in Penang) in 1998. In the year 2001, there was a small clash in Kampung Medan (Kuala Lumpur), then in Lawas in 2012 (Sarawak) and at Low Yat Plaza in 2015 (Kuala Lumpur).
“Since then, no such incidents have occurred and we can say that Malaysia is headed towards social cohesion,” he told Bernama in an interview ahead of the launch of National Month and Fly the Jalur Gemilang 2020 in Putrajaya tomorrow by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.
Mansor said racial flare-ups can be avoided with the implementation of more effective initiatives that allow harmony and unity to prevail in this nation’s plural society.
He also said that positive developments in interracial ties are closely linked to holistic national-level development plans and governance as it can correct economic imbalances and poverty and prevent any community from being left behind and marginalised.
“The rapid growth in development and the economy has been moving in tandem with social inequality within society. This is something that has to be monitored and focused on as it involves the poor and those in the B40 group who have been neglected,” he said.
Mansor said the planning and implementation of development projects must be based on proper research input in order to enable the poor to emerge from the cycle of poverty that has gripped them for generations.
Their social progress, he added, will continue to be hindered if development is not carried out in an equitable and inclusive manner.
RESPECT CONSTITUTION, RUKUN NEGARA
While Malaysians, in general, are a tolerant lot and accept each other’s goodness and follies, they must also at the same time respect the provisions enshrined in the Federal Constitution, as well as the five tenets of Rukun Negara which they must use as a guide to their daily lives.
An in-depth understanding of the Constitution and the national philosophy can help to avert misunderstandings that can put a damper on interethnic relations.
“Currently, our ethnic relations are good and so is national unity,” said Mansor, adding that history which is taught as a subject in schools should be taken more seriously as it provides an analysis of the changes in social relations in Malaysian society over the years.
The subject chronicles the struggles and contributions of the various communities which, he added, fosters the spirit of patriotism among the younger generation.
He also felt that social science should be introduced to schools as it will provide a better understanding of a multi-ethnic society and prevent conflicts from arising.
FIGHT AGAINST COVID-19
International Islamic University College Selangor senior lecturer Dr Hairol Anuar Mak Din, meanwhile, said Malaysians must unite to overcome the various challenges facing them now.
“In the past, the people were involved in the struggle to free this nation from the colonialists but now the situation requires us to be united in our fight against COVID-19,” said Hairol Anuar, who is attached to the university’s Department of Nationhood and Civilisation Studies.
To overcome the pandemic, Malaysians must comply with the necessary standard operating procedures set by the government, he said, adding that their compliance was also a manifestation of their patriotic spirit.
Hairol Anuar also said that Malaysians may have different ways to depict their love for the nation but “all of us feel so proud and happy when a fellow citizen achieves something remarkable in or outside the nation”.
Pointing to the recent actions of certain quarters that insulted Malaysia’s coat of arms and vandalised the murals of Malaysian leaders, he said Malaysians, in general, were dismayed by these incidents.
“Appropriate action must be taken against the perpetrators so that such incidents don’t recur,” he said, adding that the nation can only develop and prosper with the support of all the people. Bernama