Start them young to foster unity.
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By Janie Tan Poo Choo
The writer, Janie Tan Poo Choo, is a cluster administrative officer at the National Institute of Public Administration (INTAN). She was recently awarded a certificate of accreditation and appointment as a 'Munsyi Muda Bahasa' in the public services sector for her proficiency in Bahasa Melayu by the Public Services Department and Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka.
This is the second of her two-part article on unity.
KUALA LUMPUR (Bernama) -- It was during the British colonial era that the seeds of ethnic segregation were first planted.
Through their 'divide and rule' policy, they deliberately placed the three main communities – Malays, Chinese and Indians – in different economic sectors.
The segregation, indirectly, became a barrier to the fostering of racial unity and integration in Malaya.
The Malays were placed in the agricultural sector covering mostly the rural areas. The Chinese were placed in the business sector while the Indians were made to work in the plantation sector.
The distribution led to gaping differences in the incomes earned by the communities concerned, with the Chinese earning much more than the Malays and Indians.
ISSUE OF POVERTY
The British policy resulted in the Malay and Indian communities having to grapple with hardcore poverty while the Chinese went in pursuit of the golden opportunities in the business arena to fortify their economic standing. In such a situation, feelings of dissatisfaction were bound to arise among the other races.
The dissatisfied people would, of course, strive to defend their own rights and interests, which would have a negative impact on interracial relations.
Racial disharmony can lead to instability in the country. It can trigger disputes and conflicts among the races. Social and economic instability can drive investors away from our shores.
Without foreign investments, our economy will suffer which, in turn, will slow down the development process.
Not only that, but the people will also be burdened with higher prices of goods and services and the rising cost of living, and even face the prospect of unemployment. To put it simply, national unity is key to ensuring our nation's economic well-being.
Tense relations among the multiracial population can affect the security of the nation as well. Like the saying, "United we stand, divided we fall", the strength of a country's defence lies in the unity of its people.
Racial harmony indirectly creates a strong ''concrete wall" that can defend the nation against its enemies and guarantee its security.
When a nation is in turmoil due to disunity, it can attract internal and external threats. It is also an undeniable fact that strife-hit countries are often a subject of discussions at the global level. And when a nation's image is smeared, advanced countries would not want to have any collaboration with it, thus stunting its progress.
When we live together in peace and harmony and our nation attains success in various fields, the world's attention will be on Malaysia and other countries will want to learn from our success.
I can safely deduce that racial unity is of paramount importance to our nation's overall well-being and an important element for our policymakers to focus on. We must put our heart and soul into forging close relations among the various racial groups to ensure our country's social, economic and political stability.
And, to excel in the international arena, we need citizens who are committed and dedicated to discharging their duties and responsibilities in a clean, efficient and trustworthy manner.
Malaysians need to embrace values such as loyalty, acceptance, fortitude, humility, integrity, excellence and meritocracy. Like it or not, a tremendous wave of change is currently sweeping over Malaysia.
Our country is likely to face stiff challenges and hurdles on the global front, thus all the more reason why the people of our country – regardless of race, religion and culture – should integrate.
Be aware that dissatisfaction, hatred and suspicion will only lead to instability and conflict which ultimately will cause devastation in the country. Nobody loses except for our country. The saddest thing is, the struggle and efforts of our multiracial leaders who founded this nation would go to waste.
Even though we may have different political viewpoints, we should not allow ourselves to be shackled by partisan politics. On the contrary, we must embrace noble values that enable us to prosper, coexist peacefully and be more noble and gracious.
In conclusion, what we really need is cross-cultural education to be made part of our country's education system in order to strengthen unity. In my view, racial polarisation in schools, institutions of higher learning and workplaces is getting more serious, no thanks to the education system that permits racial segregation.
It is national education that our country must stress on and give priority to. This way, we can see Malaysians reflecting their identity in their daily lives, that is through their fluency in Bahasa Melayu, which is the national language and medium of communication in our multiracial society.
Only when this is in place can we be regarded as a Malaysian national community that not only has love for the nation but also an obligation to care for the welfare of all the races in Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak.
(This article expresses the personal views of the writer.)
Translated by Rema Nambiar