Where we are today in our individual lives is a product of the choices and decisions we have made over time.
Some of these choices may look good, others questionable and yet other bits, poor. Ultimately, we have to take responsibility for our lives and the situation we face today. The blame game ends and our story tells it all.
Similarly, the state of the nation can equally be assessed – and whether or not we like it, this is what the people have chosen. The reality stares at us: after six decades, “Unity in diversity” remains a mere slogan.
This has been followed by several other slogans ranging from “Vision 2020”, “Islam hadhari” (civilisational Islam), “One Malaysia” to the latest, “Keluarga Malaysia” (Malaysian family).
Each of these slogans has failed because its promoters lacked sufficient sincerity. Often, they were promoting the ideas of think tanks or experts purely to win over the people. We the people have been fooled once too often.
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A twist of fate has now brought us to this situation where the King has had to intervene and a ‘unity government’ has been formed. The various coalitions and parties in the government will have to work together for the next five years – and that is the promise. Any coalition or party that breaches this promise will be seen to be going back on its commitment
Adversarial politics has its drawbacks. When this becomes personal, it is ugly and hurtful. When it is professional, then we the people are able to listen to several perspectives of a particular issue. We can then arrive at more informed and balanced decisions in the best interests of the nation.
For far too long, we have had to play with the identity politics of race, religion and language. Issues such as these raise emotions that blind our rationality, and in the end, it is majoritarian politics that prevails even in the face of injustice. Democracy is then reduced to a numbers game. This is dangerous for democracy.
In the unity government that has come into being, we hope that the interests of our diverse people, especially the poorest 40%, can be addressed.
The New Economic Policy and the Rukun Negara (National Principles) were framed with the idea that social justice prevails and that national unity is enhanced. That our society has become so polarised shows up failures.
We need to relook at the NEP, and while there are positive things about this policy, there is a need to have an honest conversation about how it has failed in some ways and how the elites have usurped many of the benefits.
The NEP cannot remain a sacred cow. Perhaps the establishment of an independent consultative committee, which holds honest closed-door conversations, could develop corrective strategies and give fresh direction.
This unity government gives the people an opportunity. They must listen, as we must continue to manage diversity and build a cohesive society that can be an example for other multi-ethnic nations.
Excesses have been many and because of antiquated laws such as the Official Secrets Act, the Printing and Publications Act and the Sedition Act, those in power have used these to commit wrongs of a magnitude that cannot be acceptable any longer.
This is a unique opportunity for all of us and calls for each of us to develop a mindset change and to look hard at our own individual prejudices and attitudes that will need to change as we move into the future.
Coalition politics requires skills that transcend adversarial politics. Dialogue, listening skills, and the ability to overcome prejudices and to have an honest and open conversation with those who hold different views become part of developing understanding.
Change for all – and to become the change we want to see in our nation requires that we also develop the courage to look within ourselves. Despite all that has happened in the past, we have now come to this new reality, and this is our tryst with destiny – an opportunity to do the best by all of us.
The new PM will need all our help, and as he flies the kite of Malaysia higher and higher, he will have to both pull and release at different times and step-by-step lead the nation to higher realms of unity and achievements.
He has our best wishes and support in this endeavour.