By Nagiah Ramasamy
Racism, religious intolerance and hate politics are raising their ugly heads of late.
Provocative and harmful statements, including those touching on race, religion and even references to the May 13 incident, were posted on many social media platforms around polling day. This has raised serious concerns among the public.
Looking back, my friends and I shared many things together during our school days, university days and working days. Warmth and acceptance filled our friendship. We developed long-term relationships with people from diverse backgrounds.
We often visited each other’s homes, played games, enjoyed festive occasions and organised activities. There were no reservations nor preoccupations over divisive matters.
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However, these days, some politicians and religious people are focusing on these issues to obscure rather than to celebrate our diversity.
In these increasingly contentious times, we should relook at the Rukun Negara (National Principles), specifically, the national aspirations etched in them.
The Rukun Negara was introduced after the May 13 violence in 1969 to foster harmony and unity in our multi-racial and multicultural country.
There are in fact two parts to the Rukun Negara:
- the aspirations or ambitions (cita-cita)
- and the principles (prinsip-prinsip)
During my early school days, we were required to memorise both the aspirations and the principles and to practise them. Students in public schools in Malaysia recited the pledge immediately after the singing of the Negaraku, the national anthem, at our weekly morning assembly.
Back then, the text of the Rukun Negara, comprising both the aspirations and the principles, could be found in the outer cover of exercise books.
The five principles are:
- Belief in God
- Loyalty to the King and country
- The supremacy of the Constitution
- The rule of law
- Courtesy and morality
Today, however, whenever the Rukun Negara is brought up, it is almost always about these five principles only.
The reality today is that no one ever speaks about the ambitions (or aspirations) that precede these five principles, when in fact, both parts are crucial for developing a country that is peaceful, harmonious, successful and stable.
Many in Malaysia are most probably unaware of the five key aspirations.
Whereas our country, Malaysia, nurtures the ambitions of:
- Achieving a more perfect unity amongst the whole of her society
- Preserving a democratic way of life
- Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner
- Guaranteeing a liberal approach towards our traditional heritage that is rich and diverse
- Building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology
This part of the Rukun Negara stresses the preservation of a democratic way of life and guarantees a liberal approach towards our rich and varied cultural traditions.
The concepts of unity, a democratic way of life, a liberal approach and a progressive society in this part of the Rukun Negara are all intertwined.
Yet some groups find these words – particularly liberal and democratic – offensive.
It is time our nation embraced the Rukun Negara in its entirety. Malaysia must re-address the key challenges of building a mature, liberal and progressive society, where the people practise a democratic and equitable way of life.
Everyone – particularly our politicians, our religious leaders and our community leaders – will need to speak not only about the principles in the Rukun Negara, but also that forgotten part – the ambitions – and to practise them.
Dr Nagiah Ramasamy, an Aliran executive committee member and trade union adviser, previously worked as an associate professor in human resources management. Based in Subang Jaya, he constantly strives to make a difference in the lives of others