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Ubuntu – the spirit Malaysia needs

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Can the present backdoor government inspire this spirit among Malaysians. K Haridas reflects. 

While race is a reality, racism is a virus that continues to contaminate life in Malaysia and politics.

We are not learning the lessons Covid-19 is teaching us. We have to respond as ‘one’ humanity and the time for race and religiosity to be the critical parameters are over.

Everyone is affected, and it is our sense of a common humanity that will deliver us from this challenge. We have to move from slogans to inspire the spirit of 1Malaysia and act as one.

We must believe that the whole is better that the part, and if we are just and fair by the whole, we will also meet the challenges and requirements of all sections within our community.

We will then empower our society to step out and take responsibility because we feel Malaysian and act as Malaysians. 
We will have to transcend racism. Otherwise, it will continue to divide us. We will remain fragmented because the same virus infects everyone from within. 

While some writers may feel this is not the time for a motion of no confidence against Muhyiddin Yassin’s backdoor government, I beg to differ. How did we allow the unscrupulous to take power and just condone what is happening. The sooner we can get back to a government trusted by the people, the better.

Many factors might explain why the former government was dislodged. But we have to consider some key reasons why that government seemed better. It represented the will of the people. Its MPs were elected based on a manifesto. They had a more representative Malaysian presence and a sense of direction.

While they attended to some of their ‘reform agenda’, other items on the agenda remained a work in progress. Sadly, these will now end, and it is a huge loss for Malaysia.

Some present ruling MPs are perceived to be racist in comparison with those in the former administration and are unashamedly going about their work of placing people and ‘buying’ support.

This will be the end for the MCA and the MIC, which are abetting them in this direction. These parties stand for race and have no agenda for change or reformation. Here was an opportunity for them to take a stand for Malaysia – and they capitulated. Their support reflects the quality of their leadership.

These parties will undo all that was done and take Malaysia into a dark and difficult place. Those who abet Muhyiddin will do great injustice to the nation in the long run. We have for a long time been suffering mediocre and narcissistic leadership, which has polarised this nation.

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Parliamentarians should put the interests of the ‘Rakyat’ or the people first. This must be the key determinant. If they are right by the people, then they will be right by the nation and its future.

However, if we have politicians who are mainly interested in “what is in it for me?”, then no one will be able to help us over this gruelling time.

It is time to go back to basics and tackle the ‘trust deficit’ that has been heightened by the return of this backdoor government. This is possible only if all parliamentarians understand their oath to the constitution and stand up for principles beyond race, selfishness and party affiliation and do what they can for Malaysia as a whole.

The issue is not race but selfishness and a lack of character. Neither Bersatu nor Umno is united between themselves – despite both being Malay parties. Parties do not have to belong to the same race to be united, but many will fall for the ploy that the DAP is behind these divisions.

There is so much unthinking behind racist expressions, and this shows the levels to which our society has become polarised. What we seriously lack are politicians with a vision and purpose, politicians who will stand up for what is right to lead the nation to glory.

What will happen to the anti-corruption initiative of the last government and the corporate liability provision? [This provision, under Section 17A of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission Act, was passed by Parliament in April 2018, and is supposed to take effect in June 2020. It states that a commercial organisation commits an offence if any person associated with it commits a corrupt act to obtain or retain business or an advantage in the conduct of business for the commercial organisation.]

Any postponement or lack of focus on these fronts will jeopardise the reform agenda that we voted for and expected. There should be no postponement.

Muhyiddin should tell us what he stands for. If he does not stand for the interests of the people in specific terms, then he can never be held accountable.

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We are facing the result of fifty years of the New Economic Policy, which has ethnically polarised our nation and our politics, apart from creating a rent-seeking community that relies on handouts and special favours. Barisan Nasional (BN)  and Umno have to take responsibility.

Accountability has been the weakest link in our system of governance at the party level, in institutions and in government.
If after fifty years the bumiputera community is still in the doldrums, then we have to compare their situation with those politicians who have been on the scene for about the same time and look at the wealth they have each appropriated to themselves personally.

The tragedy that has fallen on the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda), Tabung Haji, the Federal Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Authority (Felcra), Malaysia Airlines and other government-linked companies testimony to the rampant greed and corruption among the elite.

A coterie of elite bumiputeras have siphoned away vast sums, and “kleptocracy” showed this clearly. The facts are there, and we cannot wish these away.

We have so much religiosity, prayer and expressions, but we fall short in virtue and personal moral standards, and so we are unable to translate these to ethical practices at work. It is this hypocrisy that breeds cynicism among the young. People are unable to see issues of justice and fairness at work.

Whatever may be the combination of leaders and parties, personally, I am for a vote of no-confidence. If we fail, then we have to accept the due process of democracy; we can say that we tried and failed. If we succeed, then we have a chance to resume the ‘Reformasi’ agenda.

To accept the present reality without a vote of no confidence in Parliament is to condone a wrong and to justify it.

Members of Parliament should reflect and look beyond personal, party and self-interest and vote based on what is right by the nation. It is no more an issue of race; it is about our character as Malaysians and how we value one another.

Beyond history and the past, we have to chart a future. Like the Africans, we need the spirit of ubuntu (”I am because we are”), an ancient African word meaning humanity to others.

The following is a story, whether real or invented, that went viral on social media some time ago.

A professor suggested that children of African tribes play a game. He placed a basket full of fruits and sweets near a tree and told the children that whoever got to the basket first would win all the treats.

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When he gave the shout for them to run, they all took each other’s hand and ran together.On reaching the basket by the tree, they all sat down together and enjoyed the fruits and sweets.

When the professor asked why they had all run together when one winner could have easily had all the treats, they said, “Ubuntu! How can one of us be happy if all the others are sad?” 

Beyond all the words and slogans, it is this spirit of ubuntu that is so critical for our diverse nation. This is what “shared prosperity” and “prosper thy neighbour” is all about. How we define ‘the other’ defines us.

No religion is about race, and when some Muslims reduce Islam’s magnificence with their exhortations on race, they corrupt their beliefs and deny themselves the grace and compassion that Islam offers to humanity.

The fragmentation among sections of the Malays is indicative of this self-inflicted virus. Now the migrant workers and the Rohingya are facing similar challenges. 

In the preface to his book We, the People, the late Indian jurist Nani Palkhivala lamented about his country people “who gave unto themselves the Constitution but not the ability to keep it, who inherited a resplendent heritage but not the wisdom to cherish it, who suffer and endure in patience without the perception of their potential”.

Our potential exceeds racism, but we lack the leadership to steer this nation forward collectively.

Racism ultimately bites the hand that feeds it. The MCA and the MIC together with Umno and other Barisan Nasional components are examples. They have no political reason to exist beyond race.

The same will happen to Perikatan Nasional before too long, as it has no sustainability based on a common vision and purpose beyond race. Greed and selfishness will ultimately be its undoing.

Can the present backdoor government inspire the ubuntu spirit among Malaysians? If they cannot, then Malaysians need a second chance and should call upon all parliamentarians to do what is right and best for the electorate. If we fail, then we are responsible for the quality of parliamentarians who now helm this nation.

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