Former top civil servant Tan Sri Alwi Jantan’s following 2020 New Year’s Day poem yesterday “Change” is food for thought for all Malaysians, regardless of race or religion, who care and love Malaysia and only want the best for Malaysia and our children and children’s children:
We voted for a change
From kleptocracy to Malaysia Baru.
You won’t believe it but it’s strange
What we get are all true.
Black shoes and khat for schools,
Zakir Naik the hate guru.
As if we haven’t been taken for fools,
Flying car and crooked bridge too.
Academics become cheer leaders
In search of lost dignity.
Not fit to become teachers
At any university.
O Lord, my wish for the New Year,
Show us the way to salvation.
Let us together strive and bear
The burden of rebuilding this nation.
I agree with Alwi that a lecturer who could set an university examination paper on ethnic relations extolling the preacher Zakir Naik as an icon in the Muslim world is not promoting but undermining ethnic relations in Malaysia and is ‘Not fit to become teachers at any university”.
In fact, the Universiti Malaysia Perlis’ (UniMAP) examination paper on ethnic relations warrants a full investigation as to whether the courses on ethnic relations in Malaysian educational institutions in Malaysia is promoting ethnic relations or exacerbating ethnic relations and undermining Malaysian nation-building, as there are other examples of university questions which are totally insensitive to the diverse races, languages and cultures in Malaysia.
While the Ministry of Education has clarified that it was not responsible for the contents of the UniMAP examination papers, upholding the principle of university autonomy, it cannot wash its hands of responsibility if ethnic relations courses in universities and institutions exacerbate and incite inter-racial and inter-religious misunderstanding, distrust and hate instead of promoting tolerance, trust and understanding in plural Malaysia.
Let us learn from the lessons of the past 19 months, which saw an upsurge of polarisation along ethnic and religious lines aided by lies, fake news and hate speech on the Internet and the social media, undermining respect for democratic norms and the rule of law; exacerbate intolerance, hate and extremism; diminish societal trust threatening to drag the country into a downward spiral of division in the trajectory towards a failed state.
Malaysia must learn from other countries, as rising polarisation is not just happening in Malaysia.
Malaysia must not reach a stage where severe polarisation can only result in a failed state.
Although Vision 2020 of a fully developed Malaysia which is a “united nation, with a confident Malaysian society, infused by strong moral and ethical values, living in a society that is democratic, liberal and tolerant, caring, economically just and equitable, progressive and prosperous, and in full possession of an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient” could not be achieved in the year 2020, we must be set in the trajectory of Vision 2020 to avoid the perils of severe polarisation.
Malaysians regardless of race, religion and region, must strengthen the core beliefs of Malaysians based on the Malaysian Constitution and the Rukunegara and in the make-or-break year of 2020 for a New Malaysia, implement the Pakatan Harapan’s 2018 General Election promise to create a Malaysia that is inclusive, moderate and respected globally, reduce the people’s burden, implement institutional and political reforms, spur sustainable and equitable economic growth and return Sabah and Sarawak to the status accorded in the Malaysia Agreement 1963.