The 1 Malaysia that PM Najib is propagating to Malaysians is not an alien concept, but one that was a ‘common life style’ among our multiracial society in the years prior to independence, and up to the period of the 60’s.
I believe, what had segregated our society into racially based entities, was the creation of national schools with Bahasa Malaysia being the medium of instruction, rather than maintaining a education system and schooling environment that encourages integration of the three main races i.e. Malays, Chinese and Indians. By having national schools, this had somewhat discouraged parochial Chinese and Indian parents from sending their children to such schools, resulting in national schools being patronized mainly by Malay students. This has been the state of affairs up till the present day.
Having said the above, I am not advocating that Bahasa Malaysia should not be the medium of instruction, but rather a strong retention of the English language in schools.
I would like to highlight my schooling experience, and how the 1 Malaysia concept can be evolved and inculcated among the present day multiracial Malaysian society.
I started schooling in 1949 at the age of six, where the medium of instruction then was English. The school I attended was known merely as a government school. I knew not a word of English upon entering school, but since everyone in school spoke the language, I had to strive hard to learn the language quickly; otherwise I will be asked to stand on the chair, or to be beaten on the palm of my hand with a ruler by the English teacher for being poor in the language. This early punishment had instilled fear in me, and I dread at having to fail my English test.
I remembered the classes that I attended in primary school were dominated by Chinese students, with very few Indian and Malay students. The reason for this was simply because the school was in urban Kuala Lumpur, where the population were predominantly Chinese.
During my formative age, I never thought myself as being from a different race, and neither was I made to think, or discuss my racial background with my classmates. We ate and played together, and I remembered having to go to some of the homes of my Chinese friends after school, and being welcomed by their parents. They live in large bungalow homes around present day Jalan Bukit Bintang. Of course, these homes no longer exist.
Likewise, I had several Indian friends who were my neighbours, and until today, we keep in close touch with one another, despite our ages, and despite having become distinguished grandfathers and grandmothers.
The same environment prevailed when I attended secondary school. The majority of students were still Chinese, and by this time both our spoken and written English had improved. There has never been an occasion where we quarreled over the issue of race, and if there was a fight among students, it was for some other reason. I too almost got involved in a fight with a Indian boy, because he was a bully. He was much larger than me, but having stood my ground, he ceded without needing to throw a punch at me.
When I joined the cadet wing of the Federation Military College in 1965, out of an intake of 78 (excluding Singapore cadets), 31 were non Malays. This was a substantial number of non Malays joining the Armed Forces, as compared to the present. I believe, the reluctance of the non Malays to join the Armed Forces today is because of their lack of social integration with the Malays during their formative age, and it has nothing to do with them being disloyal to their country of birth, as some would have perceived. I know for sure that the non Malays that had joined the Armed Forces with me, had gone through a similar schooling environment. And throughout our training, there was no inhibitions and the sense of being different, just because of the differences in our racial and religious background.
When we were commissioned as military officers, we maintained our togetherness, having to live, eat, work and play together. It is because of this close association, that military officers of my generation, and the generation before me are well bounded in lasting friendship, regardless of our religious belief and race.
Having being schooled in a multi-racial environment since I started schooling, I am today still very much a Malay and a Muslim. I have not lost the culture and traditions that is associated with my race, and the same goes for my Chinese and Indian friends. But what is common among us is the lasting friendship that we hold dear, that had been nurtured throughout our formative and adult life.
I have no qualms regarding the 1 Malaysia concept that Najib has propagated, because I believe it is a good concept that is aimed at uniting Malaysians of all races. But to evolve a truly 1 Malaysian society, it has to begin with our children and grandchildren at their formative age; but not when they are already in their adult life. Relationships has to be nurtured, and this takes time to blossomed.
I personally think that the Progam Latihan Khidmat Negara (PLKN) introduced by the government for SPM leavers, can be a programme to nurture the spirit of the 1 Malaysia, but it only has a short term impact. I do not think the participants can develop a long term relationship by just being together for 3 months. And after all these years, and with the millions spend, I have yet to read any official reports detailing the extend the PLKN programme had achieved. Or are the reports merely for the eyes of a limited few only?
Since the 1 Malaysia idea was mooted, I have only heard leaders voicing their support for the idea, but not how the idea is to be implemented, strategies, priorities and plans for implementation, the participants and target groups, and the time line by which one can monitor and gauge the extend of achievement. As of now, I can only say that the 1 Malaysia is merely a political rhetoric.
And if the government thinks that the 1 Malaysia idea can be achieved within a year or two, I would dare say that they are absolutely wrong in the very first instant. And even if the government does have a well defined strategy for implementation, I would say too that it will take no less than two decades to fully realized the concept.
An idea of the 1 Malaysia has been mooted out, and it is now left for the government to see its full implementation. However, are our politicians that had all along been propagating and harping on racially bias policies that seemingly suits their personal political interest, willing to discard such interest, and to work towards the successful implementation of the 1 Malaysia concept?
And certainly no more ‘kris wielding’ and ‘ketuanan melayu’ rhetoric from now on please, but rather a language and action that pacifies all races.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION