KUALA LUMPUR – The anticipation that the elections will be held soon seems to attract many good things which we Malaysians either take for granted or simply ignore, with the assumption that “Ini semua biasa” – a common practice during election season.
This year, celebrations of Good Friday, Easter, Hindu New Year and Vaisakhi (the Sikh New Year), by mere coincidence, shared the same date. In the past, these festivals were either celebrated on a quiet scale or simply overlooked by the authorities. However, this year, the entrance of my township was adorned with banners and posters of such festivals, adding colours and flavours to the environment. Although a beautiful sight for all, why such emphasis on multi-culturalism and multi-religiosity only when election season is in the air? No doubt many would consider this as an election ploy or vote-garnering exercise amongst our elected politicians and to-be elected candidates. If only such diversity was understood by everyone and be made a daily practice, especially the politicians who govern us.
Election season is also noted in our calendars as road refurbishment season, whereby all our roads are re-tarred and re-paved. Even the smallest holes are not left uncovered. The smell of hot tar and the sounds of bulldozers fill the air for many days and weeks prior to the election date. However, it would be a great improvement for the municipal and other governing authorities to realize that potholes in streets as well as other maintenance required issues of our roads occur throughout the year and not only during election season. If issues surrounding faulty street lamps and traffic lights, leaking sewerage holes, overgrown grass and broken branches, poor waste collection and clearing of dead carcasses on the street were also collectively and efficiently attended to immediately and public amenities were maintained on a regular basis, no doubt our nation would shine in cleanliness, hygiene and beauty throughout the year and not just for a specific time or occasion.
Another striking point is the sudden emphasis and attention towards the vernacular schools. The education syllabus and system of the Chinese schools and Tamil schoolswill become instant issues of interest to all politicians, but again, only during election season, with the main intention to woo non-Malay votes, and our clever politicians never seems to let this topic to rest. Somewhere after elections, you can hear the firebrands speaking of their closure and that the national unity is ruined by the presence of these vernacular schools. You can see debates and scores of postings online on the need to close these schools, but everything will settle-in well close to the election!
It is also during this time that our national leader will announce and stress on the utmost importance of unity; that we are a multi-racial and multi-religious, although Islam is the official religion of our nation. Should this not, in actual fact, be said and practiced widely on a daily basis by all? Should equal importance and respect not be given to every ethnic community in this nation? There would be no need for the nation’s leaders to emphasise on such issues if these issues itself were inclusive in their daily agenda.
Although we have adapted well to the Bumiputra agenda, we do not have to put up with the practice of non-Bumiputras being side-tracked, ignored and in some cases, rejected or even “shoo-ed” out of the picture. Every ethnic community in this country is to be given an equal amount of respect and importance in building a nation truly known as Malaysia.
Malaysia boasts of a nation with 98 percent being educated and literate. We need new thoughts in governing and ruling the nation. We cannot be using outdated techniques or outmoded issues. The Generation Y and Z are already becoming 80% of the voters for the coming elections.
We need to close out issues like intended closures or removals of vernacular schools. The constitutional powers of an education minister to close them must be reviewed and renewed. This will help everyone to assimilate and move on faster with greater confidence and trust in the government and education system. National schools must also show greater transparency in managing and adopting true assimilation of our culture, as our Deputy Prime Minister has pointed out that the current education system is not creating much patriotism among Malaysians.
The issues of every ethnicity must be carefully studied; adequate resources and support must be provided to build a strong and strategic Malaysia in meeting the growing “innovative destructive economy”. Malaysia cannot be a Kodak. She must be an Apple who will be an enabler for our nation to greater heights. We must strive to restore confidence among the non-Malay voters by considering their needs and grievances in order to maintain a balance among all races and communities that make up this country.
Our loss is another’s gain. For instance, the closing of the MRO in Subang by MAS is the biggest gain of Emirates Air where now there is a Malaysian Village in Emirates Air. We should think of our nation first before we think of anyone person, ethnicity or even religion. We must move beyond race and religion to build a nation which will stand strong and firm for the coming generations.
Let’s be objective. No more parochialism but patriotism in uniting to meet the external challenges that is coming in a big way. China’s new success is brought about by their openness and willingness to collaborate with all walk of life wherever and whenever possible, even forcing the United States to take a back seat. Such is the issue within our country. It is a question of willingness to learn and make a difference or remain a nation only seen campaigning on the eve of every election but not executing the common good, brought about by our diversity and plurality.
Let’s be honest, open and inclusive of every Malaysian’s concern. Let’s not just deliver the goodies on the eve of an election, but continuously deliver the goodies equally to every Malaysian in every nook and corner of our nation in order to win back their confidence and trust.
(This commentary is based on the writer’s personal opinion and does not in anyway reflect on Bernama’s stand on what has been said by the writer, Ravindran Raman Kutty)