Najib wants ‘One Malaysia’

By Lee Wei Lian (The Malaysian Insider)

PUTRAJAYA , April 1 – In his final public address before his expected swearing in as prime minister on Friday, Datuk Seri Najib Razak gave a hopeful glimpse into his administration today when he said that the new thrust of his government will be One Malaysia, or 1Malaysia as it is also known.

1Malaysia, which Najib has mentioned several times the past few days, emphasises national unity and in his speech at the ceremony to disburse funds to Tamil schools today, Najib sounded remarkably like a reformer for race relations as well as a reconciliator.

He said that two things were key in the 1Malaysia concept – mutual respect and trust among the different races in Malaysia.


"Mutual respect is not just tolerance," he said.

"That is just the bare minimum. Mutual respect means you have embraced unity in diversity. And secondly, we must trust one another. But trust is not something gained overnight. But if done conciously over time, it will eventually happen.

"Once trust is developed, Malaysia will be the sum total of all races. We will not be moving as separate communities but as one Malaysia and we will be stronger. It will be a new Malaysia because we'll change our mindset because we trust and respect each other. I hope all will join me to bring Malaysia to greater heights."

The words will be warmly received by those advocating a united and less racially divided Malaysia but at the same time will be regarded among sceptics as mere hype similar to what they heard five years before.

Then, freshly installed prime minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had promised to be the leader for all Malaysians, igniting hopes that a new era in race relations was at hand.

In the years following that promise, non-Malays became severely disappointed with Abdullah's ineffectiveness in reigning in the more right-wing voices within his party and decided to withdraw their support in the general elections last year.

And judging by the strident delegate speeches that characterised the recently concluded Umno party general assembly, Najib, which a Merdeka Centre survey says is coming into office with low public expectations, especially among the non-Malays, will face similar challenges in achieving his vision of 1Malaysia and winning back non-Malay support.

The son of the nation's second prime minister, however, says he is aware that the some parties expect him to act in an authoritarian manner and protested against being pre-judged before coming into office.

"Give me a chance. I will reform and I will make changes," he had told reporters in a press conference at the close of the Umno general assembly.

"I am aware that the people expect me to do certain things. Please judge me by my actions. My actions will come in due course."

He has made a few encouraging overtures following the Umno assembly.

He paid a visit to the nation's largest Chinese newspaper Sin Chew Daily and reached out to the Indian community by disbursing RM80 million in stimulus packages and other government funds for Tamil schools today and at the same time announced the approval of RM20 million in training funds for Indian youths.

Najib has denied that the disbursement of funds were timed to coincide with the by-elections.

"This is the actual giving out, but the announcement (of the allocations) was made much earlier even before we knew about the by-elections," said Najib.

Najib has also declined to disclose specifics about the implementation of 1Malaysia, asking the media to wait for Friday when he promises to reveal how it will be translated into programmes and policies as well as his vision for the economy, politics and the direction of the government.

For Susan Loone's take on One Malaysia, read: