Be leaders of all Malaysians

Barisan Nasional can win back the people if its elected representatives are humble, credible and become champions of fair play, justice and transparency.


THE 1Malaysia concept being promoted by Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak may mean different things to different people but the bottom line is simple – the Prime Minister wants a sense of one people and one nation.

He is not keen to set up think-tanks comprising academicians to draw up lofty ideals on what this concept is about.

He wants the idea to evolve and to take shape as the concept is promoted, more importantly, practised and not just remain a slogan for a leader who has just taken office and wants to be seen to be popular.

Over the past two weeks, he has been asked at almost every press briefing what 1Malaysia really means.

Malay nationalist groups are worried that it would be like the Malaysian Malaysia concept mooted by the DAP while some non-Malay groups have cynically dismissed it as unworkable in Malaysia. Chinese newspaper editors have grappled with translating the term, which comes with a numeral. They have loosely described it as “a Malaysia for all”.

Every noble idea must be given a chance to grow. Najib means well and he understands that something new would need time to be explained and accepted.

He has softened the fears of right-wing Malay groups by saying that no ethnic group should be marginalised and also stressed that while affirmative action would remain, it must be implemented fairly.

He has continuously used one example at every discussion with editors – award of scholarships to top students. No applicant should be deprived because of his or her ethnicity. He made it a point to the 1Malaysia concept at his first Cabinet meeting, saying the nation should rise above race and work together as a nation.

Double talk

Najib is serious in reaching out to all. His 1Malaysia website now has a Chinese version and moves are being made to include a Tamil one as well.

Interestingly, his son who is pursuing studies in Georgetown University in the US is studying Chinese and has a Shanghainese as a roommate.

There’s no denying that racial differences have gnawed the nation and politicians must take much of the blame.

For 1Malaysia to work, our politicians, including ministers, need to exercise plenty of self-restraint.

They cannot spew racist remarks to become champions of their races, and then talk about national unity.

The days of talking to different audiences and expecting such double talk not to reach the ears of other communities are over.

Words like “kita memberi amaran” (we warn) and “kita tidak akan kompromi” (we will not compromise) must be taken off the speeches and remarks of our leaders. In short, they should be banned.

The bosses of TV stations should remind their reporters and presenters not to use “orang kita” (our own people) when they speak, seemingly oblivious to the fact that all races watch their programmes.

Similarly, it is disturbing when a national newspaper uses a provocative front-page headline like “Bangkitlah Melayu” (Malays arise) and in the same breath, call for national unity and carry a picture of the PM joining Sikhs in making chapati during the Vasakhi celebrations.

While English language newspapers have taken a more guarded role in their reporting as their readership is multi-racial, there is a need for vernacular newspapers to take off racial prisms.

Sometimes, the inability to find an appropriate translation or use of a quote without looking out of context can lead to emotional debates with racial tones. The printed version can never reflect the tone used by the speaker and often, it conjures a different, if not inaccurate perspective.

Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin found himself in such a spot last week when he was talking about the voting trend of the Chinese in the two by-elections.

Lost in translation

His remark “seolah olah tidak menghargai” was translated differently – “ungrateful”, “unappreciated” and “not reciprocated” by different Chinese newspapers.

The Deputy Prime Minister, who has a clean record for making moderate statements, took the trouble to spend an hour with Chinese newspaper editors to explain the context.

They, in turn, expressed their views on the report and the sentiments of the community.

Both Najib and Muhyiddin have pleaded for a chance. They have hardly been in office for two weeks.

The PM has just chaired his first Cabinet meeting and most of the ministers are now attending daily briefings to learn more about their res­pective ministries and their scope of duties. It is still very early days of the Najib Administration and Malaysians certainly want him to succeed.

No one expects overnight changes but the PM is aware of the expectations. He knows the heavy responsibility and that time is running against him. He understands that the old methods don’t work but at the same time, he also needs to convince the hardened grassroots leaders, set in their own mindsets, that he cannot fall back on outdated approaches to win back the hearts and minds of the new Malay­sians.

The wishes of most Malaysians are simple. They are merely asking for fair play, justice and transparency in the government. They want their representatives to be down to earth and credible.

It isn’t so hard for the Barisan to win back the votes if they can just carry out these simple requests. More importantly, they should be leaders of all Malaysians, not just of their own communities.