Politicians must accept changes

By Wong Chun Wai (The Star)

Malaysians, be they political leaders, bloggers or writers, cannot be irresponsible and make inflammatory remarks on race and religion without a care about their consequences.

IT’S just weeks before the National Day celebrations. The country is turning 52 years old and as a nation, we certainly have reasons to be proud of what we have achieved.

There’s much more we can do and certainly much more could have been done. But given the complexities of plural Malaysia, we have come a long way.

A New Malaysia has emerged with the political landscape changing swiftly as our leaders try to cope with the changes.

Some have adjusted well, understanding the realities staring them in the face, while some are still clinging on to the old ways, believing that they would restore their past achievements.

Just days after Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak was appointed the Prime Minister, he sent the strongest signals to earmark his administration.

He visited the Malay enclave in Bangsar, walked through Chinatown in Jalan Petaling and enjoyed a cup of tea at a banana leaf rice shop in Brickfields. Last week, he visited Batu Caves, the first Prime Minister to do so after 30 years.

He has made 1Malaysia a slogan which most Malaysians, even his political opponents, cannot dispute.

In short, Najib has pressed all the right buttons and, except for the Teoh Beng Hock incident, his first 100 days have been almost spotless. He has continued the momen­tum.

But it is also time for him to pull up leaders who seem to be walking in the opposite direction of his 1Malaysia campaign, more so as we celebrate National Day in the days to come.

Veering off course

This is the time for us to celebrate, reflect and strengthen ourselves as a multi-racial country.

Malaysia has benefited because we are a melting pot of many cultures and religions. It is an asset, not a liability.

Level-headed Malaysians are finding it hard to come to terms with certain politicians who still want to play the racial trump cards.

It contradicts what the Prime Minister preaches and what the majority of the people aspire for in 1Malaysia.

When a certain Cabinet minister talked about 1Malaysia, using terms like “majority” and “minority”, it does not help to promote national unity because we should be emphasising oneness.

The same minister also lambasted a reporter for posing a question in English at his press conference, another oddity which remains a controversy among the media and political circle.

His public ticking of the reporter has been posted on YouTube.

There are also other politicians who believe that by becoming more communal, they would win back the votes they lost. What has been overlooked is that most of the street demonstrators are predominantly of one race.

More alarming is the seeming competition between the Malay-based parties on religion, resulting in the resurrection of certain issues, much to the concern of many moderate Malay­sians.

PAS, which many of its non-Muslim voters think has shed its extremist baggage, is still pushing for stricter religious laws.

This has put its partner DAP in a bind as the ideologically different parties in Pakatan Rakyat grapple with the concept of consensus and accommodation, which is the hallmark of the Barisan Nasional government.

Free-wheeling attitude

Used to the thunder-and-lightning approach so prevalent at their ceramahs, some young DAP elected representatives have found themselves in a spot, and even their own Pakatan colleagues have not come to their rescue.

DAP Socialist Youth chief Loke Siew Fook, who has been accused of insulting Islam in his blog, became an issue after PKR MP Zulkifli Nordin highlighted the alleged seditious remarks.

But what is worrying is the free-wheeling attitude of some Malaysians, be they politicians, bloggers or writers, in making highly inflammatory remarks on race and religion without a thought about their consequences.

As in all changing political and media landscapes, Malaysians are still making adjustments to these changes.

Malaysia has held itself together because we have been able to exercise tolerance and respect for a long time.

Regardless of our political affiliations, that is our strength and that is something to uphold ahead of our National Day.