Unity in diversity still a dream

By Jeswant Kaur, Free Malaysia Today

Unity in the country is under threat, no doubt about that. Too many instances where the Indians have been disrespected have occurred, be it the “Interlok” novel issue, the remark by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad that the Malays own this country and the insensitive mischief played on a Sikh male participant undergoing national service training.

In the case of “Interlok”, in spite of objections from the Indian community on the use of the book for Form Five Malay literature students, Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also Education Minister, declared the novel safe to be read, provided alterations are done here and there to make it seem less offensive to the Indians.

Muhyiddin’s refusal to get the novel replaced has sent a clear message home to the Indians that they will continue to be taken for granted by the Barisan Nasional (BN) government. That being the case, the ball then is in the court of the Indian community which has to carefully decide whether BN is worthy of their votes in the coming general election.

With Interlok depicting Indians in poor taste, the government, despite all the pleas from this community, decided it knows best. If this was the case, why fake concern and ask for input from the Indian community on the Interlok issue?

At no point did the Indians threaten or blackmail the government into removing the novel from the Form Five syllabus. The Indian representatives were diplomatic enough in requesting that Interlok not be made a literary subject due to the insensitivities found in the book.

Instead of understanding the anxieties of this community, the Malay rights umbrella group Malay Consultative Council (MPM) declared it will deny the Indian leaders support in the next general election because these leaders had bamboozled the government into making a decision on Interlok.

It is pathetic that MPM and National Writers’ Association (Pena) have shown how racist they are – accusing the Indian community representatives of distorting and pressuring the government to favour them where Interlok is concerned. This allegation is a clear lie and one that smacks of double standards.

Should MPM decide to withdraw support for Indian leaders like M Saravanan, who is Federal Territories and Urban Wellbeing Deputy Minister and P Kamalanathan, Hulu Selangor MP, it should be on the basis of the duo’s performances as the people’s representatives – “people” here encompassing all races, not solely the Indians.

If both Saravanan and Kamalanathan have not served the people, then by all means they do not deserve to be people’s representatives in the future.

1Malaysia not sincerely applied

When there is no sincerity in undertaking a task, the result will be disastrous. And this is happening with Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s 1Malaysia branding which, in all truthfulness, is nothing but his bait at winning public votes.

The fact that Muhyiddin failed to empathise with the Indians has given rise to the worry that there is no place for the Indians to turn to for help. The government’s refusal to compromise has put it in a bad light as far as the Indians are concerned.

Would the government have reacted in the same way if the issue concerned the Malays? The answer is obvious. But what remains unanswered is, why discriminate the Indians of this country time and again?

Najib goes about saying 1Malaysia is all about unity in diversity. He, however, has failed to translate this textbook theory into reality. Unity between people of different races in this country is still a dream, one which requires sincere hard work to turn it into reality.

To make sure people of various races in this country are united, the government has to stop playing politics and focus on its responsibility of governing this country without any prejudice. Do not disrespect the non-Malays by treating them as outsiders and blatantly ignoring their basic right to lead a life free from biasness.

Recently, Mahathir told an audience that the non-Malays must swallow the fact that Malaysia belongs to the Malays. His justification was that since this country was once called Tanah Melayu, its rightful owners are the Malays. A warped way of trying to stake claim over this land and a highly irresponsible allegation coming from a former leader of a nation.

Mahathir claims this country belongs to the Malays. Article 153 of the Federal Constitution assures the Bumiputera of their privileges. Those who question Malay rights will be dealt with severely. In short, there is nothing in this country that makes the non-Malays feel welcomed, yet the Indians and Chinese call it their home. Mahathir should take the trouble to ponder why.