Raja Nazrin: Desecrating flag an attack on nation’s sovereignty

(Bernama) – The Raja Muda of Perak, Raja Dr Nazrin Shah today likened the act of desecrating the national flag, Jalur Gemilang, which is one of the national symbols, as an attack on the nation’s sovereignty.

“Whatever our political or ideological differences, our national symbols belong to all citizens. By allowing these symbols to be trashed, we are opening ourselves up to a host of consequences, including the possibility of inflaming passions, inviting tit-for-tat retaliation and so forth.

“Hate and anger are some of the most powerful human emotions. When they take hold of society, they are difficult, and oftentimes impossible, to control.

“Our national symbols should therefore be placed above the political fray,” he said at the launching of the “Brand Transformer” and Malaysia Brand Forum 2012, here, today.

Raja Nazrin said the act of desecrating a flag was more than one individual’s statement of disrespect and criticism.

“The act is deliberately designed to insult what many others treasure and consider a source of pride and joy. Whatever one may think of the rights of individuals to express themselves, the larger consequences of their actions cannot and should not be ignored.”

Raja Nazrin said some countries had enacted specific laws to protect their national symbols, such as Austria, France, Germany and Switzerland which had imposed specific penalties for the desecration of their national flags.

“Other countries protect their national symbols under existing general laws aimed at ensuring law and order, preventing subversion and hate crimes.”

Raja Nazrin also expressed concern over the tendency of some quarters to discredit and undermine the national symbols that play such an important role in Malaysian national life.

“I am also concerned about the extent to which some are pushing against the institutional pillars that are holding up this nation.”

He said there were at least two reasons why this might be the case.

One, is a fundamental misunderstanding of how individual rights and freedoms are to be exercised within the context of a nation. The other is the impact of generational change in eroding the significance, meanings and value of nation building and its symbols.

Raja Nazrin said human beings had always craved for freedom, however, “if boundaries are disregarded in the exercise of individual freedoms, we will end up weakening rather than strengthening the bonds that bind us as a nation”.

“We need to instil in our young a sense of responsibility and community”.

As with generational change, he said: “With each passing generation, people become less familiar with the circumstances around which this country was formed and built.

“That is why I cannot over-emphasise enough the need for both well-thought and well-taught history in our schools.

“In this way, our students can better appreciate and respect the national institutions and symbols around us. This appreciation and respect are clearly missing when national symbols are deliberately desecrated.”

Raja Nazrin said as a mutlicultural and multireligious country, Malaysia’s national symbols such the Jalur Gemilang, National Coat of Arms or Jata Negara, the royal institution, the Yang di-Pertuan Agong and the nine Malay Rulers, were important as more than just cultural artefacts and reminders of historical traditions.

“The national symbols we have constructed with such care and invested with such great social meaning play a much larger and critical function to this nation.

“That function is to serve as an anchor for us to hold on to, and a guidepost to give us direction, whenever we face challenges and crises as a nation.

“They therefore do not just belong to the past but are relevant — even essential — to our nation’s present and future. They are, if you like, the ‘Template of the Nation’.”

Raja Nazrin also said that good nation-building was all about political, economic and social inclusiveness, and the national symbols that had been devised were specifically designed to promote this inclusiveness.

“They must therefore be cherished, respected and protected, as their aim is to unify rather than keep apart, to integrate rather than to segregate,” he added.