Solidarity: Will It Make Us Truly Malaysians?


(Malaysian Digest) – Malaysian youths are not yet prepared to lead high-level governmental jobs, especially with their penchant of ‘all talk but no action’.

SO-LI-DA-RI-TY! The repeated calls by the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak last week at the UMNO General Assembly has stayed on some people’s mind as a cacophony.

How will solidarity be shaped by the children of today? Photo: 1Malaysia

How will solidarity be shaped by the children of today? The word solidarity was mentioned 10 times in Najib’s ‘Solidarity of the Malays and Bumiputeras, UMNO’s and Malaysia’ speech. A rousing speech that got to the heart of UMNO, but which drew criticism from leftists to moderates and global nations alike.

But if we are to hold our politicians accountable, we must ask: What can turn solidarity into a reality?
The Different Approaches Of Solidarity

Muhamad Nizam Shith, Head of the UMNO Youth Chief in Ampang Photo: Pemuda AmpangMuhamad Nizam Shith, Head of the UMNO Youth Chief in Ampang

The Prime Minister emphasized a top-down approach to enhancing solidarity that of the government’s towards the people. However, a dichotomy exists. Muhamad Nizam Shith, Head of the UMNO Youth Chief in Ampang explains this and mentions how the Sedition Act is vital for the solidarity of the nation as it protects all races, as well as the position of Islam and other religions. He also described solidarity as a spirit of ‘setia-kawan’ (true friendship) in his interview with Malaysian Digest.

“The political parties will serve their own race no matter what. Malays for Malays, Chinese for Chinese and Indians for Indians. However, we do have Barisan Nasional that unites them all and to define a Malaysian, would be to define it as composed of all three main races and other ethnicities, with Islam as its official religion while allowing other religions to be practised.

“The Sedition Act would also mean that Malays are not allowed to insult people of different faiths and vice versa. The government is unable to change the Constitution and all citizens must respect it, as it protects all citizens. And as long as the Royal Institutions of the Kings exists in the Malaysian Constitution, it will never be changed, as the Act preserves the Malaysian spirit of solidarity and the social contract,” he expressed.

PKR Communications Director Fahmi Fadzil Photo: Keadilan DailyPKR Communications Director Fahmi Fadzil Photo: Keadilan DailyFahmi Fadzil, Communications Director for Keadilan and the Vice-President of the PKR Youth Wing however, believes differently on the outlook of solidarity, from a sociological perspective and expects a solidarity that is religious, but respectful. As ethnicity and religion go hand in hand in Malaysia, it can be a thorny issue, of which UMNO has clearly mentioned that the Islamic way will be the government’s way.

“In a more humane definition, not based on ethnicity and nationalism or political parties, we need to also look at economic solidarity and how to create ‘kekitaan’ (togetherness). A new solidarity policy will need to be broad enough to encompass all different classes, groups, and economic brackets, and not just on ethnicity.

“We cannot look at solidarity without looking at the basic education of Muslims in Malaysia and religious studies especially. I applaud Anwar Ibrahim’s statement on Pope Francis’ visit to Turkey, in which Anwar described the Pope as preferring to relate rather than pontificate and that has made all the difference, and not to preach but to reach out,” he explained.

Fahmi also believes just as the Internal Security Act was drawn up as a law against the Communists and is now repealed, so should the colonial era Sedition Act as there is a need to get past the polemics of theology and work on common ground that we share rather than the differences that are exaggerated.
Defining A ‘True’ Malaysian

Would the solid formation of solidarity then mean that we can now claim ourselves to be true Malaysians? Which begs the question: How is it possible to bring a true sense of togetherness as Malaysians without uttering that ‘Malay’, this ‘Chinese’ or that ‘Indian’ when referring to a person?

To this, Nizam adds that it is not possible to have a single definition of who a Malaysian is, or a Malaysian without racial connotations, “A Malaysian will never be a Malay, Chinese or Indian because a Malaysian encompasses all races and ethnicities. Each has their own way of culture, yet we manage to be together.”

Meanwhile, Fahmi believes that various parties need to display earnest efforts, especially those in the education sector to help foster genuine and strong solidarity that Malaysians face through its diversities. When the school system is finally united to reflect Malaysia’s plural background, only then will it foster a comprehensive understanding of solidarity.

“For solidarity to work, there needs to be a removal of ethnic lenses, and the idea of solidarity has to be defined from the ground up – including the definition of what and who is a Malaysian.

“To effectively unite Malaysia, a review of the education system is needed. The syllabus needs to be relooked, and critical thinking needs to be instilled as opposed to the whitewashing of young minds. Teachers need to know how to teach solidarity with an open approach and acknowledge cultural differences while respecting cultural norms currently and respecting other ethnics groups,” quips Fahmi.

Youth Actions In Striving Towards Solidarity

Photo: Safwan Anang, via Felda VoicePhoto: Safwan Anang, via Felda Voice

Part of the government’s reforms for solidarity is getting the youth to come on board. However, many youths in Malaysia have been faced with trials and tribulations, victimised with unfair judgements, and some have been charged under the Sedition Act, if not had disciplinary actions taken upon them throughout their fights in making their stand and having their voices heard.

Youth activist Safwan Anang urged youth movements not to be deterred by the disciplinary actions and conveyed in a statement that, “The students should be the pioneers in mobilising a huge ‎movement to shake the regime from its comfortable position.”

Citing the night of Anwar Ibrahim’s solidarity campaign at Universiti Malaya (UM) campus despite the university’s ban, he applauded students for their courageous effort stating, “That night proved that they could unite a variety of Malaysians ‎irrespective of their background who wished to express their solidarity in the face of evil.”

GPMS Information Director, Adib AnasGPMS Information Director, Adib Anas

On a different note, Gabungan Pelajar Melayu Semenanjung (GPMS) Information Director Adib Anas mentioned that Malaysian youths are not yet prepared to lead high-level governmental jobs, especially with their penchant of ‘all talk but no action’.

“In my opinion, 35 years of age is a good start for youths to take on high-level governmental positions. They need more experience, they need to talk less and take more action, be more involved in community activities that impact people, and be mature on current issues.

“Many youths now think of Malaysia as a Malaysian Malaysia, but they have to understand what the economic, social and cultural consequences will be for Malays and the other races,” he proclaimed.

As youths struggle to find their own solidarity that either stands with, or against the government, only the future will tell if our youths are able to revive the country with the concept of solidarity in politics, economy and culture.
Remembering The Past, Facing Forward To The Future

As we deliberate on the true meaning of solidarity, we must know that it should always be debated, and changed to reflect on current society. Even though what the future holds is beyond our predicament, one thing that we can always hold true to is our identity as a diverse country. And as diverse as we are, our opinions shall be too.

Despite all differences, after 6 decades we are still standing in solidarity. Like the decision to celebrate the Independence Day only on 31st August every year, Najib expressed how it marks a clear example of the solidarity spirit among the people of various races in the country, “Many had asked why we wanted only one date for the independence of the whole of Malaysia. The answer is solidarity.”

Prime Minister Najib at the UMNO General Assembly Photo: Friends of Barisan NasionalPrime Minister Najib at the UMNO General Assembly Photo: Friends of Barisan Nasional

Malaysians must be reminded that regardless of our skin colour, religious and political beliefs, strengths and weaknesses, and beyond the Sedition Act, social contract, education system; we are Malaysians living in Malaysia. Perhaps one day in the future, a time will come where we will meet other Malaysians and see them as so. But before that, the only solidarity we have is to move forward. When that time comes, the calls for “SO-LI-DA-RI-TY!” will be cheered on by all Malaysians.