Archive for the ‘Celebrating Diversity’ Category

Commonwealth Games: Is it still relevant?

Thursday, April 5th, 2018
The Malaysian contingent at the Commonwealth Games flag-raising ceremony in Gold Coast, Australia. A total of 175 Malaysian athletes are competing in 16 sports at the Games. PIC BY YAZIT RAZALI

AMID the skyscrapers and coastline of Surfers Paradise in Australia’s Gold Coast, one can spot a large surfboard with a digital clock, determinedly counting down.

The Commonwealth Games will descend this week onto the Gold Coast’s beaches, bringing with it the world’s best athletes and nagging questions of relevance, competitiveness and economic effect.

The multi-sport event has gathered various nations of the British Commonwealth every four years since 1930, barring a few wartime aberrations. It was originally known as the British Empire Games, hosting various combinations of countries, with Australia and Britain among the mainstays. The 2018 Games will draw athletes from 71 Commonwealth nations and territories who will compete in 275 events over 18 sports.

Despite the impending glow of an international audience, familiar concerns over the games’ substantial cost and dwindling significance have again come to the fore, this time in the Australian state of Queensland.

There is little doubt the Commonwealth represents a particular, if ageing, type of might — it still represents about a third of the world’s population. Set up in the mid-20th century as Britain allowed for the self-governance of many of its territories, the Commonwealth of Nations have no legal obligations to one another, but instead aim to further shared values like democracy and freedom of speech.

But, in a post-Brexit landscape, and with many countries shrinking further into isolationism, questions have been raised not only of the games’ relevance, but the relevance of the Commonwealth itself.

“The Commonwealth matters to me,” said Jacqui Gooding, a New Zealander who was visiting Surfers Paradise on vacation.

“The queen is our leader — I don’t want a president.”

Gooding’s husband, John, dismissed the idea that the games would be absent of sporting and political relevance.

“It’s about bringing all the nations of the Commonwealth together,” he said.

“It shows the power of sport in diplomacy, and the importance of the Commonwealth.”

Organisers on the Gold Coast said they expected the games to reach a global audience of 1.5 billion. For context, the 2014 World Cup had about 3.2 billion global viewers and the Rio Olympics had about 3.6 billion.

The mood of locals varied from enthusiasm to curiosity to, occasionally, eye-rolling frustration at construction and traffic delays.

Nick Atkins, who runs a co-working space on the Gold Coast, has been an advocate for attracting and retaining talent in the region. He said he was more excited about the government’s spending on infrastructure than the events themselves.

“For me, personally, I don’t know who the Commonwealth’s best javelin thrower is, or table tennis player or swimmer,” he said.

“But, there’s an undeniable positivity on the Gold Coast for it.”

Peter Beattie, a former premier of the state of Queensland, and the chairman of the Gold Coast Games, said that he empathised with those who had reservations about the event.

“I understand that there’s always a bit of cynicism: Is this the remnants of the Empire? Look, it came from the Empire Games, but its relevance and relationship with the Empire Games is very tenuous,” he said.

This year’s games, for the first time, will feature an equal gender split of events. Women will compete for the same number of me-dals as men, a feat that organisers said had not been replicated by any other major multi-sport international event, including the Olympics.

Beattisaid that the games would send a message about the advancement of women that he hoped the Olympics would emulate.

Others said the games presented athletes with a rare chance at higher competition like the Olympics and World Championships — and some athletes with perhaps the peak competition of their careers

“I just snuck into the Commonwealth Games. It was the first major team that I made, representing Australia — they have more relaxed standards,” said Steve Moneghetti, a retired Australian runner who eventually competed in four Olympic marathons.

“It’s a good stepping stone, and certainly for some athletes it will be the only multisport competition that they go to.”

It is easy to see why for certain nations these games may be just as watchable as the Olympics — there’s a far greater chance of seeing a fellow countryman win.

Medal count aside, host cities have faced increasing pressure in recent games to ensure that the economic effect of the event proves both positive and sustainable.

Last year, the South African city of Durban was stripped of the right to host the games in 2022, following a series of missed deadlines and financial shortcomings. The African continent has never hosted the games.

Before that, India’s 2010 Games were marred by accusations of substantial overspend and corruption.

The 2014 Games in Glasgow proved something of a litmus test for the economic and cultural credibility of the event

There, a large chunk of responsibility fell to an American, David Grevemberg, who had previously been part of a team that secured an agreement that would require Olympic cities to also host the Paralympics.

“Post India, we had a brand that’s relevance was being questioned,” said Grevemberg, who today is the chief executive of the Commonwealth Games Federation.


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60,000 Chinese tourists celebrate CNY in Sabah

Sunday, February 25th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: Some 430,000 tourists from China visited Sabah last year and contributed more than RM1 billion in tourism receipts, with an average spending of over RM 2,500 per person.

Consul General of the People’s Republic of China in Kota Kinabalu, Liang Caide said around 60,000 Chinese tourists spent their Chinese New Year holidays in Sabah this year.

“Sabah has become one of the most popular travel destinations for Chinese tourists.

“There are more than 100 direct flights connecting Kota Kinabalu to various cities in China every week.”

At the same time, Liang said the number of Sabahans visiting China for business, tourism, visiting friends and relatives  had increased.

“Last year, the Consulate General  issued 25,000 Chinese visas,” he said at the Chinese New Year celebration organized by Kota Kinabalu Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KKCCCI) here yesterday.

Liang said the cooperation between China and Sabah had created vast opportunities.

“More and more China firms have ventured into infrastructure development, hotel and residential property development, durian plantation and various other projects in Sabah.”

He said the prospect was bright for exchanges and cooperation between Sabah and China in the future.

On another note, Liang said KKCCCI was one of the oldest Chinese associations in Sabah, with a history of over a century.

He hoped  KKCCCI members would seize the opportunities arising from the Belt and Road development and continue to contribute towards the cooperation between Malaysia and China.

Meanwhile, KKCCCI president Datuk Michael Lui Yen Sang urged his members to utilize the chamber as a platform to consolidate and share resources in order to boost their competitiveness in the business arena.

Lui believed that a change in mindset was vital to keep up with the changing business trends and avoid being left out.

He said KKCCCI played a role as the bridge of communication between the government and the business sector.

As such, he said the chamber would continue to convey to the government key issues affecting the community and seek rectification on administrative deviations on behalf of the Chinese community and businesses.

Lui also said the chamber remained committed in promoting Chinese education and culture.

Additionally, he urged members to put more efforts into transforming KKCCCI into one of the most influential business organizations in the state.

He said the establishment of the chamber was to promote cooperation and collaboration among members, as well as to facilitate economic development and inculcate loyalty to the state and nation.

He said chamber members should actively participate in nation building and social development of our country.

“We pledge to continue our full support and assistance to the government in economic development and the promotion of unity and harmony among the ethnic groups.

“We are committed to work hand in hand with the government to ensure continuous political stability, economic progress and prosperity.”

On another note, Lui said the Chinese consulate had been actively promoting friendship between Malaysia and China since its inception.

by Chok Sim Yee.

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Spreading community love on campus

Sunday, February 25th, 2018
A student selling gift packages consisting of a combination of fresh rose, helium balloon, a box of chocolates and a card at the Valentine’s Day booth ‘Love . Enactus Valentine’s Day Sales’.

LOVE was in the air for everyone on Valentine’s Day, celebrated last week, including by the campus fraternity. At universities and colleges around the globe, student associations organised many events to celebrate the day to spread love among students and academic faculties.

In Malaysia, students showed their love of community on campus during the day. It came in the form of volunteering, relationship awareness, as well as organising simple and fun activities with friends.

Nottingham University in Malaysia organised a talk on relationships, themed “But the Greatest of All is Love”, on Feb 8.

According to Vinsensius Felix Putra Andy, or fondly known as Felix, the talk was on the introduction of tools to conduct moral reasoning and judgment, which is the basis for true Catholic relationships.

Vinsensius Felix Putra Andy.

“We decided to choose this topic so that our members are exposed to these concepts, especially since it is Valentine’s Day and this could be in the minds of people. The talk was led by Father Clarence Devadass, a Catholic priest,” said Felix, who is the chairman of the Catholic Student’s Society.

Felix, 21, who is in Year 3 of Pharmaceutical and Health Sciences, said as the event served to deepen the moral understanding on relationships, they could support their friends who are dating; by encouraging them if they are on the right track or advise them if they are not.

“Furthermore, the Catholic community on campus will benefit from the talk as well, as moral judgment is important to strengthen our faith so that we do not fall into immoral and unethical relationships.”

Hani Nadhirah Azaman

Hani Nadhirah Azaman, 20, said Nottingham Malaysia students are very supportive of each other. Thus, she grabbed this opportunity to organise a Valentine’s Day event “Love. Enactus Valentine’s Day Sales” by using Enactus UNMC as a platform to execute the event.

The main purpose of the Valentine’s Day sales event was to spread love and also encourage self-love.

“The Valentine’s Day event was a collaboration with the university’s student association, in which we sold gift packages consisting of a combination of fresh rose, helium balloon, a box of chocolates and a card.

“Students and staff could pre-order their choice of gift package via our promotional booth the week before and a few days before the actual event day,” said Hani Nadhirah.

Enactus UNMC also provided free delivery service with self-written message on the card for a personal touch.

“On Feb 14, we sold the same items to ensure that students who did not get a chance to pre-order them could buy something for their significant others,” she added.

She believes that the event would make the sender and recipient feel special and strengthen the bond between partners, friends and even between students and lecturers.

“Spreading love will radiate positive vibes around the campus. To achieve this goal, our main objective was to sell as many gift packages as a token of appreciation among students and lecturers.”

Shahrrathey Laxme Balasubaramaniam, 23, from SEGi College Subang Jaya, organised an event called #itsOK2bSingle, to promote the ideology of love is for all and not only for couples.

Among the activities are Valentine’s performance, games on speed dating, sales of roses, baked goods, scented rose soap, free make-up session and a Valentine’s photo booth.

“We tried to reinforce the idea that single people should not feel bad about not having a partner and to promote self-love and appreciate what we have.

“If given another chance next year, we would like to throw a Valentine’s Splash Party for singles and couples,” she said.

Taylor’s University Community Service Initiatives (CSI) Volunteers vice-president Rachel Wong Pui Ee, 20, said being a communication student at Taylor’s University added value to her involvement in community-centric events as she was able to use critical thinking and elements of mass communications in the planning process.

“Although they can be challenging, as it takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, I stand firm on the belief that passion is key in helping me develop my skills through experience and, more importantly, contribute to the less fortunate.

“This is where I am able to evaluate what the less privileged needed and how exactly we can cater to their needs,” said the first-year student in Mass Communication (Public Relations and Marketing).

Nottingham University in Malaysia organised a talk on relationships led by Father Clarence Devadass (fourth from right).

Rachel said its current project, “One-Stop Centre: New Year, New Clothes”, revolves around the idea of giving and spreading love, as well as positivity.

She said the recent launch of the CSI One-Stop Centre started CSI’s efforts to serve as a collection centre for donated goods and a platform to enquire about CSI Volunteers and community service for the Taylor’s community.

The “One-Stop Centre: New Year, New Clothes” project’s purpose is to donate unworn and pre-loved clothes to underprivileged children through CSI Volunteers and kick-start the One-Stop Centre’s efforts.

“Additionally, a visitation will be made to the children’s home to conduct some activities and give clothes to them.

“If we are able to enjoy our festive seasons, it is only fair that the less privileged communities are able to do so as well.

“This project is also aimed at shedding light to our One-Stop Centre, where we want to let the community know that they can donate or give back to the community all-year-round.

“We encourage the Taylor’s community to donate necessities and spread love through this platform.

“From previous CSI activities, I believe that everyone can agree that the most rewarding thing is to see the smiles on the faces of our beneficiaries.

“Spreading love is not only in the form of monetary gifts or quantity, it is the initiative, the mindset, the heart and how we can be an inspiration to them, as well as be inspired by them,” she said.

BLOOM co-founder Marcus Liaw Jia Yoong, 21, said he and his partner Kelly Siaw started up an online florist, BLOOM, to allow everyone to show their forever lasting love through affordable and top quality bear bouquet.

“In conjunction with Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year, I approached CSI to collaborate as I was intrigued by the ‘New Year, New Clothes’ project.

“Since Valentine’s Day and Chinese New Year are just few days apart, it would be good opportunity for BLOOM and CSI to collaborate and contribute to orphans who would need new clothes for the festive season.

By Zulita Mustafa.

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Unique new year welcome

Thursday, February 22nd, 2018
Choong and his pupils posing happily with their creation, which is made using traditional calligraphy brush, ink and paper. - SAMUEL ONG/The Star

Choong and his pupils posing happily with their creation, which is made using traditional calligraphy brush, ink and paper. – SAMUEL ONG/The Star

TIME does fly. In a blink of an eye, it is already time to usher in the Year of the Dog.

Chinese vernacular schools are getting into the festive mode by incorporating their own joyous activities into this time-honoured festival.

SJK (C) Kepong 1 arranged a fun activity for its Year Six pupils, where they were required to create a picture of this year’s zodiac using their calligraphy skills.

Pupils involved in the project had to draw parts of a dog on pieces of red calligraphy paper and combine them to make a whole picture of the 11th zodiac to welcome the year of the Earth Dog and bring luck and prosperity to staff and pupils at the school.

“This school has over 200 pupils who are non-Chinese. The activity lets them in on traditional Chinese culture and teaches them how to appreciate the beauty of it.

“It also teaches them about the 12 zodiac animals and their meaning,” she says.

Such activities gives the school a boost of the festive spirit as well, she adds.

Being part of the project exposed Desiree Amelda Ng further to her “Chinese side”.

Desiree, whose father is Chinese and mother is Malay, says she was happy to be included in the fun project which helped her understand Chinese culture.

The hardworking pupil, who is looking forward to gorging on pineapple tarts, says she will find the time to study for UPSR in between visits to friends and family during the festive season.

“I will be visiting my ah ma (grandmother),” says Desiree fondly.However, fellow classmate Justin Santosh Mahendran says he will use his time for the Chinese New Year break to have some downtime.

“Though it is my UPSR year, I want to take some time to have fun and spend it with the family,” says the bespectacled boy whose father is Indian and mother is Chinese.

But I do hope to score straight As in my UPSR, he adds.

Justin will be returning to his grandmother’s place in Johor to meet his relatives.

Though already feeling the pressure to score well in UPSR, Ng Li Xiang says he will take it easy during the break.

“I think I will be busy having fun instead of studying. Chinese New Year is a time to be happy and spend time with family,” he says.

Li Xiang will be staying in Kuala Lumpur for Chinese New Year where his grandmother resides.

Lee Yang En, whose family hails from Johor, says she can’t wait to enjoy some Chinese New Year delicacies and receive some ang pows.

However, she says she will study everyday and attend tuition for about two hours a day throughout the festive season.

“But I do remind myself that I must learn how to relax sometimes,” she shares.

Choong Chee Wah, the teacher in charge of the activity, says the pupils were very happy and cooperative when carrying out the project.

“The school is doing this to bring out the festive mood among pupils, to show them that Chinese New Year is here,” says the English teacher whose Chinese New Year wish is for his pupils to get good grades and for the world to be a peaceful place.

He shares that he was a little nervous that the artwork would come out the wrong way, but is now satisfied with the outcome.


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Gong Xi Fa Cai!

Sunday, February 11th, 2018
A good rapport among communities means Chinese New Year is celebrated by all. FILE PIC

MAK Limah called me over to her vegetable stall at this small rural wet market. Loudly, and with some pride, she invited me to a Chinese New Year open house next weekend.

This alone was enough to pique my curiosity. A Malay makcik invited me to a Chinese New Year open house!

This was a first time for me. Everyone at the stall turned to see who it was that Mak Limah shouted the invitation to.

“Jangan lupa datang makan masa Raya Cina ni. Ah Keong jemput semua orang yang Mak Limah kenal. Bawa anak bini sekali. Lagi ramai lagi meriah!” Mak Limah proclaimed for all to hear.

All Mak Limah said was she was asked by Ah Keong, one of the market’s fishmongers, to invite his regular customers to his makan-makan this coming Friday to celebrate Chinese New Year.

She said not to forget to bring all members of the family — the more the merrier!

I vaguely remember Ah Keong, an elderly person who sells all sorts of fish head ranging from tenggiri to kurau to kerapu.

Quite often, these fish heads find their way to Ghani’s restaurant, which is a favourite among locals.

Celebrating Chinese New Year in a small rural town can be fun. In Ah Keong’s case, he has such a big clientele that the annual affair is celebrated with much fun and laughter, according to Mak Limah.

A couple of weeks before the big day, Ah Keong already has boxes of mandarin oranges ready for distribution.

The whole market would wait eagerly for Ah Keong’s lokam.

Every customer is given one or two. Some take even more, especially those who have known him for a long lime.

Mak Limah, Ah Keong’s long-time friend and neighbour in the market, often helps to give away the oranges to customers.

Other Chinese retailers in the market do the same thing too, but Ah Keong looks to be the most popular one there.

This is partly because he was one of the pioneers of the market. His wife died a few years ago and most of his children have gone to major towns to work as professionals and entrepreneurs.

But, two of his sons are helping him to run the fish stall, ensuring his legacy will continue.

He has one son residing in Australia and a daughter in the United States.

Come Chinese New Year, they troop back to be with Ah Keong, making the old man and wife happy for a few days — just like the television commercial.

The return of these two was always a big affair. But credit to the two children — they remain humble and don’t forget their roots.

“Kalau kahwin orang putih, saya harap mereka jangan eksyen, (I hope they won’t change if they marry foreigners),” Ah Keong often said.

There was one year when Ah Keong, his wife and the two remaining boys celebrated New Year in Australia with his other son. They enjoyed the stay very much but Ah Keong returned early to open his stall.

After his wife died, Ah Keong preferred to spend the new year in his home.

The return of his children from overseas was always a major highlight, with a tinge of sadness as they recall the happier days when everyone was around.

This year, Mak Limah was tasked with preparing the ketupat and rendang. And many people know that her rendang is always a winner!

“Kesian tengok Ah Keong. Dia suka bila kawan-kawan datang makan. Macam-macam makanan dia tempah (We all sympathise with Ah Keong. But he’s happy when friends come over and join the feast. He has ordered plenty of food),” Mak Limah quipped.

In this particular semi-rural setting, the various communities do not always mix well. Each community keep very much to itself. They are mostly Malay rubber tappers, Chinese vegetable farmers and retailers.

Which is why Ah Keong’s gesture of goodwill is most welcomed. In the wet market where Ah Keong and Mak Limah conduct their daily businesses, there is good rapport among the communities.

They have a shared interest — to see their businesses prosper.

This is where the role of village headman is important. They are either referred to as Tok PenghuluTok Empat or just plain ketua kampung.

If they are proactive, relationships among the communities will certainly be better.

They are community leaders and should play the role well. There are those who take their job seriously. And, there are also those who do the minimum. The latter should be replaced. In fact, they shouldn’t have been picked in the first place.

In towns where there are residents’ association, more is expected of them. The leaders of such associations are picked by the residents and this must be done carefully. But, as we all know too well, there are associations and associations.


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Goh calls on Chinese clans to join FCAS

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

KOTA KINABALU: With the reminder of the good old adage of ‘unity is strength’, Tan Sri T.C Goh, president of the Federation of Chinese Associations Sabah (FCAS) has called on those Chinese clan associations in the interior of Sabah who have yet to join the Federation to do so without any further delay.

“Let’s consolidate our strength to make FCAS stronger so that it could provide a better platform to represent the Chinese community of Sabah, and as a bridge connecting us and the government,” he urged.

Speaking at the 2018 Chinese New Year Carnival held at the Adika Commercial Complex, in Keningau on Sunday, Goh noted that while there are more than 34 Chinese clan associations in Keningau district, only seven or 20 per cent of them are currently members of FCAS.

He also commended the Chinese community of Keningau for successfully pooling in resources to organise the event which, he said reflected well on their unity and commitment towards preserving and promoting the Chinese culture and tradition in a multiracial society of Sabah. The two-day event organised by the Persatuan Penganut Dewa Seng Ong Kong Keningau featured a host of colourful-and-interesting cultural programs and activities.

“We in FCAS fully support the organising of such event as it allows our fellow Sabahans of various races to better understand the Chinese culture and traditions, besides conveying to the young generations the importance of preserving the culture that was passed down by our ancestors.

“This is also very much in line with the State government’s aspiration and efforts to preserve and promote racial harmony and cultural diversity in the state,” he said.

Goh said he was also glad to observe the down-to-earth nature of the interior folks of various races and religions and their unwavering attitude and efforts toward preserving their culture, tradition, language, lifestyle and festivals. “Such is a very noble attitude indeed, hopefully you will keep it up!” he urged.


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Building leadership and cross-cultural understanding

Wednesday, January 24th, 2018
The 21 Asean youth delegates wearing their traditional clothes at the programme’s closing dinner.

TEN Malaysian students were chosen to join the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) academic fellowship programme in the United States recenty.

A fully-sponsored event initiated by the 44th US president Barack Obama in 2013 for youths aged 18 to 25, the programme seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youths in the region, strengthen ties between the US and Southeast Asia, and nurture an Asean community.

The students joined their peers from the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei, Myanmar, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to form the programme’s Fall Cohort, which had activities in the states of Hawaii, Nebraska, Connecticut, Illinois and Massachusetts.

Each student had the opportunity to study in an American university for a period of five weeks to learn about three chosen topics, which are Civic Engagement, Social Entrepreneurship, and Economic Development and Environmental Issues.

With close collaboration between the selected universities and the US government, the programme was well spread out to cater to three main objectives: to cultivate leadership skills, immerse participants in American cultural history and, most importantly, to practice and gain knowledge about the selected theme.

This diversified the programme into an array of lectures, incubator workshops, travelling, team-building and also volunteering activities each week.

“As one of the participants, I find this an interesting combination of learning the values and visions of Asean and its future potential with our different languages and contrasting cultures, while at the same time adapting to the fish-out-of-water experience of living in America for five weeks,” said Malaysian participant Marissa Asfirah Saiful Lizan.

She highlighted that the valuable merit of the programme lies in its diversity and common denominator of not only learning together, but also learning from one another.

“There are two cohorts each year, the Spring Intake in March and the Fall Intake in September. The latest cohort had 10 Malaysians, divided into five different states in America.

“I was in the Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development theme in the University of Connecticut,” she said.

The accounting student from Yayasan Pendidikan Cheras (YPC) International College and her group spent the majority of their time on campus with road trips to Boston and Hartford over the weekend amidst classes and volunteering squeezed in with visits to Ivy League universities, such as Harvard and Yale University.

“Programme participants were also granted access to an online course by the University of Peace, a university endorsed by the United Nations. Our time at the University of Connecticut concluded with a pitch presentation of our individual projects,” said Marissa.

Apart from studies and related activities, the students also travelled to New Haven, New York, Philadelphia and to Washington D.C. to visit cultural and educational sites to further their understanding of the US.

“We were given the opportunity to meet and have insightful discussions with entrepreneurs, politicians, State Department officials, meet the Malaysian ambassador, along with the other Malaysian delegates under the programme. The closing session comprised feedbacks, reflective speeches and an opportunity to meet and network with other YSEALI fellows.

“There were many pinch-me moments throughout this programme, which will forever be home to so many beautiful memories,” said Marissa.

For her, it was a priceless opportunity to not only be recognised and be a part of the YSEALI alumni, but also an opportunity to represent Malaysia.

“I urge university students to take a shot and apply for the programme. It is an opportunity to fail, learn and grow within a safe space in a new country, and travelling and volunteering with people from different countries. This experience will always serve as a constant reminder that there is still so much out there to learn and experience,” she said.

By NST Education.

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Ensuring peace and unity

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

DO you know the Rukun Negara by heart? I vividly remember chanting it, every Monday morning during school assemblies. The diligent recitation for 11 years has etched the five principles in my memory.

The Rukun Negara consists of five basic principles which are supposed to be upheld by all Malaysians. The principles were developed in such a way that they cut across ethnic boundaries and could be identified by all Malaysians regardless of racial background. The introduction of Rukun Negara was a strategic move by the government to inculcate the feeling of togetherness and ensure racial unity.

In essence, Malaysia is a trouble-free country where various ethnicities live peacefully among each other. However, if you look back at history, there were the May 13, 1969 and 2001 Kampung Medan racial riots. These tragedies may be due to the lack of understanding of the different cultures practiced by the different races. As noted by renowned sociologist, Syed Hussin Alatas, there is a social distance between the various races and “most Malays do not know Chinese values very well and most Chinese are ignorant of Malay values, despite the fact that they have been living side by side for so long”.

Given the circumstances, it does seem like a daunting task to promote unity, especially as society was racially segregated and categorised when the British empire spread its influence in Tanah Melayu. So, what can be done to foster a better understanding between the races? In light of this, Rukun Negara is seen as a pivotal tool which could be utilised to promote cohesiveness between the various ethnicities in Malaysia.

Since the implementation and introduction of Rukun Negara, the mass media has been asked to introduce and promote the principles to the public. In the 70s, the Information Ministry announced that “dramas, music, dances etc, aired on television must reflect and enlarge the awareness of the aspiration and development of the nation in terms of unity and democracy, and a just society, etc, as envisaged in the Rukun Negara”.

Television stations were also encouraged to broadcast programmes which portrayed harmonious race relations, belief in God and loyalty to the nation. In an effort to promote national unification, efforts to include all racial groups in locally produced programmes could be seen. For instance, we could see a steady increase of Malay dramas and films which featured non-Malay actors, such as MandatoriGerak Khas and Sepet. In view of this, the media can be likened to an engine which ignite sparks of unity in a multicultural society.

The principles of Rukun Negara have enabled Malaysians to live peacefully and harmoniously. NST PIC

Sadly, however, the media can also be likened to a weapon of mass destruction, if not properly utilised. For instance, stereotypes on gender and ethnicities in the media may influence audiences’ perception and create a negative impression of certain issues or culture.

I remember interviewing Malay students in Hulu Selangor, and enquired about their perception of Chinese and Indians. The first thing that they could think of when I asked them to describe what they knew about Chinese and Indians were: Ah Long, DVD peddlers and gangsters. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that they live in a largely Malay community and as a result, did not have the opportunity to earnestly socialise with other ethnicities. Thus, the thoughts they formed on other cultures were loosely based on the little they have been exposed to in the media.

What is equally worrying is that technology has enabled anyone and everyone to be content creators. It is easy for one to create their own show and broadcast it via YouTube, or publish an online newspaper riddled with biasness and untruths. This will make it more difficult for audiences to determine and decide what and who to believe. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons why we see unverified information spreading like wildfire on social media.

By Dr Sabariah Mohamed Salleh.

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Cultivating national unity

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

Cultivating national unity is an uphill battle for any country, the slope becomes steeper for countries which are much more diverse like Malaysia. When I was in primary and secondary school, we recited the Rukun Negara every Monday morning, we painted the school walls with Jalur Gemilang next to ten smiley people representing different ethnic groups in Malaysia. Most common of all, we always had to write essays on national unity, harmony in a multiracial society and the spirit of patriotism. Back then, none of these tasks seemed unusual, challenging or hypocritical.

As I grew older, I find the idea of national unity difficult to fathom and even harder to advocate. I wonder if it is because I was having more exposure towards the social fabric and political reality or if I was in fact growing up in the most tumultuous years of the Malaysian political landscape. From the eyes of my 10-year-old self, I saw that Malaysians are fundamentally capable of living and progressing in terms of in harmony and unity.

Later I realise that it is the nature of governance and politics, in particular the institutionalisation of our differences such as raced-based politics, affirmative action and adversarial judicial system that pushed us further apart.

Unity in Malaysia requires all Malaysians to have an in-depth and objective understanding of how Malaysia was founded and what it takes to build a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural country on the basis of justice and fairness, both of which are the fundamental virtues of our Federal Constitution. It requires Malaysians to be mindful that in order to march forward as a successful united country, we need to first acknowledge that we are Malaysians and this national identity and narrative should prevail over any differences that we may have.

Moderation in isolation does not preach any particular value. It is merely a philosophical idea that every issue, action, decision or even every thought can be measured on a spectrum. In order to call an approach a moderate one, one must then consider and identify two ends of the spectrum. For instance, Islamic extremistism has been a popular term.

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Importance of national unity and the role of moderation.

Sunday, December 31st, 2017

The notion of unity is no stranger to states far and wide, let alone Malaysia – a country endowed with descendants from three of the earliest civilizations. With deliberate segregation of the populace under the façade of “specialization”- courtesy of our colonial masters, ethnic strains have long been engrained into Malaysia’s past. In light of that, efforts to bridge this ethnic divide since its independence reflects the wide-spread recognition of the need for national unity in Malaysia.

This essay will first define the term “national unity” and examine the its importance in the case of Malaysia, followed by ways in which moderation could foster unity.

National unity is defined as solidarity within citizens of a nation, with minimum sectorial practices and close adherence to law and order. National unity however, do not imply homogeneity. It advocates rather, a “community of communities” which respect diversity and share values, experiences and geographical relativity (Etzioni, 2002).

Firstly, national unity in the form of racial and religious tolerance is an incremental pre-requisite to societal peace.

Indeed, India – the second most intolerant nation, according to a research done by the World Value Survey, ranked 139th out of 163 countries in the Global Peace Index (GPI) (Fisher, 2013).

Since Malaysia accommodates citizens with diverse physical appearances, the case of India is a glaring illustration of the peril of racial discrimination and tension. Similarly, the notorious discrimination of Rohingyas in Buddhist-majority Myanmar reflects a negative association between religious tensions and peace, with Myanmar ranking 122th in the GPI – once again analogous to the diverse religious composition of Malaysia and the potential havoc that could arise in the event of disunity.

To reiterate, national unity is essential in maintaining a harmonious and functional society.

Consequently, national unity and subsequently societal stability contributes to nation-building. One aspect of nation-building revolves around economic developments which, in extremely simplified terms, may lead to elevated standards of living; and if channeled efficiently- decreased poverty rate and income disparity, benefiting the populace as a whole.

One prevalent contributor to a countries’ economic prowess would be the measure of Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) (Naquib & Smucker, 2009). Social and political stability is often regarded as a pre-requisite for an inflow of FDI and plays a role among other factors such as labor wages and tax rates in affecting investors’ confidence. As a nation vehemently pursuing economic gains with a promising abundance of raw resources and strategic geographical standing, it would be a shame for Malaysia to lose out on a rapidly globalised economy on the basis of societal instability. As such, national unity is paramount in Malaysia’s pursuit of economic and societal development.

Having elaborated on the importance of a unity in Malaysia, this essay will now discuss the role of moderation in achieving such unity. For decades, racial tension and disharmony have pervaded Malaysia’s political and social development and continues to be a stark point in everyday discourse.

While Malaysia appears more integrated in contemporary times, there remain covert and unspoken strains between ethnic groups. For decades, institutional initiatives the likes of the 1971 New Economic Plan (NEP) and the present decade’s 1Malaysia campaign have sought to bridge this divide.

Arguably, institutional intervention can only do that much. At the end of the day, it boils down to individuals’ efforts in making multicultural ties work.

On the grassroots level, moderation plays an incremental role in achieving national unity.

Moderation in this sense, pertains to a conscious effort in avoiding dissonance and maintaining goodwill by compromising on traditions, beliefs and practices in everyday life.

Since Malaysia is far from being a secular state, religion dominates everyday discourse and hence remains a continual hiccup for the remedy of racial tensions. The term “racial tension” in Malaysia does not give a contextual picture of its predicament; instead most racial conflicts arise in the form of religious clashes, predominantly between Muslims and non-Muslims. In this sense, moderation with its inclination for tolerance and understanding, plays a role in bridging this religious divide and subsequently uniting the nation.

In a more practical manner, moderation could be achieved via organised interfaith activities such as forums, dialogues, workshops or even a walkabout. Instead of cowering behind the façade of sensitivity and taboo, youths should be encouraged to boldly participate in interfaith activities with the opportunity to engage with leaders of faith; clearing misconceptions while gaining further knowledge on other members of the nation.

With such an interactive exposure, participants would hopefully gain an insight on the commonalities of different religions, identify elements of extremism and perhaps even recognise the “weaponisation” of religion that often surfaces in the realm of politics. It is only until this level of maturity and moderation is achieved where youths can individualise and view others objectively.
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