‘We must work on integration’

BRIDGING THE DIVIDE: Former DAP member of parliament Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye left politics in 1990. He then became involved in social work since the people have always been close to his heart. Bernama recently sought his views over the state of racial unity in the country. The following are excerpts from the interview.

Question: We achieved independence 56 years ago and the May 13, 1969 incident happened 44 years ago, but we are still in search of true unity. Is it really that difficult to forge unity?

Answer: This is neither an easy question nor is there an easy answer. Being a social activist, I know there is nothing greater for Malaysia than achieving satisfactory national integration and unity.

We are no longer close to one another as reflected by the racial polarisation that has become more obvious after the 13th General Election.

We have to look back on the spirit of unity during the days of Malaya’s chief minister and father of independence Tunku Abdul Rahman.

I was a student then, at St Michael’s Institution in Ipoh, where Malays, Indians, Chinese, Sikhs and others studied together. We respected and understood one another. Even our parents interacted, transcending racial boundaries.

After completing the Senior Cambridge examination in 1966, I worked at the National Union of Commercial Workers, where the members were close to one another despite coming from different racial backgrounds.

I am comparing the current situation with the past to understand where we went wrong.

Question: What do you feel about the situation now?

Answer: Attempts have been made to address racial polarisation, including establishing National Service to forge better understanding and unity among members of different communities.

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