Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Guiding the young to act with restraint

Respecting the sensitiveness of others

I refer to “Let's be tolerant” (Star,November 6).

The advice by the Prime Minister and UMNO president, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to delegates to be cautious when raising sensitive issues at the current UMNO General Assembly is timely.

It was further encouraging that similar advice also came from other party stalwarts like its deputy president Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, vice-president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Youth chief Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Tun Hussein, Wanita chief Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz and supreme council member Seri Dr Rais Yatim.

We hope all delegates heed their advice to refrain from over-playing on sensitive issues. This is particularly important now at a time when ethnic relations are under tremendous strain. As the Prime Minister says the nation had achieved great success because the people had lived in unity for 50 years but now religious and racial issues have crept up, causing a great deal of anxiety among all. The increasing ethnic polarization is threatening the peace and harmony we used to enjoy and which was the envy of others.

The younger generations of Malaysians may not understand the trials and tribulations of the earlier generation to bring the nation to where it is today. It was no easy task as the nation was built by the sweat and blood of all the races. Many had even sacrificed their lives in the process. The peace and comfort we enjoy today are the fruits of their sacrifices and labor.

The greatest legacy they left us was the racial unity, without which we cannot be where we are today. It is our duty to teach our children to value the contributions of all those before us. It is vital for us all to convince our children the importance of preserving the racial harmony and unity that we have inherited from our forefathers. The most important prerequisite for maintaining this unity is tolerance for each other’s cultures and believes.

There is a need for restraint on what we say and do especially when they touch on the sensitivities of others. Children must be taught to understand and respect the sensitivities of other races. Free mingling of people of all communities from young, freedom of expression and open dialogue in a civil manner must be actively encouraged as these would help instill tolerance towards others.

There is a need for greater and more sincere commitment from the government, politicians and the people in general to step up the integration of the future generation. Racial unity does not freely fall from the skies nor can it be obtained by wealth and power, rather it has to be carefully and diligently nurtured and nourished.

It is extremely sad that after 50 years of independence we are still not able to accept each other unconditionally as fellow citizens in our country. We are still held back with racially based parties, each championing its own community. Isn’t it time to emphasize on a Barisan Nasional General Assembly instead an UMNO,MCA or MIC General Assembly? Isn’t it time for us to champion the needs of all Malaysians regardless of their ethnicity?

Our ethnic diversity is here to stay and as Datuk Seri Rafidah Aziz says “We are all Malaysians. If we develop, we develop together. Similarly, if the country collapses, we collapse together. We have something good going on here. If it is good, let us not rock the boat”.

Yes, in the long run our restraint and tolerance of diversity would determine the stability of the nation. Our diversity was the basis of our national strength. Whether we build on this diversity or destroy it, depends entirely on us and we alone can determine our destiny.

Dr.Chris Anthony

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