My NINE wishes for a truly independent Malaysia
Now, why the number 9? There is obviously a reason behind my choice.
I believe every race or tribe has its preference for specific numbers. Some are religious in nature and others may merely be a belief or superstition. For Hindus, the number 9 happens to be extremely special when it comes to numerology and spirituality.
They claim it stands for universal love, eternity, faith, the concept of karma, spiritual enlightenment, spiritual awakening, service to humanity, humanitarianism, philanthropy and the philanthropist, charity, self-sacrifice, romance, inner-strength, responsibility, intuition, strength of character.
I am not exactly one who blindly surrenders to the concept of numerology without any reasoning, but since this 31st August happens to be the 63rd Independence Day, the two digits add up to 9. Like many other loyal citizens who have sacrificed much for the betterment of this country although they do not fly the Jalur Gemilang, I really wish the nation embodies all these values sincerely if Malaysia wants to shine.
Admittedly, we have regressed quite a bit from what Malaysians wanted and the spirit behind the formation of this plural nation which promised a home for all citizens, irrespective of race, religion or culture. The leaders who obtained Independence for us on 31 August 1957 envisaged a united nation that would treat each and every Malaysian equally, notwithstanding the special privilege clause in our Federal Constitution for the Malays.
My nine wishes are going to be simple but it requires much political will and guts for the politicians and their parties to ease up and embrace each other by referring to us as Malaysians first.
Some of you may think I am asking for Utopia. What I am dreaming of may never happen but then again like what many great men have said in the past, never give up hoping. Even if 4 or 5 of my wishes become a reality, we have reasons to celebrate. Here we go:
- Honesty, decency and integrity among politicians from both sides of the divide. No more double speak like what is blatantly happening today. They must not forget that we are in an age where social media records everything in real time. Many of them have been made to look stupid by rivals uploading their past statements in the social media which are directly opposite to what they say and stand for today. Politician are really being made to look extremely dishonest in the social media these days. Obviously, 2020 has been the worst year as far as exposing two-timing politicians is concerned.
- Refer to us as Malaysians first, with our ethnicity coming in second. When we are abroad, we introduce ourselves as Malaysians and not by reference to our race. Each time Lee Chong Wei used to win a badminton match, he kisses the national flag on his vest, and not his Chinese skin. And the whole nation comprising Malaysians of all races and religion cheer and shed tears of joy each time a sportsman stands on the rostrum seeing the Jalur Gemilang being raised as Negaraku is played. These tears were not shed for the players who had won but for the nation that we call home.
- Discarding the push for racial and religious supremacy, going for humanity instead. The Federal Constitution adequately protects all races and religion. No one questions that the official religion of the nation is Islam and the law prohibits those from other faiths to convert Muslims. At the same time, it enshrines freedom of worship of all faiths. Instead of pushing for greatness of race and religion which are obviously exploited for political expediency, let’s strive for the greatness of humanity. And a deep sense of passion to accept that each other despite our differences. Let’s embrace, not just tolerate. Every religion has a set of profound universal values that transcends all barriers.
Celebrating our independence is not just about flying our national flag. It is also about respecting the rights of all individuals in a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multi-religious society. Every life matters.
- A more representative workforce both in the government and private sector. This is not going to be easy given the powers that control these sectors. The government should first aspire to engage more non-Bumiputras into the civil service as the frontline staff at these institutions deal with Malaysians of all races. Besides, the government sector is financed by all taxpayers, irrespective of colour or creed.
As for the private sector, firms should endeavour to be more Malaysian in nature as it is obvious that they are now manned by predominantly Chinese Malaysians. It’s true that they may need a working knowledge in Mandarin for effective operations but we know it is always not the case. Random surveys have shown that it is hard for non-Chinese, especially Malaysian Indians, to secure jobs in the private sector.
- A needs-based affirmative action policy. This is very simple to implement in my opinion. The previous Bantuan Rakyat 1 Malaysia (BRIM) under Barisan Nasional and renamed as Bantuan Sara Hidup (BSH) were based on household income and not according to race or religion. And everyone was happy, irrespective of which political parties they supported. Yes, the poor bumiputras certainly need to be aided but so do the others. This approach should be across the board including the 7% discount for home purchase, scholarships, entry into universities and matriculation courses among others.
- Giving respect and dignity to 3D workers. Right now, most Malaysians avoid 3D or Dangerous, Dirty and Difficult jobs because of the beggarly wages they earn and thus the stigma attached to them. For road sweepers, garbage collectors and waiters, the salaries they earn do not commensurate with the hard and tough jobs they do. Employers who reap huge profits at their expense treat them like dirt. These workers play a vital role in keeping our lives clean and orderly. Their counterparts abroad earn salaries that are respectable. Let’s start treating them like human beings, with some respect.
- Making our three key institutions truly independent. Past and recent events have made many Malaysians wonder if our Parliament, Judiciary and the Executive are truly independent as it should be in a democracy which we practise. These are key bodies that shape our lives and that of our children and grandchildren. One makes laws, another implements them and the third protects the laws.
These three bodies must be in harmony at all times for Malaysia to become a truly developed democracy that earns the respect globally. While we have been generally fighting hard to maintain our image, there have been blemishes in this area which need to be cleaned up.
- A freer media that acts as a check and balance. After the 3 key institutions, this is known as the Fourth Estate which has traditionally acted as a watchdog of the government and all other powers that abuse and misuse the trust placed on them. Somewhere along the way, we have lost this as a result of partisan ownership of the media. The day that a citizen fears to speak up against a wrongdoing for fear of reprisals is the day we starting losing everything. Malaysians need this space to develop into a mature society.
- Tackling corruption in a serious and impartial manner. Whether we like it or not, this is a serious problem which many think has become endemic. While the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) seems to be tackling the problem head-on, the attitude of Malaysians towards opposing corrupt practices seems to be utterly disappointing. The announcement by the Bersatu youth leader that he will issue support letters for favours is sending out a signal that it is okay to be corrupt.
Perhaps a special subject on anti-corruption could be introduced in secondary schools to show the seriousness of any government in power to inculcate this spirit from young. If you do not start them young, it will be hard to mould them once they start enjoying illicit gains when they are older. They should be taught these values before entering the workforce. They should learn that corruption destroys nations, organisations and civilisations.
Happy 63rd Merdeka my fellow Malaysians! Remember, a stitch in time saves nine.
God Bless Malaysia
K. Parkaran is a freelance journalist and media advisor currently. He was the Deputy Editor in The Star and a Senior Producer with Aljazeera International before.