PARDON me if I say that, in general, we have allowed ourselves to be enslaved by electoral politics to such an extent that we sometimes lose sight of the bigger picture: national interests. We are not seeing the wood for the trees, as the saying goes.
Most obvious has been our habit of confining the participation in the celebrations of anniversaries of events of national importance to the people in power and their supporters. The rest of the people – especially the members of the opposition and those who stay out of the political orbit – should be allowed to join in the celebrations if they so wish but they are not being invited.
Being welcome to a party is not the same as being invited to it. The former gesture is not serious while the latter is more sincere.
During the recent past, we have thus alienated a huge number of stakeholders of this nation by this exclusivity. So if they celebrate the same anniversaries in their own way, we should look at it from their perspective, though it fs not quite right either. Two wrongs do not make a right.
Symbols of unity
Celebrations of important occasions such as the official birthday of His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the birthday of our own Yang di-Pertua Negeri and other national events such as National Day and Malaysia Day are meant for every citizen to enjoy – they are symbols of the unity of the people, of their loyalty to the nation and her sovereign, of their sense of belonging to that nation.
Those are happy occasions.
Since the formation of Malaysia 49 years ago, Sarawakians and Sabahans together with other Malaysians in the peninsula have been building a nation out of all the citizens drawn from the diverse ethnic backgrounds, with various political affiliations, into a united and happy nation.
Separate celebrations by rival political parties do not reflect an appearance of a united nation nor a happy one.
Basic attributes of a united nation
The institutions sustaining the system of government since the beginning of Malaysia – the Executive, the Legislature, the Judiciary and the law enforcement agencies – are already in place and functioning the best they can. But there are a couple more supports or pillars of nation-building in Malaysia: one the Rukun Negara and the other the press, the last sometimes referred to as the Fourth Estate.
The five principles of the Rukun Negara are additional building blocks of the nation. Unfortunately, their collective role is more subtle than the institutions as described in the constitution. We cannot see the five tenets of the National Ideology, but we can experience a violation of each one or two of the tenets in our daily lives – when we are confronted with some problem. For instance, when you are wrongly accused of stealing when you did no such thing. You seek justice, don’t you?
Perhaps, it may useful to remind ourselves of its creation in the 1970s – they are the product of the minds of our leaders after the infamous racial riots in KL on May 13, 1969.
These are: Belief in God, Loyalty to King and Country, Supremacy of the Constitution, Rule of Law and Good Behaviour.
Yet there is another building block of our nation: the Press representing the lovers and practitioners of the freedom of expression.
These are supplementary supports to the Constitution and other laws and adat by which our lives are being regulated daily. We have chosen for ourselves a system of government called the constitutional monarchy for a sensible reason: a country must have a permanent figurehead who is above politics, His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong; also apolitical is each of the Tuan Yang di-Pertua Negeri.
During such occasions marking their birthdays, don’t you think that they wish to see as many of their rakyat as possible or at least the leaders of the various organisations, political organisations included, at the rallies or functions?
My guess is that they do. So do the rakyat.
Next year, why don’t we call for a truce or a moratorium – stop politicking during those anniversary celebrations?
Before we know it, we will again celebrate National Day, the Agong’s Birthday, and Malaysia Day. Sarawakians and Sabahans will also celebrate their respective Governor’s birthday.
I know how elaborate and time consuming the preparations for these celebrations can be and can imagine that a lot of public money is required to make them a success.
I suggest we entrust the preparations for each of these events to a steering committee on which are appointed the representatives of the various political parties – the ruling as well as those in the opposition.
If this has not been done before, it’s high time we introduced something different. We ought to think out of the box, if anything to avoid boredom of seeing the same faces sitting on the committees year in year out.
Invite the opposition officially
If we had done this for the National Day celebrations this year, we would have avoided the controversy over the theme of the celebration and its song.
If we had done this for the preparations of the Sarawak Governor’s birthday bash in Miri, we would have avoided the controversy over the participation of the BN Five and would have saved the SPDP leadership from further embarrassment.
It would have been unnecessary for the organisers to be defensive to criticism by saying that everybody was welcomed to participate. Everybody is welcome, yes, but there’s a great distinction between a “welcome” and an “invitation”, to repeat the above statement.
Avoid controversy over the theme or lyrics of a song by using one of the principles of the Rukun Negara. Beginning next year, the celebration for the Malaysia Day on Sept 16, 2013, being its Golden Anniversary, the theme for the celebrations should revolve around one of the principles or a combination of two of them, say the Principle of the Rule of Law and Good Behaviour.
As far as possible, organise activities with these tenets of the Rukun Negara in mind. For instance, hold lectures or talks or debates relating to the Rule of Law and Good Behaviour. I once saw a couple of clerks eating peanuts in a court room in Kuching before a judge made his entrance.
That’s not decorous.
During these celebrations, let us all – officers of JPJ, traffic police, officers at the front counters of government offices, Kuching drivers – display courtesy to each other and display Good Behaviour during these celebrations. Tell the politicians to reduce the tension caused by too much politicking too.
An example to emulate
We could take advantage of the period for less politicking. We are not alone in doing this. Don’t be embarrassed.
The American House of Congress stopped politicking when they awarded Au Sang Suu Kyi a medal. Leaders of both political divide spoke at the ceremony. They set aside their political differences for the occasion.
At the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, the British Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition sat next to each other, a symbol of unity for British citizens.
In Singapore, the members of parliament there formed themselves into a soccer team to face the challenge from a team of Singapore Press boys. They are also symbols of unity for Singaporeans.
Recently, two Sarawakian politicians from opposite camps bumped into each other at a Children’s Cancer ward and made a show of how they could work for a common cause.
Certain occasions rise above electoral politics. We may have differences and belong to opposite sides but we are all on the side of Malaysia in the final analysis. So can we leave certain aspects of life un-politicised?