Dilemma of a disunited Malaysia — 60 years on

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Photo from the columnist’s family collection depicts the Malaysia Day Parade in 1963 at Central Padang Kuching, seen from St Thomas’s Cathedral’s view.

ON Thursday, as our beloved nation turned the corner of 60 years of existence, we were faced with the stark reality and inescapable truth that although we could still celebrate with a nine- month-old Unity Government in seat at Putrajaya, we are no longer one united nation, but instead, a rather divisive one of three-in-one.

It has become very obvious that after the recently-concluded six state elections held on Aug 12; with the results showing that three of the states had remained even stronger under the Perikatan Nasional (PN)/PAS banner; and the remaining three, although retained by the Unity Government of Pakatan Harapan (PH) and Barisan Nasional (BN), had lost many of its seats in the Malay-majority constituencies.

The voting pattern had clearly shown a voter shift towards a more Malay-Muslim-oriented preference for the PN/PAS coalition, especially among the younger ‘first-time’ voters.

This trend, if it continues, does not augur well for the future of a multi-racial united nation, which was the dream and original aim and purpose of the formation of a Malaysian nation.

As the present status stands, I can see a growing division in the composition of the 13 states that make up Malaysia:

  • Johor, Melaka, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Perak, Pahang, and Penang;
  • Kelantan, Kedah, Terengganu, and Perlis, and;
  • Sarawak, and Sabah.

The first group of seven states are currently ruled by the Unity Government of PH and BN; second of four states by PN/PAS and then the Borneo states by GPS/GRS, respectively, but aligned to and supporting the Unity Government.

From statistics and voting patterns in the recently-concluded six state elections, it had shown that PN/PAS would continue to and could make inroads into at least half of the first group, although the Borneo states would be their last and virtually impenetrable fortresses for the foreseeable future.

Thus, I shudder to predict that sometime in the very near future – the next general election would be due in 2027 – that sooner rather than later, we would see two colours on the map of Peninsular Malaysia: green for PN/PAS, and blue or red for Unity Government of PH/BN (incidentally, has anyone decided how to show Unity Government by colour? Is it red or blue?).

The Borneo states of Sarawak and Sabah will always be able to stand on their own and decide which colour code to use, although being truly multi-racial in their population statistics, it will be highly unlikely that green can ever be their preferred choice.

We have all asked ourselves this question, I am sure – where did it all go wrong? What had happened along the way towards a prosperous, united, harmonious and multi-racial, multi-religious nation that was enshrined in our original constitution – and the raison d’etre for the formation of Malaysia as promised to us all by our forefathers?

Did the politicians mess it all up? If so, we had aided and abetted them all along the way by voting them in again and again…at no less than 15 general elections in 60 years!

Did we remain silent and had allowed certain politicians who had manipulated and altered the original aims, to suit their own personal selfish agenda and greedy political advancement to suit themselves?

Are we as much to blame for where we are today; a nation divided by race and religion and vastly different political philosophies and economic divide?

We have drifted apart from each other within a short period of three generations.

It was personally sad for me to see and experience this slow, but unstoppable, division and gradual separation between families, schoolmates and friends for reasons of lack of commonality, race, religion and economics.

Take away the justifiable reasons of distance when locations or residences are geographically apart; take away the different paths taken by personal careers and by changes of common interests; and take away the daily stresses and expectations of family lives and time for personal well-being and hobbies – we, as a society, have drifted apart from one another although in theory, the advances in modern technology have meant that it is now so much easier to just send a WhatsApp text, do a Zoom meeting, Facetime on your smartphone, and to send an email or to courier a gift or present at happy occasions.

It would seem to me that the more that technology has equipped us, the less incentive or urge we have had to communicate with one another.

Have we lost our sense of comradeship, urge to remain in good relationships and a longing to reach out to family and friends?

Has technology somehow managed to find a way to ‘dehumanise’ us to numb our feelings and our search for companionship?

I recall with much fondness and a surge of warm nostalgia how it was during the days of my growing up – let’s just take three short generations ago, in the 1950s and 60s.

I remember the genuine and natural friendships I had seen between my father and his many friends, work colleagues, peers and seniors. This was both during the many times when we had visited them during festivals, their visits to our home and casual meet ups in the coffee shops or at functions and gatherings.

Due to Dad’s work – he was a senior Agricultural officer – he had many friends from work, school and within his own personal sphere; by nature, he was a pleasant, knowledgeable and outgoing person.

I could see there was great camaraderie among them all. Throughout my life, I have never seen my father at odds with any of his friends – there was always that sense of mutual respect.

They were Malays, Ibans, Bidayuhs, Indians, Eurasians and certainly many more – I reckon he had as many non-Chinese friends as he had Chinese during his 96 years on this earth (Dad passed away on Oct 6, 2022).

All my life, I had tried my best to emulate him; he was my mentor and my hero.

Luckily in school, we had a very multi-racial mix of classmates and those I have happily (with much effort due to distances sometimes) remained friends with till today.

At work during my career years from 1970s to 2000s, my circle of friends and work colleagues grew exponentially and I had made even more lasting friends from all the various races, as well as from different backgrounds with different political affiliations.

One tries one’s best never to mix politics (and religion) with one’s social life and in that sense, I have been luckier than most.

That in brief was the era of my own generation.

Today with the new younger generation, I have seen a totally different scenario of contrasting indifference. I can only see friendships based on work, on religion (at church, temple, mosque and so forth), on common interests (gym, hiking, cars, etc), on political affiliations and mostly and unfortunately, based a lot on social status and economics – sadly within one’s own racial grouping too.

I also see two generations of those who have no or a very superficial interest in politics and in social work, or even just reading the newspapers or watching news broadcasts on current affairs – I call them Generation Spotify / TikTok / WhatsApp.

In reality, they tend to fall within the two groupings known as Generation Y (Millennials) born between 1980 and 1994, and Generation Z from 1995 to 2009.

I can only wish and pray that the younger generation would have received adequate and sufficient education and be brought up with good parenting and be equipped with good ethics and a balanced sense of humanity in order that when the day comes for them to step into a polling booth, they must be able to make the right decision to vote for the candidate who will promote and uphold the original concept of a truly united, harmonious, multiracial and multi-religious Malaysia – a progressive nation where everyone is equal in the eyes of the law.

It is also my belief that Sarawak and Sabah will always be the two states that will bolster, boost and beholden to ensure the future stability, progress and prosperity of a better, brighter and more balanced Malaysia – one that will have a place for everyone under the sun, no matter his creed, political affiliation, race or religion.

Hidup Malaysia! God Bless our beloved nation!