Understanding the bonds that make a nation

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The DAP needs to broaden its current political thinking by reaching out towards conservative rural Malays through an understanding of the dynamics of conservative politics such as the importance of the history, culture,and language of the nation, writes Ronald Benjamin.

An online article in the Malaysian Insider about the Democratic Action Party (DAP) reaching out to the Malays through its newly created online portal caught my attention. It made me reflect on a fundamental question of nation building in the Malaysian context: what would actually bond multi-ethnic Malaysia and how would such a bond be created?

There are indeed fundamental principles and endeavours that would bridge the ethnic divide in this country and transcend ethno-religious politicking and the constant political debates between the conservatives and liberals.

The first thing that political parties in Malaysia should do if they intend to cross boundaries of ethnic acceptance is that they have to understand the bond that holds human beings together. It is vital to understand the history, religion, language and culture of a nation and take steps to acknowledge that reality through the political dialogue of understanding and action. For instance, the DAP could show concern and come up with ideas on how to make the national language more appealing since there are many Chinese who do not speak or understand the language,as revealed in a recent survey.

Or through its speeches, the party could speak more about the historical foundation of the nation, how it has evolved over time and what needs to be done currently to enrich it. This would involve communicating the Malay-Muslim roots of the nation and its evolution as a multi-ethnic country. It would also involve explaining how the nation’s ethnic groups have been divided through the past colonial legacy of divide and rule, which currently characterises the Barisan National government’s political structure. This means that the nation is still living in the shadow of this colonial legacy, unable to bond as a multi-ethnic nation due to continuous ethnic politicking.

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The DAP, as a political party which intends to cast its net wider, has to start acknowledging that it has done little in areas that bond the nation. It could have done more to explain the importance of the national language, articulate the historical roots and evolving nature of the nation and discuss what prevents Malaysians from achieving true unity .

Unable to gain much meaningful access to the mainstream media, the party could use the online media besides reaching out to the rural population with the help of its Pakatan partners.

The spiritual, social and political issues that bind all ethnic groups together also need to be taken into consideration. These issues of concern include the ills of corruption, poverty, abuse of power and human rights violations. All these have universal dimension and the DAP has done a consistent and excellent job in this regard.

It is vital for the DAP as a political party to strike a balance. The party needs to broaden its current political thinking by reaching out towards conservative rural Malays through an understanding of the dynamics of conservative politics such as the importance of the history, culture,and language of the nation. And it needs to integrate all this into its quest for social justice.

This would break boundaries and make DAP a credible national party, which it is capable of because of its centrist ideology. The missing link has to be connected.

Ronald Benjamin is an Aliran member based in Ipoh.

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