We have to be more decisive and purposeful in our determination to fight racism and bigotry by the consistent application of the rule of law, writes Ramon Navaratnam.
I am sure most Malaysians will heartily congratulate the cabinet for swiftly rejecting the racism and bigotry that was openly expressed at the Pusat Bandar Puchong 1 National Secondary School recently.
It is also gratifying that Deputy Prime Minister Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail led a team of senior ministers to the Puchong school to support them in happily putting up decorations to celebrate the coming Chinese New Year.
The Party Bumiputera Perkasa Malaysia vice-president, who is a lawyer, and the principal claimed that the New Year lantern decorations were religious. By what stretch of their fertile imagination could they come to that unreasonable conclusion, unless they were seriously misinformed and ill-advised.
It is useful for the cabinet and all true thinking Malaysians to try to understand the logic of these educated individuals. Many will ask whether these individuals were motivated by racism and religious bigotry or a sincere desire to promote national unity and harmony.
Hence, we hope the lawyer and principal would fully explain to the public why they had to protest against the happy, harmonious and harmless preparations by schoolchildren for the Chinese New Year celebrations.
If the critics are people who seek to condemn simple acts of festival celebrations, what can we expect if other groups do the same for other festivals? Then there would be no national unity but just national enmity and disunity. Is this what we want for ourselves and our country? Can some Malaysians be so parochial, selfish, unMalaysian and uncaring?
They do no credit to their own values or their groups. In fact, they let us down by their narrow and skewed thinking!
This is why these critics should be pulled up and advised on what Malaysia, as a multi-racial, multi-religious country, stands for, based on our fine Constitution, which promotes peace and prosperity rather that polarisation and enmity.
Hence these critics should clearly explain to the public how the Puchong school violated the Constitution – or they should be penalised for causing so much national dissatisfaction in what is already becoming a more unhappy country.
Blessing in disguise?
This sad incident can, however, turn out to be a blessing in disguise if we are now more convinced that we really need to have a harmony act. This has been contemplated for so long and often recommended – but not followed up swiftly enough.
The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has rightly viewed the Puchong school matter seriously.
We can only hope and pray that cabinet, the government, the opposition and all patriotic Malaysians will resolve, from now on, to act swiftly to nip in the bud all racist and bigoted activities, as the cabinet commendably acted this time.
We cannot carry on with these old reckless ways of disunity. We have to be more decisive and purposeful in our determination to fight racism and bigotry by the consistent application of the rule of law. The adoption of the proposed harmony law will be supported by the vast majority of the Rakyat, as true Malaysians, who will no doubt be against unMalaysian activities that relate to racism and religious bigotry.
In this new decade, 2021-2030, we should not give in to anymore racism and bigotry. This we must do in the interest of our national survival and wellbeing, based on unity, peace, progress and shared prosperity.
Thus our current congratulations to the cabinet for handling the Puchong case well must encourage them to continue and strongly sustain their efforts to promote greater national unity by more strongly fighting racism and bigotry whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head.