Fresh from the just concluded state elections that saw the Perikatan Nasional (PN) pact growing from strength to strength in electoral terms, certain observers have urged the federal government to pander to the Malay-Muslim conservatives in an attempt to shore up its Malay support, which it lacks.
This would mean Pakatan Harapan-Barisan Nasional (PH-BN) coalition taking a hazardous path to becoming an entity that is likely to be as conservative as, if not more than, PN.
It is not that the country has not yet veered towards the right. It is just that PH-BN may well be beaten at a game its opponent excels in.
What is crucial is that the “unity government” should not be tempted to take this option as such political expediency has serious repercussions for the future of the country.
It risks further harming ethnic relations – the effects of ethnic Malay conservatism would spill over to the ethnic minority communities as well as progressive Malays in an unpleasant way. Besides, this scenario could alienate PH-BN from the minorities.
As it is, there is already some measure of fear, insecurity and friction between the majority and minority communities.
The intense and protracted politicking between the two major coalitions may heighten the temperature and, in turn, dampen efforts to revive the economy.
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Increased religious conservatism and, by extension, extremism would also adversely affect freedoms that are much needed in intellectual development, creativity, innovation and the practice of democracy.
What is sorely needed is for the unity government to firmly occupy the middle ground and focus on crafting policies and taking positive actions that would help revive the economy, create jobs, bring about development, progress and prosperity, and raise human dignity.
The government must also continue to curb corruption and revisit unfulfilled reforms to help usher in a new and progressive Malaysia and enhance democracy. You can’t do this if and when you’re out of power.
In other words, the federal government is obliged to do what is needed for the betterment of the people in the federation, irrespective of the political affiliations of the states they are in.
Poverty eradication, which is the expressed mission of the Anwar Ibrahim administration, must be executed effectively so that the dignity of poor Malays and the needy others as human beings are duly reinstated. This measure must be put in place, irrespective of whether some Malays prioritise heavenly bliss over a worldly life of dignified comfort.
The right to basic necessities, such as clean piped water and proper sanitation system, must be accorded to everyone. To neglect this right is unforgivable in a country that has achieved independence for six decades.
Formal education is one area that is vital to nation-building and hence, it requires the government’s full attention as it affects the future of our younger generation.
The government must invest money, resources and time in revamping the education system in schools, for the long-term objective is not only to educate people, but also to enable them to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Hopefully, education that promotes critical thinking will help students not to be easily spooked when imaginary enemies are foisted upon them.
Heavy emphasis must be made on instilling in students the noble values of care, compassion, justice and inclusivity that are essential in a multi-ethnic society such as ours. This is apart from reading, writing, literature, maths and science.
Any sign of racial bigotry and religious extremism in schools must be addressed if we are to produce students who can celebrate diversity and are prepared to face the increasing challenges of globalisation made possible by advanced information and communications technology..
As a long-term strategy, second-echelon leaders must be identified so that they can wear the mantle of leadership when the time comes for them to continue to steer the country to a better place.
The wellbeing of all the diverse communities lies in the middle ground. – The Malaysian Insight