MALAYSIA – The Hope for Peace in the Nation and Her Citizens.
By: Ahmad Shakir Hashim
Although some felt that history will not bring much awareness in order to move into a brighter future (I am a bit sceptical of the word “future”), but I think it is otherwise, because history is a lesson that we can learn from events which had already happened. This is important for us because only then can we understand the current realities and changes which has occurred in the country. Moreover, for a nation to untie itself from the bonds of history makes it impossible to understand the socio-political perspective. The purpose of the understanding is not an idea on how to create a utopian world or heavenly world, as I believe in the formation of an ideal society, because without any problems and harms it is impossible to realise a reality. I am optimistic that the peace in this country named Malaysia can continuously continue. In my opinion, peace itself is priceless. It is not based on statesmen, historians or politicians who are well versed about nationalism and political intricacies of this nation, but my views and hopes are motivated as a citizen.
Peace can be defined when community can lead their lives in amity, practice their faith, and most importantly not in a war that destroys human lives and nature. This could not be achieved through the attitudes of silence and being reactive, peace requires efforts to confront challenges involving political stability, and a social proactive economy. Although Malaysia is relatively safe now, it does not mean that we should just sit on our laurels, feel comfortable and be proud. We need to be self-conscious and lower our pride in order to avoid unwanted incidents.
I would like to converge on the historical events of Malaysia in regards the national security matters which I think is a relevant issue to be discussed. It is important to look into the problems and given suggestions to overcome them. However, due to some limitation, I will only discuss about it briefly. But before we can focus on peace, we need to look into the history of Malaysia where we had once experienced the bloody incident of May 13, 1969 in which the occurrence of devastating riots, due to the acute problems of economic inequality. As a result, it had involved people-oriented political parties competing in the elections. Social tension had been exacerbated by the existence of racial prejudices. The date indicates it had threatened peace, causing hundreds of deaths and as a result the country had to declare a national emergency. It was obvious that the event had reflected the failure of achieving national unity in Malaysia.
The sequence of this event had led the political leaders and scholars to review further on the socio-political situation of Malaysians from all races, religions and beliefs. It has become a platform which can lead towards peace when the National Operations Council (NOC) was created and established to facilitate the formation of the National Principles in 1970. It has succeeded in seeking broad aspirations in achieving peace made available by the proposal towards peace for the country. I believe it has been implemented in the system by the government and its administration.
Till now, after almost 44 years, Rukun Negara is still used as a guideline for Malaysians. Based on the changes in the political landscape, cultural changes, rapid developments, scientific and technological sophistication and globalization, it has not shown any need for changes even though it is undeniable that the occurrence of loopholes in the implementation requires attention. Moreover, the perception of National Principles have changed. The question which arises is to what extent is the understanding and acceptance among the younger generation. I believe that it should be an open and positive discussion in accordance with the objectives towards a united nation and developing the capacity of a diverse community.
This National Principles requires a citizen to understand, respect and follow the five principles. ‘Belief in God’ is the first principle in The National Principles and is considered as the most central of the five principles. It is believed that religion serves as the nourishment for the soul and without it one’s soul will be void. Every religion advocates the concept of divinity and practice different beliefs, but the foundation and purpose is the same; to achieve inner peace (individual) and external peace (society). The understanding of spirituality through religion is a way to balance your life in nurturing good personalities and values within themselves, such as gratitude, patience, honesty, love and justice. Values are in fact an asset that could contribute to the country’s security.
Malaysia is located in a region that has a long religious history such as Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and others. Before independence, Malaysia is synonymous with the Malays and Islam. Islam was chosen to be the official religion of the Federation. However, other religious groups are free to practice their faith in peace and there are no compulsion for a citizen to profess any religion. This recognition reflects the right of freedom in religion.
Due to the existence of diversity in Malaysia, it is important for every believer to respect one another in order to maintain a harmonious relationship between different religions. Misunderstanding among religions is unavoidable due to its own different doctrines but to live in a society, to maintain an attitude of respect on the basis of mutual interest is crucial. This can be achieved by recognizing different religion or other beliefs without sacrificing their own stand. As mentioned, religion serves as a mediator of peace and this is important in the essence of each religion. In Malaysia, religion and politics are often linked together and any political interference usually raises tension in the community. My concern is that if religion is manipulated by a certain political party, it will lead to confusion. Religion is a very sensitive issue and is prone to misunderstandings and this can destroy the purity of religion itself. In order to avoid a breakdown of unity amongst religions, a religion must be seen to have a strong influence in the society. In emphasizing this point, let me quote the words of Prof. Tariq Ramadan,
“To be politically aware and religiously naïve, not politically naïve and religiously aware.”
The second principle outlined is ‘Malaysians loyalty to the King and country’. The system of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy is practiced since Malaysia’s independence as witnessed by The Yang Di-Pertuan Agong as the Head of State. This principle means that people must give their loyalty with sincerity and honesty to the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong. In addition, it is seen as the symbol of national sovereignty, the position of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong also symbolizes the unity of the people, regardless of race. Despite the limited jurisdiction power in matters of administration, it is the duty of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong to unite the citizens by maintaining prosperity in the country through their royal influence as the most respected and of the highest rank in the country. Nurturing patriotism or love for one’s homeland among the countrymen is important in order to ensure prosperity where people will be more sensitive to the development, mind and energy which will contribute to the progress of art, religion, culture and science. Loyalty to the country is not just a relationship between human beings, but also with nature for which it is a national treasure that must be protected and conserved. If the exploratory of nature and development only focuses solely on gaining profits, in the end it will lead to a loss to its own people. This loyalty involves national dignity therefore any flaw and betrayal from within and outside the country should be avoided. Malaysia is a developing country, and we are in the eyes of the world, therefore it is with caution that we are aware of the security, sovereignity and foreign policy priority of the country.
On the day of independence, August 31, 1957, Commissioner Reid had drafted a and enforced a constitution. The Malaysian Constitution is the highest legal source and its existence shows the separation of powers to simplify the administration and to form a fair governmental system and also to prevent abuse of power by the government. The people claim to understand, respect and accept the contents, a total of 183 items. Upholding the principles enshrined in the Constitution of the Third National Principles, was intended to provide protection to the population of their rights and privileges as citizens. Malaysia’s political direction is basically determined by the Constitution. So this means that any decision by rule and administration have a set of guiding principles and an understanding towards stability and peace.
‘Rules of Law’ is the fourth principle. The sovereignty of law is the root of justice. Without justice, peace and stability, the society will be damaged. Respect for sovereignty means understanding and compliance. The law applies to everyone equally and penalties are imposed regardless of social status, influence, gender, colour or religion. In the name of justice, there should not be any excess or deficiency in judgment. This is because justice regimented the society to avoid chaos and to ensure their safety under the protection of law. In a free country, any control of law is not loosely based on certain criminal acts only but also of oppression and discrimination against certain groups of people. Weak law enforcement leads to corruption and therefore must be addressed so that justice can be carried out even to those of the higher status when proved guilty and corrupt. The integrity of an enforcer plays a crucial role as an agent that is efficient and decisive. Violations of these rights would be the loss of harmony in the society. However, any rights of justice which is still practiced today cannot conflict with the Constitution, which is the main source of law.
Last but not least is ‘The Principle of Good Behaviour and Morality’. Ethics and morality are universal principles that are within every human being which builds character and behaviour in their social lives, regardless of whether one is religious or otherwise. It needs both ethical and moral existence as part of the goal in achieving unity and peace. Religion and culture practiced by Malaysians makes them no stranger to decency and morality, but of course negative attitudes can be inherent to some people in the community. Negative attitudes should not be generalized and religion should not be blamed for lack of ethics and morality of certain individual because it purely depends on the individual themselves. Formation of the so-called perfect human personality and character is certainly a bonus for the country because it will not only prevent but gives a unity of hope in the social context of statehood. I think this principle is also related to the first principles of the National Principles which celebrates and respects the existing diversity and potential increase of diversity within itself.
In conclusion, what we can learn from the National Principles is the existence of the need to appreciate the principles. This is the medium for peace to be understood and will at least create a society which can think and evaluate the importance of shared security. Maintaining peace and stability is the ambition of every country in the world. To maintain peace is a noble thing and should be spread among humans. The world is a challenge to the multifaceted human life, either individually or collectively. No country has achieved the status of utopian. The pure hope of peace must be disseminated to all levels of society. There is no country which is without problems and without misfortunate. We will not exist forever in this world, but we have a task to secure prosperity, in the national context, at the very least.
Ahmad Syakir Hashim graduated from Universiti Teknologi MARA in 2008, received his Bachelor with Honest in Fine Arts. Currently a part-time artist and teaching in Perak and his researches are mainly in post- colonial history.