kheru2006 (kheru2006) wrote,

Integration: Media must help boost ties

WE are rather fortunate to live in a multilingual, multiethnic, multicultural society, which enriches our lives and enables us to enjoy harmoniously this important ethnic Chinese celebration of the lunar year, one of the great festivals of our many communities.

This is especially evident in the tolerance to the occasional ear-splitting explosions from the inevitable firecrackers and the noise of the lion or dragon dances to liven up the spirit of this auspicious occasion.

The  core of the Chinese New Year celebration is the family reunion.

                                                                                The core of the Chinese New Year celebration is the family reunion. 

In the present technologically- infused world, belief in mystical horoscopes and strict ancient religious practices of this celebration are largely displaced by other considerations, but the  core of the Chinese New Year celebrations is the family reunion with  good wishes for the coming year which resonate as strongly as ever.

With 13 states and three federal territories, each with its own distinctive history, we live in a rather complex federation spread over some 330,000 square kilometres and a population of 29 million. State governments, through their electoral systems, tend to reflect their individual characteristics, including their mix of ethnic groups, languages, belief systems and history.

In any federation, overriding power is centred at the seat of the Federal  Government, be it Canberra in Australia, Washington in the United States, Beijing in China, London in the United Kingdom or, in our case, Putrajaya. For those remote from the centre of power, this can lead to a sense of disconnect from the Federal Government.

We in Sarawak have less than nine per cent of the federation's population yet cover over one- third of its total land area. As we are some distance away from Putrajaya, we can all too easily feel this sense of disconnect, even though as a latecomer to the federation, we have specific state rights and privileges, together with our sister state, Sabah.  

A good example of a most important tool that can speed up the process of national integration is the Fourth Estate. I am referring to the important mass media.  For example,  members of the  media, especially  national newspapers or TV stations, have an important role to play in a complex federation like ours. They can help tremendously to promote national integration by reporting news from all states in just one single national edition which can be read or seen by everyone in the country.

This will result in important news, events and particularly views, opinions or proposals, for any form of improvement in the country or expounding ideals, being shared by all throughout the country.

We are one country and  should all be interested and  aware of news in our neighbouring states. When the rest of the country is not informed of important events and what the people say and think in  the  states,  the lawmakers and administrators would be severely handicapped in carrying out their duties satisfactorily.

If all are well informed, there is no great need for frequent flights between the federal capital and the different states, just to find out "what is happening there!".  This would also save a lot of precious time and money. However, having said that, visits  must continue as they show that we genuinely care for each other's well-being. Visits are, therefore, important in promoting better relationships between the centre and the states.

The loyal and  hard working media in  this country has been most responsible and has done a splendid job in helping to maintain peace and harmony in Malaysia. To each and every one of them, we owe a debt of gratitude.

I have personally been asked many times the embarrassing question if I am from Sabah, when I mentioned that my hometown is in Kuching.  This is an ongoing problem that faces every federation or union, a problem that needs to be addressed continuously to eliminate any sense of provincialism with its negative connotations.

In this sense, how the different ethnic groups celebrate their New Year in the various states gives an insight  and  shows the diversity in practices even among the same ethnic groups for the same celebration. But no matter how the event is celebrated, the objective is the same: to celebrate the New Year as one people.

Datuk Seri Ang Lai Soon,  Kuching, Sarawak

Source:  New Straits Times Letters to the Editor - 26 January 2012
Tags: education, integration

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