IT WAS the same old thoughtless remark from a rash politician: Leave the country if you don’t like the Barisan Nasional government.
This time, it came from Kuantan Wanita Umno chief Datuk Zaiton Mat after she lodged a police report last week against a New Year’s Eve rally in Kuala Lumpur, supposedly organised to topple the government.
As expected, the remark drew a storm of protest from Opposition politicians. But what was interesting and heartening to see was the reaction from her fellow Umno colleagues.
In the past, they would have stayed mum, presumably to avoid being caught up in the controversy and also because it wasn’t nice to criticise a comrade.
This time, however, two Umno MPs quickly spoke up: “This country does not belong to Umno or BN only,” said Titiwangsa MP Datuk Johari Abdul Ghani.
Pulai MP Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed was quoted as saying Zaiton should have kept her opinion to herself as it was hurtful and had “angered many Malaysians”.
Yes indeed. Even though Zaiton might not have targeted any particular community, such remarks rankle with Malaysian Chinese and Indians because they have been told too often by politicians, newspaper columnists and even teachers to go back to China or India if they have so much to complain about. So, it was good to see the strong and swift reaction against Zaiton for throwing out this very old chestnut again.
To me, it shows people are beginning to take heed of what Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak said at the recent MCA AGM: The only way forward is to return to the principles of the country’s forefathers which are still relevant and that whatever spoken and done should not cause hurt to others.
“This is not rocket science. If we want to safeguard harmony with each other, we cannot hurt the feelings of others,” he added.
Amid all the gloom and doom about the spiralling cost of living, this was a bright little spot as we move rather tentatively into the new year.
And that is my fervent wish and hope for 2014: for the nation to move away from the bitterness and anger generated by the general election.
Instead, we want our elected representatives to reach out beyond communal and political fault lines and represent all our interests, without fear or favour.
We saw a bit of that when BN Backbenchers Club chairman Tan Sri Shahrir Samad spoke up against any bid to increase toll charges, citing BN’s GE13 promise.
“The main point here is that our manifesto states that toll charges will be reduced in stages and because of this the BNBBC hopes there will not be any increase at all,” he said.
Yay! More please and not just that: take up Najib’s call to return to the principles of the country’s forefathers too.
While it wasn’t reported what these principles are, I would like to assume they are what was uttered by Tunku Abdul Rahman in the proclamation of independence on Aug 31, 1957: ... with God’s blessing shall be forever a sovereign, democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations.”
And in the preamble to the Rukunegara: “Ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural tradition.”
I found these quotes in The Tunku’s great ideas by Lenard Lim Yangli, a report published by the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas), a think tank which was inspired by Tunku’s vision.
After sifting through Tunku’s writings, speeches, interviews and anecdotes from others, Lim believes our first prime minister was a “classical liberal” who subscribed to the principles of the rule of law, limited government, free market and individual liberty.
Under the chapter on Limited Government, Lim quotes from Tunku’s column in The Star published in Dec 24, 1984: “We must respect the wishes of the people. This is the very essence of democracy. Men in their official capacity with power vested in them should always be mindful of the feelings of others, particularly the small man.”
Got that, YB Zaiton?
But being liberal these days is viewed with suspicion, together with the notions of pluralism and individual liberty.
Tunku, however, was suspicious of politics intruding into personal liberty: “In the old days, people never bothered about what others did, so long as they were free to do what they liked themselves. Today one cannot sneeze without being corrected, let alone enjoy oneself. That’s what politics have done to our society.”
Are the principles and beliefs of our Bapa Malaysia still relevant? If the Prime Minister thinks so, then I live in hope that we can see a shift towards reviving them in government, politics and society.
Before I take my leave, I would like to review my own year that was. My resolutions for 2013 were to change my unhealthy lifestyle and to try to get a work-life balance. I even cut my hair short so that I could exercise more.
Well, I failed on all accounts. My life is still unbalanced, I work 14 hours on most days, I haven’t hit the treadmill in six months and my weight and cholesterol are up. My hair has grown back too.
Still, I intend to give it another go. I have started doing push-ups in my bathroom, taking the stairs to reach my office on the 5th floor and – this is the best part – activated Walking Mate on my Samsung Note. Target: 10,000 steps a day. I started a month-and-a-half ago. So far, I have only hit 10,000 steps once – when I spent a day shopping.
Happy New Year, everyone.
Aunty takes heart from Churchill’s wisdom: Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
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