Race and religion strongly define us Malaysians. They define who we are, who we friend, who we marry, where we live and work, and who we support. Our country leaders, including those from the opposition, strive instead to encourage and strengthen these racial and religion lines, polarizing Malaysians into distrusting groups.
TN50 or National Transformation 2050 is a crowd-sourced national plan for our country from 2020 to 2050, but I am doubtful if this whole initiative will be meaningful because it ignores the elephant in the room: the growing us-vs-them mentality between Malaysians simply on the basis of one’s race and religion.
What would happen, for instance, if Lim Kit Siang, leader of the DAP political party, were in a room full of PAS supporters in the heartland of PAS? What could he possibly say that to these PAS supporters that would invoke them to genuinely cheer and applaud him? Similarly, what would Dato’ Seri Haji Abdul Hadi bin Awang, leader of the PAS political party, say to a room full of Chinese that would make these Chinese willingly stand up and give the PAS leader an honest and rousing applause?
In our current political and sociological climate, there is nothing these two leaders could say, without lying or betraying their own party, race, or religion, to their respective audience to win their admiration and support.
Yes, our mindsets are defined by our race and religion. But look closer – dig deeper. You will find we are not that different from one another in our basic needs.
We Malaysians, regardless of our race and religion, want the same things. We desire a country that provide us with ample opportunities to lead good, comfortable lives. We want an environment that provide us with opportunities for good education, work, health care, and opportunities to find love and grow old with our loved ones. We want an environment that allows us to find and develop our skills and opportunities for us to express these skills for the good of the society and even for the good of our religion and god. We desire an environment that is fair, that we are not oppressed or exploited, and that we are not cheated of our opportunities and rights.
So, yes, we Malaysians are different. One may be a Chinese, another a Malay, or one a DAP supporter but another fervent champion of PAS or UMNO – but all of us really, at the end, want the same things. No Malaysians want chaos or anarchy. No Malaysians really want to annihilate or kick out people of other races or religions. Malaysians want a tolerant society. Ultimately, our fundamental desires are what unites us all.
Until we Malaysians and our leaders understand and truly appreciate this and learn to respect one another’s race and religion and learn to downplay personal and selfish agendas to create the kind of aforementioned kind of environment, the TN50 initiative, whatever grand plans it dreams up, will be a futile exercise.