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A Short Note on Reconciliation

Former Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad had once described the state of Malaysia’s inter-ethnic relations as one that can be termed as “racial stability”, rather than racial harmony. We have had several conflicts and skirmishes in the past but generally we succeeded in overcoming the differences. But post-13th General Elections saw yet again the rise in the racio-political temperature. It is high time that something serious needs to be done to ensure that our fundamental structures –unity, peace and harmony – are free from threats that may come in the form of external or internal extremist organisations, groups or ideologies.

 

The idea of the "National Reconciliation" seminar was based on our strong conviction and consciousness that a long lasting peace and unity is in our national interest. It is something that is paramount and uncompromised. As a matter of fact, it forms the fundamental structure for our nation’s social, economic, political and cultural progress and development. In essence, it is something that cannot be taken lightly. This is in line with the Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Najib Tun Razak’s vision which aims to unite Malaysians of all race and religious backgrounds, especially after such a competitive and divisive 13th General Elections.

 

The seminar addressed several critical issues and possible framework for reconciliation. Datuk Prof Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi deliberated on the issue of the Federal Constitution as the basis for reconciliation. He argued that a reconciliation process requires a willingness to listen, to compromise and to forge an agreement on fundamental issues. Datuk Prof Dr Teo Kok Seong highlighted the importance of Malay, as the national language, as the major instrument for reconciliation, while Dr Chandra Muzaffar offered a historical analysis on Malaysia’s inter-ethnic relations. Dr Chandra stressed on the need to understand the history of the nation that has evolved from what is essentially a Malay polity to a multi-ethnic polity and the need to understand not just the rights of a citizen but more importantly the responsibility of a citizen.

 

The challenges that we face today are different from the Merdeka generation. The 21st century threats are more challenging, diverse and multipolar in nature. The present wave of globalisation and new communication technologies such as the internet and social media networks for instance, are opening up new floodgates of information and communication that allows a near-absolute freedom of information and freedom of speech for anyone anywhere and anytime. Therefore, in such a volatile environment, how do we ensure greater peace and harmony among the citizens? 


Therefore, perhaps a new strategic and coordinated formula of a “National Reconciliation” framework should be formulated, implemented and put into action to ensure that the objectives and the mission is appropriate and relevant to the needs and wants of the present information age. This is important in finding a concrete solution towards creating a new intellectual and progressive generation especially in achieving the goals of Vision 2020.


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Note: The post above is an excerpt from a monograph which I co-edited with my colleague, which is due for publication by year end. It is quite significant to note that one of the ideas advocated strongly by one of the panel speaker, Dr Chandra Muzaffar, on the need to form a National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC) has finally been materialised and launched recently by none other than the Prime Minister himself. Of course it is still too soon to make judgement. Forming a national committee won't solve the issues of racial prejudice, stereotypes, injustice and so forth; but nevertheless the NUCC is a step in the right direction.

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