Malaysians reminded of their multiracial history

Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Aug 17 13:25:56 UTC 2005

The Star Online > Nation

Wednesday August 17, 2005

A concept for all Malaysians

KUALA LUMPUR: Almost a year ago, MCA president Datuk Seri Ong Ka Ting
introduced the Rakyat Malaysia (Citizens of Malaysia) concept at the
partys general assembly to remind Malaysians of their multiracial history
and to foster unity in diversity. Today the concept is even more timely,
said Ong, because over the past decade, we are getting a little concerned
as people are starting to compare among themselves to see who is more

He said some people use language, schooling and religion as measures of
who was more Malaysian. I think it is high time we remind everybody,
especially those Malaysians who may not be well aware of the
constitutional spirit, that Rakyat Malaysia is the right concept, said the
Local Government and Housing Minister.

Ong: 'The so-called ethnic borders should no longer be borders to us' That
was why he started talking about Rakyat Malaysia at last years gathering,
he said, adding that his speech had created some awareness but he hoped
the awareness could go another level higher. Last October, as an
initiative to help manifest the Rakyat Malaysia concept, Ong had voiced
his support for the student integration programme proposed by Datuk Seri
Abdullah Ahmad Badawi when he was Education Minister in the mid-1980s.

Today, under the leadership of (Education Minister) Datuk Hishammuddin
Hussein and with the Prime Ministers blessing, this programme has been
reintroduced, noted Ong. Focusing on sports, co-curriculum and
reintegration, the programme was launched last month with the aim of
integrating over five million students of different races in national
Malay-medium and vernacular schools.

Ong promised that MCA elected representatives and local grassroots leaders
would help the Education Ministry to ensure that Chinese schools
participated in the programme. As a member of the National Service Cabinet
Committee headed by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Ong
also supported the National Service programme as a way of strengthening
the spirit of Rakyat Malaysia.

MCA briefed community leaders and Ong brought national leaders of all
Chinese clans and associations to meet Najib before the programme took
off. Ong personally interviewed some of the teenagers who returned after
the programme. They told him it was a real eye-opener, a fantastic
experience where they could get to know so many people from different

Regarding the Governments hope that citizens will think of themselves as
Malaysians first before thinking about ethnicity, Ong cited studies by Dr
Heng Pek Koon from the American University in Washington. The Malaysian
academic conducted three surveys in 1999, 2000 and last year among
Malaysian college students and young professionals on issues relating to
ethnic identity, national identity and inter-ethnic relations, among

Ong noted that 80% of the Chinese students stated their national identity
as Rakyat Malaysia was more important than their ethnic identity. They
valued their national identity because of the constitutional guarantees
for multilingual education and cultural and religious diversity, he said.

They supported the national language policy and did not request that
Mandarin be made an official language. When asked why they were proud to
be Malaysians, more than 80% of the Chinese students said it was due to
the countrys multiracial harmony, social and political stability and
successful economic development, Ong said.

He also applied the concept to the economy. It probably may be even more
effective and more acceptable if we look at Malaysians as a multiracial
composition, as one race, the Malaysian race, with the Rakyat Malaysia
spirit. And within the wider Rakyat Malaysia concept, we talk about the
richer Malaysians and the poorer Malaysians. Then we narrow the gap.

We cannot fight among ourselves but have to foster the same Malaysian
spirit to look for wealth within and outside the country together. Given
the global scenario of much instability politically, economically and
socially and uncertainty, how else can we adapt to the changing
environment to achieve Vision 2020 if we do not move as one united force
and nation?

We are facing a borderless world. The so-called ethnic borders should no
longer be borders to us because we cannot even have borders between
countries, he said.  Bernama

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