Will the 1 MALAYSIA program be revisited? Polarised voting in Malaysian General Elections:

10 May 2013 06:30 pm - 1     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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By Salma Yusuf


NajibRazak entered his second term as Malaysia’s Prime Minister on 6 May 2013 after closely contested general elections. The 13th General Elections reflected a trend of polarisation in voters which has become starkly obvious. Najib’s ruling Barisan Nasional retained power in Sunday’s general election by winning 133 parliamentary seats, a simple majority in the 222-seat lower house of parliament.

It failed to improve from the 2008 elections when it lost its long held two-third parliamentary majority, as more voters, especially the Chinese minority who consisted of around 25 percent of the total population, swung to the opposition, causing a heavy blow to the Chinese based parties in the Barisan.  “We will continue to promote moderation among multi-racial Malaysians as the Barisan government places great importance on racial harmony and national unity,” he said.

Najib Razak who is also BN chairman, said there were a lot of sentiments, some racial in nature, highlighted in the elections, which he described as “very unhealthy” for the country. “We want the people to realise that for the sake of the country, policies of the moderate should be accepted as our national policy,” he told a press conference after the Election Commission (EC) announced that the BN had secured a simple majority in the 13th General Elections.

The Malaysian Chinese Association, the major Chinese component party within the coalition, won merely seven parliamentary seats in the total 37 seats it contested, down from 15 seats in the last elections. Its president Chua SoiLek reiterated after the announcement of election results, that his party would not accept any cabinet position as it won less seats than in the previous elections.
Against such a backdrop, and amid fresh calls for national unity and reconciliation by Prime Minister Najib Razak following his country’s 13th General Elections, a natural question that could arise in coming weeks is whether Razak’s national vision of 1Malaysia will be reconsidered, revisited and revised in his second term in office.


NATIONAL VISIONS GROUNDED IN DOCUMENTS OF DESTINY
Upon ascending to Malaysia’s highest public office in April 2009, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Dato’ Sri NajibTun Razak introduced a vision that he hoped would bring about inter-ethnic harmony and national unity to his country, once and for all. It is not the only, but definitely the latest, expression of resolve by the Malaysian government to foster peaceful ethnic relations among the communities domiciled in the country since it gained independence from British colonial rule.
The 1Malaysia concept, as it is called, espouses a culture of excellence, perseverance, acceptance, education, integrity, meritocracy, humility and loyalty. Since independence, national unity has been made top priority in Malaysia involving unity in education, culture, socio-economy, political and regional affairs. 1Malaysia seeks to improve the relations of all Malaysians, regardless of racial, religious or cultural backgrounds.

Despite the commitment to foster ethnic harmony among communities since Independence, there remain certain major concerns that need to be addressed in order to seriously engage in the 1Malaysia concept. Without addressing the major concerns, it is believed that all efforts towards national unity will be in vain.
The 1Malaysia concept essentially unveiled the guiding principle to build a united and progressive nation, and to inculcate the spirit and values of togetherness and sense of belonging, regardless of race, religion and creed.


THE CONTEXT
Prior to the 1970s, Malays were deemed rural in lifestyle as well as livelihood. The Chinese were seen as the tycoons, pillaging away the rich bounty of the land. The Indians were restricted to thrive among the shades of rubber trees.
Needless to say, the aforementioned segregations and economic disparity were a recipe for doom. In 1969, the infamous bloody riot of May 13 occurred. This was the ultimate display of intolerance and was sadly and eternally recorded in the annals of the country’s history. The tragic event of May 13 had made the government of the day realise that the matter of racial harmony ought to be the foremost of all priorities.

Accordingly, respective measures were drawn up so as to find the equilibrium which worked for all communities. For instance, the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced as a means to tackle the great economic disparities among the races in Malaysia and to eradicate poverty regardless of race. Money, and general wealth by extension, was indeed a sore point. Affirmative action, which is what NEP is all about, was seen as a mechanism to counter such problems. It however, came under fire with growing discontent among certain groups who felt that the fruits of development were being enjoyed by selected groups only. The redistribution of wealth was deemed as a “Robin Hood-like manoeuvre” which would hamper the nation’s growth. Unfazed by critics, the NEP continued and managed to bring Malaysia out of the hostile era of the late 1960s into a more peaceful period of the 1980s.

" Flash forward, and now, many years later, the issue of achieving racial harmony is still top priority. This is where 1Malaysia fits into the current discourse on national governance. According to the Prime Minister’s personal website, 1Malaysia is described as intending to “…provide a free and open forum to discuss the things that matter deeply to us as a Nation "

Flash forward, and now, many years later, the issue of achieving racial harmony is still top priority. This is where 1Malaysia fits into the current discourse on national governance. According to the Prime Minister’s personal website, 1Malaysia is described as intending to “…provide a free and open forum to discuss the things that matter deeply to us as a Nation. It provides a chance to express and explore the many perspectives of our fellow citizens. What makes Malaysia unique is the diversity of our peoples. 1Malaysia’s goal is to preserve and enhance this unity in diversity which has always been our strength and remains our best hope for the future. I hope this Website will initiate an open and vital dialogue exploring our Malaysian identity, purpose, and direction. I encourage each of you to join me in defining our Malaysia and the role we must play in its future. Each of us — despite our differences — shares a desire for a better tomorrow. Each of us wants opportunity, respect, friendship, and understanding.”


THE VISION
It is the intention of the Malaysian government that the people of Malaysia be given ownership of the 1Malaysia project. The vision is expressed by the leadership, but the implementation is left to the people and hence allows a degree of flexibility and inclusiveness for fresh and innovative thinking and initiatives. 1Malaysia’s lineage is not confined to the Malaysian Constitution. It is also guided by what are commonly referred to as Malaysia’s “Documents of Destiny” together with the Malaysian Constitution, namely, the Rukunegara, or The National Philosophy, with its commitment to national unity, among other goals, and the NEP that had pledged to eradicate poverty irrespective of ethnicity and restructure society in order to reduce the identification of ethnicity with economic function. The third document is Wawasan 2020 or Vision 2020 which aims to bring Malaysia to a ‘middle-income’ status country by the year 2020.

The values of 1Malaysia are most certainly idealistic. An understanding of those values would depict an emphasis on hard work and virtues. But one value, i.e. integrity is considered to stand tall above the rest, in which without it, the rest will be mere rhetoric. The core of any project or task undertaken is the integrity of the parties involved. Should the moral compass of one side be skewed to fit whatever interests there may be, success would remain elusive. Integrity as described by the Prime Minister of Malaysia is all about government’s relations with the people.

It should be added that integrity in the concept of 1Malaysia is not intended to be just between the government in power with the people who put them in power, but also between the government sector and that of the private enterprises. This is, as a matter of fact, the cornerstone of ‘Malaysia Incorporated’ as was proposed and executed by the former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad in 1983.


THE ACHIEVEMENT
It is believed that the 1Malaysia concept has helped foster a sense of ‘togetherness’ amongst a lot of young Malaysians;  1Malaysia has been associated with government upon extending assistance to the poor and needy, regardless of ethnicity. That social justice is more important than ethnic or religious affiliation is a key message of the 1Malaysia vision. For the first time the government of Malaysia is seen to be rewarding ability and excellence irrespective of ethnicity. The School Certificate Examination in 2010 which awarded scholarships to 9A plus scorers was testimony to this. Through 1Malaysia, efforts are being made to increase the intake of non-Malays into the Civil Service, Police and Armed Forces and to ensure greater mobility in the public institutions.

salmayusuf@gmail.com

  Comments - 1

  • Prof Hemantha Wickra Saturday, 11 May 2013 01:03 AM

    As i live in Malaysia, I read this as a very nice article.


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