Malay unity talks must lead to a truly Malaysian unity

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OVER the past few weeks, we have witnessed talks on unity from across political lines. Whether it is in terms of political cooperation, or Malay unity – I have always been consistent, I support any effort to unite Malaysians at any level. Whether it begins at the societal level, or between the Malays first, we must realise that this effort has been undertaken since before our days of Independence.

In 1946, my grandfather Onn Ja’afar convened a meeting of more than 40 Malay organisations, uniting the Malays to oppose the British Empire and the formation of the Malayan Union. While this led to the founding of the United Malays National Organisation (Umno), he realised an independent Malaysia will not be able to succeed only based on Malay unity. This led to his resignation from Umno in 1951 because they rejected his proposal to open Umno’s membership to all races.

History is repeating itself, though not in exactly the same way. Whether Muafakat Nasional or the Kongres Maruah Melayu, the central focus of these events may be seeds which have been planted to grow into a larger theme of unity which involves the other races that make up our multiracial nation.

I know, and it is expected, that the racial rhetoric surrounding these events have led to people of other races feeling sidelined and attacked, shadowing any good intentions these events may have aimed to achieve. This threatens to unravel the fragility of our society.

Instead, we should focus our attention on the struggle and determination of the leaders to unite the Malays, who represent the majority of our population. Non-Malays, however, must not be worried, as we understand that Malay unity cannot come at the expense of the unity of all Malaysians, it is purely the foundation of a larger, all-encompassing effort to unite our divided country.

As I have said before on July 8:

“I remind all parties linked to the unity of the Malays not to be arrogant as others are watching, including the party that offered cooperation in discussing this unity, which is important for the Malays. And what of the unification of other races in the future? All sentiments must be taken into account”

And on Aug 15:

“Strengthening social harmony and unity is more important now than ever. I’m not here to blame anyone; I am writing this as a concerned Malaysian. There’s too much negativity out there.”

Malaysia seems to be stuck in a whirlwind of hate speech and fake news, fuelled by worsening racial relations which both sides of the political divide are responsible for. But who must take the lead in coming up with a solution?

We as the political leaders of the country must take charge and realise we need to fix this before it gets worse. I admit, this may not be an easy journey but we must persevere. There may be many incidents where lashing out will seem like the easiest option, but don’t give in. Good sense and sincerity must prevail in wanting to see Malaysia move forward. If we, as leaders, truly care about the good people of our nation, we must exercise leadership and heal those who are hurt.

Admittedly, the economy has also taken a hit due to this political uncertainty following the aftermath of the 14th General Election. Commodity prices are falling, unemployment is on the rise and people are feeling the pinch. Austerity measures and belt-tightening only serve as short-term stop-gap measures and do not benefit the nation in the long run.

I believe that any policies implemented today will only be overshadowed and not have a positive impact on the people until political stability and certainty is restored.

Furthermore, we must not discount the risks involving security surrounding the country, with unwanted forces potentially exploiting our divided society. Threats to national unity, combined with a flagging economy, and security threats serve a potent and dangerous mix for Malaysia’s future.

We must stop and realise that it is now time to heal. It will take a lot of courage, and decisions made may not be popular – but this is crucial and needs to be addressed and deliberated with sense and not emotion.

We must do more to create a nation in which our children and grandchildren will be grateful for. The good people of Malaysia want to see some sense in all this chaos, and they must see these efforts as foundations laid down for a brighter future. We cannot deny that it has to start somewhere, and the Malays have taken a proactive initiative with our own household, but it must not stop there.

We must be optimistic in bringing a positive narrative forward, to build on what has been done to include all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion and creed.

To work patiently, to unite our fractured nation, to heal the divide, and to endure whatever tomorrow will bring. Always remember, #MalaysiaDeservesBetter.

Hishammuddin Hussein is an Umno member and a former cabinet minister.
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