Last Saturday, I attended a forum on Bangsa Malaysia organised by the Wanita Gerakan. The 3 speakers who spoke at the forum were Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam, Professor Emeritus Khoo Kay Khim and Dato' Dahan of YKSM.
Professor Khoo spoke about the history of Malaya. On the colonial history, he said that the 9 Malay kingdoms were never colonised although the British was responsible for their administration. Only the straits settlements were under the direct rule of the British. He highlighted the importance of history and warned against the distortion of historical facts which may alter our understanding of historical past.
Professor Khoo blamed the way we practice politics as the main cause of racial polarisation. He said that in a true democratic system, the people are the bosses and not the politicians. The politicians must be accountable to the people and the system. If any of them finds it hard to comply with the democratic system e.g. separation of power, accountability and transparency, he/she should resign from the position.
I am a little disturbed by the speech made by Dato' Dahan. He told us that the use of the term 'Bangsa Malaysia' shows that Gerakan does not understand the Malays. He said that to the Malays, the term 'Bangsa' means 'race'. His point was disputed by Professor Khoo who referred the usage to 'Bangsa-Bangsa Bersatu' which is a direct translation of the United Nations.
To me, it is not fruitful to argue on semantics. Many Malaysians who supported the creation of a truly 'Bangsa Malaysia' did not interpret the term as the creation of a new Malaysian race vis through inter-marriages. Bangsa Malaysia denotes two elements; First, there should be political, social and economic justice, fairness and equality to all Malaysians regardless of race or creed. This is a legalistic interpretation which seeks to protect the rights of all Malaysians which are enshrined in the Federal Constitution.
Second, the concept of Bangsa Malaysia takes a deeper and non-legalistic social dimension. It reflects our acceptance of a certain way of life, some parts of our shared cultures, values and beliefs and the love for the country as a generic Malaysian culture. It should be noted that many of us do enjoy the food and culture (music, language, dances etc.) of other communities.
Arguing on rhetoric and semantics are not going to get us anywhere. If we desire the creation of a truly Bangsa Malaysia, then we should work together to fight racism in politics.
SAY NO TO RACISM!