LETTER | Sixty-two years ago in 1957, Malaya gained independence. The new nation was blessed at birth with a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious society with strong natural resources and natural beauty.
Despite the very serious challenges facing our new nation, we were fortunately also blessed with honest, strong, competent and dedicated founding fathers and able leaders, especially in the early years.
There was good governance, credible national institutions like a well-established parliamentary system, the judiciary, the security and civil service.
Most importantly, poverty which was widespread at independence was considerably reduced as we moved forward, thanks to assertive rural development policies. There was also little corruption and much less cronyism for many years after Merdeka.
But after 60 years of government by one political party, we realised that we had been going off the track with rising corruption, cronyism and worsening national unity, more religious intolerance, more racism and widening income inequality.
That’s when we as a nation said “enough is enough” and gallantly threw out the old BN government in a uniquely democratic Malaysian way, under circumstances of peace and stability.
A new Malaysia! But for this evolution, we should learn from our lessons and head for a better "New Malaysia". What are our aspirations and resolutions for a "New Malaysia"?
On this auspicious 62nd Merdeka, can we all resolve to develop a New Malaysia Policy (NMP) as follows:
1. Apply the NEP to all Malaysians regardless of race or religion. Make the NEP a needs-based socio-economic policy and not carry on with a race-based policy as it is practised now. This change in policy will remove the sense of alienation that most non-Malays and even many neglected bumiputera now feel.
2. Provide greater priority in raising the opportunities for higher incomes for the B40 groups of all races, through better and more skills-based education and training programmes.
3. Reject compulsory training in some non-academic studies that are not directly related to raising the present generally low quality of education at almost all levels. Provide more technical and vocational-training and teach more Science and English. This is essential to make our graduates more readily employable, to meet market demands and to get a more rounded education.
4. There should be more equal business and employment opportunities in both the government and the private sectors. The civil service and the business sectors have to be more multiracial in employment.
One way to encourage more multiracial ownership and more balanced employment in the private sector in the context of the new policy of “Shared Prosperity“ would be to innovate with new tax incentives in this coming Budget 2020 to implement shared prosperity practically and realistically.
5. National schools could teach our mother tongues to encourage more multiracial national schools. The present perception of the so-called Islamic national schools should change. We could thus teach Islamic Studies after school hours.
Then, national schools could become more multiracial and less parochial and indeed develop into schools of choice.
6. The present campaign against corruption, cronyism and money politics must be stepped up and just not be carried forward in parts if not wholesale. Any form of continuation of any elements of these very bad practices will undermine the national interest and the public's wellbeing and welfare.
7. The government has to go harder against hate speech and those elements who promote racial and religious conflict. Foreign hate speakers and external financing to promote social unrest should be dealt with more sternly and quickly. The government should not be soft in protecting these undesirable foreign and even local troublemakers that can cause major disunity and instability.
8. The public institutions should be further strengthened and made more independent of any political interference. This is an essential prerequisite to safeguard the integrity and sustainability and indeed the very independence and sovereignty of our nation,
9. With climate change and global warming on the rise, we face major challenges. We have to take tougher measures to address them and not look at short-term profits and neglect the longer-term devastation of our dear Mother Earth.
10. Finally, as far as possible we should preach and actually practice universal human rights in a more sincere and serious manner. We can always protect our religious and cultural values and adopt human rights at the same time.
For our 62nd Merdeka, let us all Malaysians pledge to protect our precious constitution, our unifying Rukun Negara and resolve to aspire for a better Malaysia.
May God continue to bless our beloved country and our people - always!
The writer is chairperson, Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies.
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.