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LETTER | A nation with a notion for a strong potion

LETTER | As Thomas Paine, an English-born American philosopher and revolutionist said, “Those who want to reap the benefits of this great nation must bear the fatigue of supporting it”.

Taking the cue from Thomas Paine, the euphoria in 2018 with the change in government has slowly worn off and the fatigue set in with people through a dismal turnout of voters as seen during the Malacca and Johor state elections respectively.

Is this a good sign of progress or regress? Your judgment is good as mine. But if we continue this notion of no-show during GE15 due to the so-called “politics fatigue”, then we should forget about reaping the benefits of this great nation.

I believe that a strong potion to keep a great nation up to a high standard of civilization is to have superior characters that hold the balance of power. However, the very moment such a balance of power gets into the hands of second-rate men and women, then surely a nation will inevitably see a decline. Is Malaysia heading in that direction?

Our Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, on the occasion of his majesty’s recent official birthday, has decreed that any deficit of confidence in the country’s ability must be addressed soon to enable the country to rise again on the world stage.

Nations do not succumb to lost wars, but rather through racial decay and the destruction of their internal order by compromising them one after the other, which Malaysia is now facing. Look around and observe: we have already compromised the systems of governance, education, etc. 

Remember, our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. Continuously being silent, thereafter, will surely spell disaster.

According to the ancient Chinese philosopher Laozi, “A great nation is like a great man: When he makes a mistake, he realises it. Having realised it, he admits it. Having admitted it, he corrects it. He considers those who point out his faults as his most benevolent teachers. He thinks of his enemy as the shadow that he himself casts.”

What is the notion needed by the nation for a strong potion to regain our strength? Due to space constraints, let me just state a few, but there are many more that we could sight.

1. Nurturing true governance

As Malaysians, we need to take a notion to cast our vote during general and by-elections instead of avoiding them. Now, more than ever, we must be responsible and held accountable for choosing the character that represents us in Parliament.

If Parliament becomes ignorant, reckless and corrupt, it is because we as a nation tolerate ignorance, recklessness and corruption. If Parliament is transformed into an intelligent, brave and pure institution, it is because we as a nation demand these high qualities to represent us.

If by the next two decades we do not rise as a great nation, it will be because we failed to have those who represent us in the institution with the character to nurture true governance. If we condone, then we are condemned.

We need a strong potion in the form of a government that aspires to inspire and build the dreams of the nation.

2) Elect representatives with character, competence

I have had enough of hearing the need for an “Anti-Hopping Law”. The last thing I wish to have is a representative transforming from a lawmaker to a troublemaker for the constituents by changing allegiance instead of serving the people.

If any of these representatives are devoid of any credibility or a moral compass, then we as a nation must adopt the notion to have recall elections to disallow such representatives from continuing to represent us.

A strong potion will be for the Election Commission (EC) to accept a petition from the constituents stating reasons why the said elected representative should be replaced by a recall election. How and what criteria are required for setting the petition will be left for the EC’s deliberation.

Remember that as a nation, we have to choose our representative with character and calibre in our August House. I repeat, in our August House.

3) Revitalise the role of parents, teachers

As the former president of India, the late and revered APJ Abdul Kalam aptly puts it, “If a country is to be corruption free and become a nation of beautiful minds, I strongly feel there are three key societal members who can make a difference. They are the father, mother and teacher.”

In my upbringing, I was told the sequence is mother, father, guru and God in raising ornamental citizens for great nations.

In revitalising the role of parents and teachers, the family institution will be strengthened and the school, as a place to build character and academic excellence for nation-building, will help to fortify future leaders with great foresight and upholding governance.

4) Quality through unity

Our coat of arms states “Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu”, where all states, including the federal territories, are directed to stay united. Although used in all dealings of the government, sadly its meaning, characteristics and values are not reflected and emulated. We still see states exerting their respective line of control, which is always out of control.

A classic example is the issue of floods. I can’t understand why we are unable to work as a nation, right from the federal level to each state government having a concerted effort to tackle and resolve the flood issues.

If addressing the inflow and outflow of rivers, drainage and etc of each state is the national solution to arrest flooding, then cohesively erase the line of control for the betterment of this nation.

We should not compete among the states but complement one another so that “Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu” becomes a reality. Our competing spirit should be channelled towards outside Malaysia in placing our country in the global arena.

5) Uniting all races, ethnicities

Let’s wake up and stand united as postulated in our Rukun Negara. At this crucial juncture, we don’t need divisive policies but policies that are inclusive in building upon the strength of our ethnicities to strive and thrive.

A strong potion will be to adopt national values that add to our national interest. In having national values embedded with the aspirations of the Rukun Negara, we will start to embrace one another in charting our growth towards nation-building. A classic example is Indonesia with its creed to succeed in emulating their Pancasila.

I leave you with a quote borrowed from Abraham Lincoln: “Let the people on both sides keep their self-possession, and just as other clouds have cleared away in due time, so will this, and this great nation shall continue to prosper as before.”

Hence, I hope at such times of difficulty, we as a nation, display the whole energy of our character strengths and regain admiration to posterity by reflecting our real strength in becoming a USA nation - United Strength of Asia.

I like to share the philosophy of “Ubuntu” as lived by the Zulus. Ubuntu literally means rising in humanity, where “I am because we are”, or “I am because you are”, with a firm belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all of us.

In Malaysia, we had that spirit in the form of the word “muhibbah”, but it has been grossly eroded over the last four to five decades. We need to recalibrate our emotions and subscribe to the notion that “I am who I am because of my nation and country”.

Let’s stop whining and start to live as a winning nation, where we stop complaining and start complementing one another. Remember, we fight a global race by ace on our diverse strengths.

If in the olden days, our parents could have made instant noodles shared by a large family, school shoes and clothing passed on from one child to the other, why can’t we pass the baton of a strong nation to the next generation?

Although life was tough then, living and growing were enthralling. Ask anyone from that generation, they would vouch for the same. However, can we say the same now in Malaysia? Are we really living well, having better wellbeing, lifestyle, etc?

My late father, as a government servant then and with a meagre salary, could provide shelter, food and clothing for us in a family of six. However, today, even with a small family, we cannot meet the ever-rising costs of living.

After 65 years of independence, survival should not be a question. Thriving and striving should be natural. Our neighbouring countries are growing leaps and bounds, but we are still saddled with heaps of issues and finding it difficult to rebound.

The US took 300 years of development to get to where it is today, with many of us calling it a superpower. Singapore took 50 years to be where it is today, even without many resources. Japan and Germany were devastated after World War II but they thrived by having a value-creation mindset.

However, we, with a set mind before creating value, such as creating employment opportunities, economic growth, environment, etc, from our rich and vast resources bestowed by the Almighty, decided to scrape the bottom and concentrated our efforts on its distribution and having a subsidiary mentality.

A great nation will not want someone to give them a fish a day, but instead to teach them how to catch fish to sustain their daily living.

We need to reset these notions so that we could have a concoction to produce a potion that is potent enough in building this nation. What we lost all these years could be regained to allow us to make gains in the long run.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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