COMMENT G25, as a group of moderate Malaysians concerned about the peace and national unity among the various races, is in support of the suggestion from Chandra Muzaffar that the Rukunegara be made the preamble to the Federal Constitution of Malaysia.
The Rukunegara is the national ideology for creating a united and prosperous country and it is therefore appropriate that it be elevated to be the preamble to the constitution, which is the supreme law in our parliamentary democracy.
Chandra's suggestion is timely in view of the current state of national unity, which is still fragile despite the country achieving remarkable progress in its 60 years of economic development.
While in terms of income and key social indicators Malaysia is fast approaching the status of a developed country, all these impressive statistics will have little meaning if we continue to be a divided nation.
Indeed, unless we resolve the socio-political issues of race and religion that continue to cause friction among the population, and which often create barriers in formulating strong policies for growth, quality education, talent development, meritocracy, innovation and creativity, there will always be doubt about the sustainability of our development process and our progress towards a truly united nation.
It is worthwhile to remind Malaysians that when the government launched the Second Malaysia Plan (1971-1975) - the first five-year plan to incorporate the objectives of the New Economic Policy in the development programme - the plan document stated in paragraph 7 of Chapter 1 that "these objectives will be guided by the principles of Rukunegara, proclaimed on 31st August 1970".
We would like to quote from paragraph 10 of the plan document for further clarification:
"10. The quest for a national identity and unity is common to many countries, especially new and developing countries. This search for national identity and unity involves the whole range of economic, social and political activities: the formulation of education policies designed to encourage common values and loyalties among all communities and in all regions; the cultivation of a sense of dedication to the nation through services of all kinds; the careful development of national language and literature, of art and music; the emergence of truly national symbols and institutions based on the cultures and traditions of the society. The basic point is emphasised in the Rukunegara '…from these diverse elements of our population, we are dedicated to the achievement of a united nation in which loyalty and dedication to the nation shall over-ride all other loyalties'. "
National unity remains fragile
The plan document was adopted by Parliament in April 1971 and marked the start of an ambitious Outline Perspective Plan 1970-1990 under the New Economic Policy to develop the country with growth and distribution to eliminate poverty and reduce the racial imbalances in the country.
Although much of these social engineering objectives have been achieved, national unity remains fragile.
G25 concurs with Chandra that by making the Rukunegara the preamble to the Federal Constitution, it will confer upon the national ideology the status of law that will guide the courts and other institutions of justice in making fair and just decisions on issues of race and religion that threaten to adversely affect racial harmony and national unity.
By giving constitutional status to the national ideology, policy makers, administrators, civil servants, teachers and law enforcement authorities can refer to it for guidance in making the right decisions that will contribute towards national unity.
Civil society, human rights activists and members of the public can refer to the Rukunegara and cite its fundamental principles in seeking fairness and justice in the social and economic policies of the government and in the implementation of the civil and religious laws.
In these ways, the Rukunegara will become the overriding philosophy by which Malaysia develops into a truly united country with mutual respect for our diversity and multiculturalism.
We therefore appeal to all civil society organisations and to the government to give serious attention to this suggestion from Chandra Muzaffar.
G25 is a group of retired Malay top senior civil servants.