Template for a unified Malaysia

Professor Tan Sri Dato' Dzulkifli Abdul Razak
Learning Curve: Perspective
New Sunday Times - 17-11-2013

TIME TO ACT: Fundamentals of national reconciliation

LAST week saw a hive of academic and intellectual activities in Kuala Lumpur.

The events were a seminar on the Internationalisation of Higher Education, a regional conference on Sustainable Development Goals and the 2nd Congress of the National Council Of Professors, which discussed issues of national reconciliation.

The discussions provided food for thought and were highly relevant to the fast changing educational sector not only in Malaysia but also globally.

Higher education is beginning to converge as the world faces challenges that no country, let alone a university, can pretend that it have the solution. This is where the rethinking of internationalisation begins in tandem with the post-2015 development agenda as shaped by the concept of Sustainable Development Goals.

The Regent of Perak Raja Dr Nazrin Shah, who is also the acting Sultan, had identified two vital factors as prerequisites for positive changes to happen in a sustainable way.

In his royal keynote address at the congress, Raja Nazrin said Malaysia is bestowed with various resources and has a good administration with leaders who design and implement visionary and sustainable development programmes.

He cited figures and data to support his argument, but -- more importantly -- he highlighted rare quotes from the founding Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and also his ministerial contemporaries such as the late Tun Tan Siew Sin as well as Tun V. T. Sambanthan to provide historical context.

Many were surprised at their vision and commitment to nation-building. Raja Nazrin urged Malaysians to cast their minds back to the events of July 10, 1957 when Tunku Abdul Rahman as the then Chief Minister declared the promulgation of the Constitution at the Majlis Perundangan Persekutuan to promote reconciliation.

Raja Nazrin deliberated on eight other factors that Malaysia must do well to move ahead and continue to create the success stories of yesterdays.

Things have undoubtedly changed for the better but there is room for improvement and innovation.

In fact, today's "advances" have created an even more challenging environment as the nation progresses.

One example is the emergence of a two-party system that seems to characterise most developed and democratic countries. Malaysia must quickly adjust to this reality to move forward.

Still the eight points, ranging from godliness to the civil service, are important to further consolidate social cohesion and push reconciliation to a unified Malaysian nation-statehood.

Other considerations include the monarchy, Bahasa Malaysia as the lingua franca, the judiciary, articles 152 and 153 of the Federal Constitution, and the relationship between the federal government and the state.

Each of these was articulated in such a precise manner that he touched the hearts of the audience. His sincerity was obvious. At one point he could hardly hold back his emotions when relating the state of affairs of the rakyat.

He juxtaposed the findings of the New Economic Model report -- that 80 per cent earned less than RM3,000 a month, of which half with less than RM1,500 -- with the recent call by the Congress Of Unions Of Employees In The Public And Civil Services (CUEPACS) to put more RM10 notes in the automated teller machines for ease of the lower-income groups, who were unable to withdraw money as their savings are allegedly less than RM50.

Raja Nazrin's intellectual prowess and his concern for what Malaysia needs to do better were clearly evident. In many ways, his address puts into perspective the way Malaysia can be more successful by deeply understanding and acting on the fundamentals that make up a unified community.

National reconciliation -- more so, national unity -- demands that we get rid of the superficiality of one-upmanship at the expense of larger societal interest in whatever we do.

It is now left to the intellectual community to show its worth and concern by translating the substance of the speech into actions, at least in educational terms.