By Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
I am sure most Malaysians will heartily congratulate our cabinet for swiftly rejecting racism and bigotry that was openly expressed at the SMK Pusat Bandar Puchong 1 yesterday.
It is also gratifying that our Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah led a team of ministers to the Puchong school to support them in happily putting up decorations to celebrate the coming Chinese New Year.
Parti Bumi Perkasa Vice President, a lawyer himself, and the school principal claimed that the New Year lantern decorations were religious. By what stretch of their fertile imagination could they come to that unreasonable conclusion, unless they were seriously misinformed and ill advised?
Nevertheless, it's useful for the cabinet and all right-thinking true Malaysians to try to understand the logic of these educated individuals. Many will ask whether they were motivated by racism and religious bigotry or sincere desires to promote national unity and harmony?
Hence we hope the lawyer and headmistress would fully explain to the public why they had to protest against the happy, harmonious and harmless preparations by school children for Chinese New Year celebrations.
If the critics are people who will seek to condemn simple acts of festive celebrations, what can we expect if other groups do the same for other festivals? Then there would be no national unity but just national enmity and disunity. Is this what we want for ourselves and our country? Can some Malaysians be so parochial, selfish, un-Malaysian and uncaring?
They do no credit to their own values or their groups.
In fact they let us down by their narrow and skewed thinking!
This is why these critics should be pulled up and advised on what Malaysia stands for, as a multiracial and multireligious country based on our fine Constitution which promotes peace and prosperity rather than polarisation and enmity. Hence these critics should clearly explain to the public as to how and where the SMK in Puchong has violated the Constitution or these critics should be penalised for causing so much national dissatisfaction in what is already becoming a more unhappy country!
Blessing in disguise?
This sad incident can however turn out to be blessing in disguise, if we are now more convinced that we really need to have a Harmony Act. This has been contemplated for so long and often recommended, but not followed up swiftly enough.
The cabinet, chaired by Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has rightly viewed this Puchong SMK matter seriously.
We can only hope and pray that from now on, the cabinet, the government, the opposition and all our patriotic Malaysians, will resolve to act swiftly to nip in the bud all racist and bigoted activities, as the cabinet commendably acted this time.
We cannot carry on with these old reckless ways of disunity. We have to be more decisive and purposeful in our determination to fight racism and bigotry by the consistent application of the Rule of Law. The adoption of the proposed Harmony Act will be supported by the vast majority of the rakyat as true Malaysians, who will no doubt be against un-Malaysian activities that are related to racism and religious bigotry.
In this new decade 2020-30, we should not give in to any more racism and bigotry. This we must do in the interest of our national survival and well-being based on unity, peace, progress and shared prosperity.
Thus our current congratulations to the cabinet in handling the Puchong case well must encourage them to continue and strongly sustain their efforts to promote greater national unity by more strongly fighting racism and bigotry whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head.
(Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam is the Chairman of ASLI Center for Public Policy Studies.)