By Yay Tian Yan, Sin Chew Daily
To be honest, I have grown utterly bored by our ministers' sluggish fire rescue operations.
After the education ministry has issued a ban for Muslim students to take part in ponggal celebration, these big shots now come and tell us ponggal is only an Indian culture and is not religious.
Prior to this, they asserted that CNY decorations were Chinese culture, not religion, after the red lanterns had been taken down from a school in town.
The lantern incident needed to be taken to the cabinet before we could see any remedial action from government top guns.
So, the ponggal incident should also be taken to the cabinet for deliberation before any solution could be expected.
And soon we will have a whole lot more festivities such as the Gawai festival of Sarawak's Ibans, the Gawai Dayak, the Vaisakhi harvest festival of the Sikhs and so on and so forth. Just get ready for some people making a big fuss about them in a bid to stop others from celebrating.
And soon afterward our ministers are anticipated to jump out and explain: No, this is not religious, just the culture of... We'll discuss it in the cabinet meeting.
Such educated and respected people in the likes of the deputy director-general of education and Jakim officials shouldn't have been so ignorant that ponggal is a cultural and not religious event.
If they were not trying to fool the public, then there must be some really serious problem with their cultural upbringing and knowledge. It will be utterly disastrous putting the future of our young generation in their hands.
Or perhaps as the Putra madman Mohd Khairul said: You think I don't know lantern is a Chinese culture, not religion?
At least he was honest enough. He was only playing the game of "perception" and "fact". By twisting "fact" (culture) into a "perception" (religion), he managed to put a great deal of pressure on the Muslims and create a strong indignation among them.
As for our ministers, they are still taking turns to explain to the people that this is culture, not religion.
Many are aware of the differences between culture and religion, but those who love to set the fire will continue to do so, and those who prefer to go extreme or to blindly believe in their claims will continue to do the same.
As for the rest of us, we will only be hurt more and our society torn further apart, after listening to such repetitive explanations.
Our cabinet ministers appear to be more like firefighters, busily putting out the fire where one has been started.
The fire is already there, the damage has been done, and the people's rage ignited. These people only realise they ought to put out the fire after grave damage is wrought.
Our cabinet ministers should not be just assuming the firefighting role, nor is our government the fire and rescue department. Otherwise, the whole country could be burned down when the fire gets out of control like the bushfires in Australia.
We all know that prevention is better than cure. Instead of scurrying to put out the fire after one has been started, why don't they prevent its onset in the first place?
From the anti-ICERD rally to the Malay Dignity Congress, and from protesting against Dong Jiao Zong to intimidating the Chinese associations congress, to CNY lanterns and now ponggal, all that we see is wilful acts of arson!
So, what are the preventive measures that can be adopted?
1. The now dusted National Harmony Bill needs to be taken out of the locked drawer at the AG's Chambers, legislated and cited to deal with culprits who spread hatred and undermine racial harmony in our country.
2. The government should issue circulars to warn all officials, in particular those at education ministry and schools, that stern actions will be taken against them if they are found doing things which may hurt the feelings of other ethnic communities and jeopardise interracial relations. The public university VC who spoke at the Malay Dignity Congress and the school principal who instructed that CNY decorations at her school be taken down, must not be spared.
3. Draw up a national education curriculum to introduce various ethnic cultures and religions at primary, secondary and tertiary levels. Instill in the students the spirit of muhibbah and inclusiveness. Any aberrant module, such as the UniMAP test paper glorifying Indian fugitive Zakir Naik, must be dealt with sternly.
4. Parties on both sides of the political divide shall pledge together not to fish for electoral votes by inciting racial sentiments.
5. Meanwhile, the prime minister cum acting education minister should set an example himself to express his unwavering resolution to preserve harmony in our multicultural society and map out a post-disaster roadmap to firm up national solidarity.