By Kuik Cheng Kang, Sin Chew Daily
The last time I met PKR president Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was in July this year.
Right then the Anwar who was seated next to me was meek, unaggressive, quite unlike the man I used to know.
Has he really changed? That question continued to possess my heart even after the interview.
I have always had reservations about Anwar's words ever since he was released from the prison.
I recall when I was sent to interview him in the 90s at a time many saw him as very Umno, very racist, very Islamic, someone who was constantly bashing Chinese language education in the country!
When asked whether he was no longer that same guy he was in Umno, Anwar concluded: It's wrong to say I have not become more mature.
He was attempting to justify his radical posture when he was only slightly above 30, reiterating his insistence in the national language policy while expressing his view that the Chinese language has indeed become increasingly important in the world.
During the interview he stressed that a country's leader must always promote the concept of fairness and justice in order to take the country out of the current racial dilemma.
After Tun Mahathir announced that he would set up a new Malays-only party, Anwar said unambiguously that there is no reason for a multiracial party steadfastly pursuing reform and justice to accept a new race-based political party.
Summing up all his words so far, we can deduce that Anwar today endorses multiculturalism.
Perhaps he has really changed, and become more matured now!
But, I will still keep my reservations about his words because a man's moral stature and whether he has indeed changed can only be confirmed after he reaches the pinnacle of power.
Against the backdrop of the prevailing chaotic political climate, there are a host of options available to Anwar. He would most definitely gain in popularity if he were to lean towards Malay nationalism!
So, for the persistence that he is displaying now, Anwar deserves our praise and approval.
His journey will remain a lonely and tough one if he insists on his multiracial advocacy, unless majority of the Malays have come to the realization that this is the way to be.
As a matter of fact, Malaysians from different ethnic backgrounds will only have the chance of delivering themselves out of the current pitch dark tunnel if we all embrace the concept of peaceful coexistence and co-prosperity beyond the racial confines.
A tortuous and craggy road it is, we nevertheless should not give up hope, because there are more and more like-minded Malaysians calling out to one another as they long to have themselves salvaged from the scourge of race politics.
Tawfik Ismail, son of the late former deputy prime minister Tun Dr Ismail, has for so many years been working quietly with a group of like-minded men and women to promote G25, an NGO comprising distinguished Malay individuals. And now, he has even set up a "Malaysia first" WhatsApp community by roping in other like-minded Malaysians to share their views on current affairs as well as the country's future development.
Such a force in quest of fairness and justice irrespective of race and religion must be exalted. We must not allow the same bunch of rogue politicians to continue wreaking havoc on the country's future and our common good.
No doubt many Malaysians have grown excessively frustrated with political developments of today. Many are disenchanted that Malaysians of different ethnicities have continued to wrap themselves inside their racial cocoons from the day we gained our independence until this day.
A trivial matter could often stir up immense waves under the willful instigation of irresponsible politicians.
Our interracial relationship has become so frail and vulnerable, as too few are willing to nurture and grow it, and far more are ready to sabotage it for their own political interests, the SJKC Poay Eng incident in Klang, Selangor, being the most recent instance.
Like all other Chinese primary schools in the country, Poay Eng was putting up national flags all over the school and held various celebrations in conjunction with the August Merdeka month. By right such a display of patriotism should be commended by everyone, but unfortunately a Malay social media user posted a picture of a flag hung upside down, on the social media. And sadly, Chinese education or SJKCs once again came under the unrelenting assault of netizens just because of the oversight of a school worker, a Malay actually. Nothing like Chinese Malaysians harboring the ill intention of belittling our national flag.
For all these years we have been consuming ourselves with a great deal of highly unproductive arguments on race, religion, language, culture, and what-not.
Prejudices could be very terrifying, made worse by our lack of understanding and reluctance to understand, such that we allow extremist politicians to seize the opportunity to exploit an array of sensitive issues to fan racial sentiments.
More positive energy is what this country badly needs now!
Malaysians irrespective of race must embrace the "Malaysia first" concept and practice it in our day-to-day life.
Together we can create a much bigger economic cake which we all can share, and mold a mutually tolerant, accommodating and more harmonious society so that Malaysians of all races—Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazan-Dusuns and all other indigenous peoples—can become true winners of the country's success.
Let's chant the "Malaysia first" slogan this August. Say "no" to racism!
If we don't take this first step, we will remain always losers!