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Malaysia Boleh…Ke?

June 2, 2007

Yesterday, Frank asked whether “Pembela can look at the issue from a bigger and wider picture, as citizens of this country with equal constitutional rights with other non Malays and non Muslims”?

I must admit I am not in a position to comment on Frank’s question though I believe I can say something meaningful about a wider and perhaps more pertinent question.

Can Malaysians “look at the issue from a bigger and wider picture, as citizens of this country with equal constitutional rights”?

Extending this further, can Malaysians handle discussing problems of a sensitive nature (not just apostasy) rationally and resolve them together? At a Malaysian student conference I attended recently we touched on some of these issues. At the conference a speaker jokingly asked “Malaysia boleh…ke?’ I left that conference thinking ‘boleeeh!’

I include below a piece on my impressions of the conference which was published in theSun a few weeks ago.

Recent events of course have dampened my positivity but I keep telling myself that it is important, especially in times like this, to remember that the dream is possible.

In the meantime, I have had some interesting comments and discussions about yesterday’s post. In particular, Walski showed me a posting which questions whether the Federal Constitution is the fundamental basis for Malaysian law.

More on that in another post.


A diverse, united nation
Umran Kadir

” … our society has not attained a mental maturity where it is insensitive to racial issues.”
A Malaysian cabinet minister, 2006

Malaysians are constantly being told that we are not mature enough to handle the discussion of issues that our leaders deem to be “sensitive”. Such statements encourage us to fear one another and such fear, perhaps all too conveniently, can create a deafening silence. Under a shroud of silence, how can the true will of the people be understood and how can Malaysia ever achieve its true potential?

At a recent conference held in Kuala Lumpur in early April a refreshing suggestion was made. Policymakers were urged to take into account the views of young Malaysians. Raja Nazrin Shah, the keynote speaker at the conference, stressed that the Federal Constitution must be the main focal point of the nation-building effort. He further emphasised that “only when each citizen believes that he or she has a common home and is working towards a common destiny, will he or she make the sacrifices needed for the long haul.”

It was with these inspiring thoughts in mind that barely a week later I attended a series of discussions for Malaysian students in London entitled Projek Amanat Negara (PAN) IV. The conference was organised by the United Kingdom and Eire Council for Malaysian Students (UKEC), a coalition of Malaysian student societies from the universities and colleges of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. The 100 participants were of various races, religions and backgrounds – a diversity befitting Malaysia. In this respect, the group was similar to other forums on social issues that I’ve attended in Malaysia. But I quickly noticed a striking difference with this particular group. This group was youthful. I’d estimate that the average age of participants would not have been over 25. It can only be regarded as uncannily good timing that such an event took place so shortly after policymakers were urged to consider the views of younger Malaysians.

Of course, none of this detracts from the fact that the youth have much to learn from more experienced members of society. We were thus joined by a group of eminent Malaysians who are giants in their respective fields. Over the course of two and a half days we freely, critically and calmly discussed topics ranging from corruption and accountability, national unity, the environment, the education system and the National Economic Policy (NEP).

In discussing the concept of bangsa Malaysia (the Malaysian nation), a speaker suggested that whilst Malaysia is a country, it is not yet a nation. What I took from this statement was that for the concept of bangsa Malaysia to become a reality each citizen must believe that he or she has an equal stake in this country. This is similar to Raja Nazrin’s statement. However, I would also add a second requirement: each of us must accept that other Malaysians have an equal stake in and claim to our country. From a practical perspective I believe we can say that we are a nation when, irrespective of race, religion, age or status, Malaysians can openly, calmly and rationally discuss “sensitive” issues of national concern and furthermore agree on how to resolve them. PAN IV provided a tantalising glimpse at what is possible when we unite as a nation – and that future is truly bright.

Here are several key points I drew from the conference:

  • More action must be taken to resolve religiously charged issues or we risk jeopardising national unity.
  • We have an elected government responsible to the people and the people must realise that the government exists to serve them.
  • To reduce corruption, we must address low salaries, improve enforcement and through education instil a culture of ethics.
  • Our education system must place a greater emphasis on philosophy, history and ethics rather than solely focusing on disciplines traditionally thought to maximise wealth.
  • We must engage in sustainable development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.
  • If you want your voice to be heard and moreover listened to, write letters to the editors or join an NGO!

View the ambitious London Declaration arrived at during PAN IV by going to The website also mentions a similar event scheduled to take place in Malaysia in August 2007. To register your interest or offer financial or non-financial support for this event please send an email to