CALL it National Reconciliation or National Consensus. It is an agenda Malaysia urgently needs to check further increase in communal tension. Race relations have been strained, reaching an unhealthy stage and without any signs of improving.
In fact, the situation has worsened after the 2013 General Election because almost everything that happened, or did not, had been heavily politicised.
Lately, it appears that irresponsible parties are bent on inciting religious tension between the Muslims and Christians.
It is laudable that we now have political leaders from both sides of the divide showing interest in “working things out” for the sake of racial harmony and national security.
Since it looks like only a political solution can reduce, if not eliminate, the present tense atmosphere, it is best that the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) government and opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat (PR) set aside their differences and work towards a bigger agenda for the sake of the nation.
They cannot afford to drag their feet, lest it would be difficult, or even too late, to stop irresponsible parties or extremists from attempting to pit the races against one another.
“The focus should be apolitical if all parties are sincere to maintain peace and harmony. If political parties continuously use the race card to win support in their respective ethnic groups, we may lose what we have enjoyed all this while,” said academician Dr Sivamurugan Pandian.
The focus of both parties, said the political analyst from Universiti Sains Malaysia, should be on nation-building rather than focusing on power, authority and position in order to have moral legitimacy.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, in his Chinese New Year message, had asked Malaysians to put aside their racial and religious differences and live united as a nation.
“It comes down to us, as Malaysians, to take responsibility and refuse anything which may pose a threat or induce violence and, in turn, threaten the peace of our country,” he said in a statement on his 1Malaysia blog.
And at the MCA’s CNY open house on Friday, the prime minister, when calling on Malaysians to preserve racial peace and harmony, expressed hope that the new lunar year would open a new chapter for Malaysians to continue making transformation for the country’s economy based on the good relations between all races.
He said this was vital because “peace and harmony are the pillars of success for our country”.
DAP adviser and Gelang Patah member of parliament Lim Kit Siang, in a message ahead of CNY, wants Malaysians to speak “to save Malaysia from the machinations and evil design of a small group of traitors out to destabilise the country through the incessant incitement of racial and religious hatred, conflict and tension”.
Party Keadilan Rakyat deputy president Mohd Azmin Ali said pressing issues such as those concerning religion, the economy and others must be discussed as soon as possible.
The country is grappling with conflict between Muslims and Christians over the use of the word “Allah”, which recently led to Molotov cocktails being thrown at a church in Penang, similar to the attacks on several churches over the same issue in 2010.
Banners with the words “Allah is Great, Jesus is the son of Allah” were hung outside several churches in Penang. Malaysians were shocked when structures, including crosses at several gravestones at a Christian cemetery in Kuantan, were damaged by vandals.
Not long before these attacks, protesters comprising members of non-governmental organisations in Penang held up banners threatening a recurrence of the May 13 racial riots in protest over a flash mob ridiculing Najib.
The cabinet has agreed to formulate a National Reconciliation Plan through unity and consensus, based on the four key thrusts of social, political, government and international relations, and this should be supported by all for the good of the nation.
While it is true that we cannot turn back the clock, the onus is still on all of us to bring calm to the present volatile environment.