It was a honour for me to be invited to speak at the 2nd Malaysia Student Leaders Summit at the Nikko Hotel. My fellow panelist is the distinguished Royal Professor Ungku Aziz. Pak Ungku is regarded as one of the most prominent VCs who had served at our local universities and the founding member of the Economics Faculty of University Malaya. I graduated from the faculty in 1997.
We spoke on "Malaysian National Unity: Organic or Manufactured?". The eminent professor started by saying that national unity can only be forged in all communities speak the same language. He opined that the language should be Malay, our national language. He said that all Malaysians below the age of 40 years old must acquire a good command of the national language to enable national unity.
He said our national education system is messy and dyfunctional. The system does not help to promote national unity. Later, during Q&A time, Prof again reiterated that there is no "Social Contract" and he wanted the National Service programme to continue.
Although, generally we agree that national unity can only be achieved if we desanitize our political language, Prof does not think that it should be a top down process.
On the role of language for unity, I agree that this is a basis for us to communicate with one another. However, unlike the 50's or 60's, more than 95% of Malaysians are able to communicate with one another without any language barrier because we are a multilingual society. Prof's arguement is correct if language is used as a national identity.
I explained that we can communicate but yet not developing any mutual/intrinsic understanding of each other's culture, norms and traits. This mutual understanding is very crucial to promote mutual respect and unity.
I told the audience that if we accept that Malaysia is multiracial, then we must commit ourselves to a multiracial approach and not a communal one. Malaysia cannot be successful if we are always being reminded of our past e.g social contract.
I responded to a question on social contract and told the audience that we cannot completely deny its existence, although Prof Ungku earlier said there is no social contract in any written form, because half of the country believed the contract existed. It is a political contract made between leaders of the Alliance and is continuously reaffirmed by leaders in BN.
I said that if there is such a contract, it must be adjustable not stagnant. It must take into consideration the 51 years of struggle of all communities to make Malaysia a successful and peaceful country. If there is any reluctance to acknowledge this fact, then Malaysians must demand for the recognition through the electoral process. The future of this country cannot be sectarian or communal if we wanted promote national unity.
I disagreed with Prof Ungku on the continuation of the NS. I think our scarce resources can be better utilised if the RM500 mil annually is channeled into the education system to promote national unity and nation building.
In summary, I am honoured to be invited to the event and would like to congrate all UKEC executive committee members for a job well done. More than 500 student leaders attended the 2-day event.