A Triple Braided Cord

Last weekend, three incidents involving the Malay, Chinese and Indian communities caught my attention. Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was in Kuala Terengganu campaiging for Umno’s candidate who is running against Pas, the opposition Islamic party. This is a closely fought battle for the Muslim hearts and minds in a bid to retain the Malay-majority parliamentray seat in a by-election there. The Chinese, being the critical block of swing votes, are enthusiastically wooed by both the Malay contenders

In a campaign dinner, Najib warned that racial disharmony could tear the country apart. “No unity means no political stability, no political stability means we are all in trouble,” he said.

Meanwhile, far away in India, three Malaysian Indian leaders were at each other’s throat in Chennai. There were in Tamil Nadu supposedly for an international meeting of the Indian diaspora. MIC president S.Samy Vellu used to be sole voice representing Malaysian Indians at such gatherings. He was accompanied by his part secretary general, Dr S. Subramaniam, who is also the Human Resource Minister.

But after his losing his Sungai Siput parliamentary seat by which he also lost his senior ministerial post in the Cabinet, Samy Vellu was joined by two new voices, also claiming to speak for the Indians; Dr P. Ramasamy, a DAP leader who is also the Deputy Chief Minister of Penang, and P. Waytha Moorthy, the self-exiled leader of Hindraf, the banned Hindu rights movement. All three were apparently accorded courtesy normally shown to visiting VIPs. That’s when trouble started. Many Indian voices were raised.

Back home, in Kajang just outside the Federal capital, a supposedly former student of the New Era College walked up calmly onstage when college chairman, Dr Yap SinTian, was delivering his address to this year’s graduating class and gave him a bloody nose. The audience was stunned but apparently not dismayed at attack. Some were quite pleased, I heard.

In normal circumstances, this would be a plain law and order issue and the police can be expected to pick up the youth and deal with him accordingly.

However, Yap is also president of umbrella Dong Jiao Zong or United Chinese School Committees Association which initiated the New Era College as a non-profit Chinses education initiative.

The Malay community is split over who is best to represent them in terms of their Malayness and their religion. The Indians and Hindus are aggreived by what they perceived as being pushed to the margin of society while the Chinese community is more than unhappy on Chinese eduation issues.

Race, religion, culture and politics make an explosive powder keg. We all know that.

Najib is right when he warned that racial disharmony could tear the country apart. “No unity means no political stability, no political stability means we are all in trouble.”

This is not a new problem. The last time things came to a head over the same issues was in the 1980s. The then PM Dr Mahathir Mohamad, like a good doctor, acted swiftly to cut off the gangrene by throwing 108 dissenting voices into the slammer under the notorious Internal Security Act. But times have changed. Using the ISA may not be the best of options. It may not even work.

National unity must be built on something else more intrinsic, more fundamental – on a shared purpose and destiny. It’s a common courtesy of give-and-take; not take-and-take or give-and-give.

A passage in the Holy Bible which is attributed to King Solomon, sheds some light on unity of purpose:

“Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (The Book of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).

This passage has often been spoken in the context of a marriage of two people lying together and preserving the intimacy. But it is also referring to birds of the same feathers to stick together. Isn’t that what a nation is all about? We either stick together or fall apart. Surely we can’t have the cake and eat it too.

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