The Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) finds Dr. Chandra Muzaffar’s letter to the editor (NST, 10/11/2008) on the comparison between the recent election of President-elect Barack Obama in the recent U.S Presidential elections vis-à-vis the Malaysian scenario to be somewhat misguided.
Whilst the election of Barack Obama is indeed a major victory for the African American community, it nonetheless shows that the American electorate voted maturely for the candidate they believe to be most qualified and well-suited for the position. Obama’s ethnicity was and remains immaterial to his qualification and ability to be elected President of the United States. His election to the presidency also demonstrates a system that is based on the recognition of meritocracy and capability – a system that Malaysia would do well to adopt expeditiously for its future well-being and that of all Malaysians.
Dr. Muzaffar also made several inferences to the need for assimilation in this country. Given the unique situation in Malaysia where there are a multitude of ethnicities and cultures, assimilation would be untenable and even detrimental to the fragile national unity that we must continue to strengthen in our beloved country. Past attempts to assimilate the Native American population in the United States have failed and have resulted in a loss of identity and decline for many minorities groups. In the Malaysian context, there are many diverse groups such as the Orang Asli, Peranakan and Chitty who possess their own identity, which epitomize the uniqueness of Malaysia, which also has one of the largest minorities in the world.
A more constructive and positive approach would be one of integration rather than assimilation, where all ethnicities in Malaysia come together to build a stronger Malaysian identity or Bangsa Malaysia. A person who is the product of a well-integrated Malaysia would make a far more suitable candidate to run this country than someone who is elected on the narrow platform of race or religion. In fact many of our own prime ministers have had a colourful ethnic background.
The CPPS believes that the government should continue to encourage positive integration amongst the various ethnic and culture groups in Malaysia. Such a SOUND policy would enhance the state of national unity in this country by celebrating our rich inherent diversity, while simultaneously building a common Malaysian identity.
A well-integrated and confident Malaysian society is imperative if we are to face the challenges of a globalised world and to emerge as a shining exampled to the divided world of a peaceful, progressive country where we all live in harmony regardless of our race and religion.
The Americans say “We Can”; we too have “Malaysia Boleh!”
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
Centre For Public Policy Studies
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