There are a lot of discussion in the media about the 1Malaysia concept. Basically, it is a rebranding exercise of ‘Semangat Muhibbah’ inculcated in the 80’s. This is confirmed by Datuk Seri Najib himself in his maiden parliamentary session as the Prime Minister.
Nevertheless, he had specifically listed 8 main values of this rebranded concept, which are:
i) Culture of excellence
Using his own words, 1Malaysia “is not a new concept or formula. Rather, the ultimate goal of 1Malaysia, which is national unity, has been the main vision of our country’s leaders before me, and has been interpreted in various shapes and forms over the span of five decades of Independence. If we truly study it, what has changed is the approach and implementation according to the ever-changing times and generations. In other words, 1Malaysia is a concept to foster unity amongst the multi-ethnic rakyat of Malaysia, substantiated by key values that every Malaysian should observe.”
Every now and then we have people who would try to give their own interpretations on what the Prime Minister is promoting. 1Malaysia has been hijacked by politicians who only want to serve their self interests. Some say it is Malaysian Malaysia. Some say it is a concept of assimilating all the people.
This blog will do none of that. This article will neither interpret according to my own opinion what 1Malaysia is or isn’t nor will it try to arrogate any suppositions of what 1Malaysia should be.
However, this article will try to relay a potential weakness in 1Malaysia where hopefully, it can be overcome so that it can truly achieve the ultimate goal stated above.
Obviously, 1Malaysia is a very good concept. But currently, that is what it really is – a concept. Throw in a few nice words like Principles of Precision or Principles of Unity and you will definitely get the audience mesmerized with the slogan.
For instance, Najib stated that the Principles of Unity is mainly constituted with values such as acceptance and nationalistic principles. But what are those actually? He said that nationalistic principles are built upon the Federal Constitution and the Rukun Negara while acceptance “indicates a state of mind that you are embracing something positively”.
He thinks “it’s important for us to migrate from this concept of mere tolerance to acceptance. Acceptance in the sense that you are ready to accept things. If you’re willing to accept things, if you embrace things willingly, then I think your capacity to look at things in a more positive manner is much better than mere tolerance”.
He also thinks “that’s important because then you don’t have any baggage and you’re not weighed down by any negative pre-conceived notions and you’re willing to look at the best the person can offer”.
Okay fair enough.
But how do we apply these nationalistic principles and the principle of accepting one another to all Malaysians? How do we inculcate the values? How do you put patriotism into the hearts of Malaysians? What are the steps to ensure that everyone accept one another?
He provided us with the goal of 1Malaysia and its strategies. But he failed to provide us with the processes. The ‘how to’. The step by step action plans. Although his concept and the strategies are much better than the hollow Malaysian Economic Agenda, what he was saying was merely ‘sastera’ or literature or in a more relevant phrase, ‘bahasa politik’.
In order to attain credibility, Najib must exert stronger evidence that he is doing something rather than to simply talking about everything rhetorically. We want facts. We want figures. We want to see a concrete resolution on how he plans to achieve national unity. Importantly, we want to see results.
The concept 1Malaysia is oddly naked without a definitive national policy which could propel the country towards that goal.
Without a definitive national policy which embeds all the strategies of 1Malaysia, the risk of this concept being interpreted by egocentric people and politicians to their own whims and fancy is quite high. We see it happening as soon as the concept was launched.
To institute a change without knowing the proper path and the correct trajectory towards its goal is lunatic.
Merely trying to contextualise a heavy concept into several pieces of articles is not enough. Any good concept must always have its underlying execution plans. Look at the New Economic Policy or Vision2020 or even the Misi Nasional. Each policy had complimented the overall aim which is towards achieving national unity and prosperity. Each policy in return, is accompanied by specified tasks which act as enablers in order to achieve specified targets which eventually will guide the nation to fulfill the overall aim.
For instance, take one of the values in 1Malaysia below – Education. Najib wrote passionately about it.
Education and knowledge are important prerequisites for any nation to succeed and throughout history we’ve realized that the only empires that have survived are the empires of the mind, particularly in the present context. An empire built on military strength have not survived and cannot survive. So when you talk about education and knowledge, it must be seen in a holistic context. It must be integrated with values as well. You must have a society which places education and knowledge at the apex of everything. Not only the government, but society as a value. For example, the culture of reading. If you just rely on formal text books, you’re not going to gain as much as you ought to. But if you have this culture of reading, this habit of reading, whether through books or through the internet then you are able to open up the Malaysian mind. And I’d like to see the Malaysian mind more and more opened up.
We are constrained by the fact that we have different [education] streams in the country. We don’t have one stream, as such, we don’t have one national stream. Even the national stream has been redefined to include the vernacular schools. It is both a strength as well as a problem and a challenge for us because we won’t have the opportunity for Malaysians to grow up together through one school in a physical sense, but they will be compartmentalized. 95 per cent of Chinese will go to Chinese schools, 97 per cent of malays will go through the sekolah kebangsaan or national schools. So we will not have the opportunity. But what we can do is to ensure that there are opportunities for us to interact by looking at the curriculum and emphasizing on common values, so that even if we are physically separated, but if we are imbued with the same value system, hopefully at some point in time, we will converge. When we converge, in the physical sense, we will be able to appreciate each other better.
We can see several noble aims in the above paragraphs. So what do we do next Mr Prime Minister?
Even the last two statements seemed to be consoling oneself and shying away from the responsibility of bringing the principle aim of the 1Malaysia concept into fruition.
It does not make sense when you are extolling the aim of 1Malaysia but at the same time, be reticent on how we can achieve it.
It is about time that Najib review all the national policies to reflect on the aim of 1Malaysia and its strategies . Malaysia needs a new all encompassing mother policy which can be suited at all times.
Honestly, the mother policy we have now – Vision2020, is inadequate to face the challenges ahead. It was conceptualised during the advent of an economic boom and all of its strategies and implementation plans centred around the belief that Malaysia will achieve national unity and a developed country status without being cognisant of any economic or political downturns.
Hence, in order for 1Malaysia to be successful in its aim, a definitive policy that takes into account all the potential risks as well as opportunities addressed in the concept of 1Malaysia should be thought of. We no longer can rely solely on 10th Malaysia Plan or its subsequent plans.
We need a better policy that will mold Malaysia into a very resilient country which can blaze through rough times and shine brighter during the good times.
Singapore, Israel, Switzerland and Indonesia all have mother policies which are revolving around their national security.
As we lay more importance to national unity rather than national security, I am proposing a brief framework which I believe should be the main principles of this mother policy. We shall call it the ‘National Resilience Policy’ for the time being.
As the name implies, the aim of this policy is to ensure that the nation is able to be resilient at all times. Whenever it faces external or domestic problems, there are strategies and action plans that can be instituted so that the nation can sail through the charted or uncharted waters till the year 2020 and beyond.
The main principle of this policy is inspired by Sun Tzu’s Art of War. Whereby, in order to gain ground, an army must strategise to acquire the area they wish to conquer, fortify it, and then move forward to gain more grounds. It is unwise to move further forward if the current position cannot be sustained.
Hence, the model for national resilience (in other words, do not crack under tremendous pressure) is:
1) To achieve
2) To sustain
3) To progress – to select new targets in order to achieve them
4) Repeat step (1)
National resilience should be built upon 3 platforms that encapsulate an unending cycle like the above. This tried and tested framework enables the country to be in a cycle of progressive nation building which would eventually change this country into a strong and a fully developed nation by 2020 and beyond.
Within each of this platform, all aspects of the nation’s governance will be covered. It is imperative however that the original aim of 1Malaysia and Vision2020 permeates within each areas.
Social welfare, defence, economy, human capital, religion, social harmony, education, business, agriculture, technology etc. should be taken into account.
For instance, our pursuit in eradicating hardcore poverty. All know that we aim to achieve 0% hardcore poverty by the year 2010. Actual plans had been taken by the government and its ancillary agencies to achieve this aim. This incidentally followed closely with the first platform. When the target has been achieved, proper steps have to be taken in order to sustain this 0% target so that in the next wave of economic downturn, this 0% will not rise again.
All the activities and action plans within this 2nd platform must ensure that the target achieved earlier will not budge should any untoward factors decided to come crashing through our doors.
To ensure that we progress to a better future, the 3rd platform enables us to chart our next course of action through identifying new targets within the ambit of each areas. In the case of poverty, after we have solidified our position of 0% extreme poverty, the next logical step would be to eradicate poverty totally.
The Government then has to implement steps and initiatives which could raise the livelihood of the poor and improve their income levels. Consequently, this come back into the 1st platform. The cycle continues when new steps of strengthening and sustaining this new target are implemented so on and so forth.
When our fundamentals are strong, nothing is impossible. Any stress testings can be endured successfully.
Coming back to the area of education, since our aim is national unity, and its tenets are enshrined in the Constitution and the Rukunegara, coupled with the fact that even 1Malaysia concept is also propagating one stream education, the target of the National Resilience Policy should constitute plans to set up a more streamlined national education. This should be the main impetus in the 1st platform above. Within the 2nd and 3rd platforms, PPSMI could be reinstated and higher quality of education can be provided respectively.
We know that the task of creating a comprehensive policy of this magnitude is humongous. But as we all know, nothing can be gained without perseverance and culture of excellence. As we have the best brains within the country, the technocrats, Oxbridge graduates etc., this mother policy should not be a difficult task to develop. Moreover, this policy is a live document where its model framework enables it to be running in perpetuity.
Apart from the above, if we are serious in attaining what we deemed as our Elusive Dream, then any concept that we propagate must seriously be followed by good and well structured implementation plans. Otherwise, the aim can never be perfected.
It is simply never enough if we just try profusely to explain what 1Malaysia is. Needless to say, whether it is the concept of 1Malaysia, Bangsa Malaysia or even Politics of Empathy, the politicians must inspire the people with specific ways on how to achieve whatever it is they are aiming for. If not, it will merely be just that – a good piece of literature.