KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 15 — Malaysia should revive the spirit of the Rukunegara by formally adopting it as the country’s national ideology and use it to curb racial and religious tensions here before they affect national unity and the economy, a member of G25 said today.
Tan Sri Mohd Sheriff Mohd Kassim said several incidents in recent years have threatened national unity and that although they were largely due to political posturing, their recurrence could create fear and instability.
“The incidents themselves are not frightening but the perception that they are politically motivated and tolerated by the law enforcement authorities is most damaging to the country’s reputation for social and political stability.
“It’s a black mark, which can be a drag on the country’s economy,” he said in a letter emailed to the press.
Mohd Sheriff noted that during the recently-concluded Umno general assembly, a delegate had said it would be good to revive the spirit of the Rukunegara, a suggestion he said was sound and timely.
The Rukunegara, he said, is a powerful tool to instil in Malaysians the need to be loyal to “king and country” and to remind the public that those who ignore rule of law must be made accountable.
He said Malaysian youths in particular should be raised to honour the Rukunegara both in school and when they join the workforce so they can understand that loyalty to the country is “the most noble of values”.
“Guided by these core values, they will know how to differentiate between healthy criticisms and malicious statements and to appreciate that in a democratic society, every citizen is entitled to voice his or her opinion on government performance, race, religion or on the royalty, provided the opinion is sincere and is made without bad intentions.
“Our democracy will become stronger when there is tolerance for dissent,” he added.
For this reason, Mohd Sheriff said, the law should be used to protect the right to freedom of expression while those who abuse this right must be punished.
“The whole spirit of the Rukunegara is about respect for each other so that we can settle our differences through dialogue, not confrontation and hostility.
“It should be officially proclaimed as the national ideology and used as a daily diet in strengthening unity among the races,” he said.
Malaysia has been grappling with racial and religious tensions in recent years, with a perceived rise in religious conservatism that is typically tied to racial identity.
Communal politics were blamed for the May 13, 1969 racial riots that reportedly left hundreds of Malaysians dead in the deadly clashes following the general election of the year.
The Rukunegara was proclaimed on August 31, 1970, in the aftermath of the bloody riots an and adopted as a guide for the country’s development to foster national unity.
The five Rukunegara principles are: belief in God; loyalty to King and country; supremacy of the Constitution; rule of law; and courtesy and morality.