On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Celebrate, not quarrel, over festivals

Although he has to work during the festive season, the
Kedah-born policeman tries to hold his makan session at his Putrajaya home,
located within the Sri Perdana complex, a week after Hari Raya.

Roslan and his wife simply serve the best laksa and beef
rendang I have ever tasted. This could probably be vouched for by the staff of
the Prime Minister and Dr Mahathir himself.

As a northerner myself, we like our laksa hot and spicy
with a generous dose of otak udang, the thick black prawn paste that can be
found only in Kedah, Perlis and Penang.

As a Malaysian, I count myself very lucky to be born in
this country as Malaysia's
multi-racial setting has blessed us with so many traditions and festivals.

In fact, Malaysia
must have the largest number of public holidays, reflecting the government's
recognition of these ethnic holidays. In most Western countries, despite
professing multi-culturalism, these important celebrations are ignored.

Regardless of our religion, these festivals have become a
truly Malaysian affair. We open the doors of our homes, not just to friends but
total strangers, without any fear.

The festivity becomes even more unique and meaningful
when Hari Raya and Chinese New Year coincide, giving birth to the new term
"Kongsi Raya" which means the sharing of celebrations.

This year, Hari Raya and Christmas will be celebrated in
December, which is certainly wonderful and should be emphasised by Malaysians
who truly believe in racial tolerance.

Malaysian newspapers have correctly pointed out that in
some shopping complexes, the owners appeared to have put up Christmas
decorations ahead of the Hari Raya festival.

It is certainly an insensitive act as the managements of
these errant shopping malls – although the number is admittedly small – should
instead have promoted and emphasised the double celebrations.

The managements of these shopping malls may not have
realised their actions have hurt the feelings of Muslims as Hari Raya is
celebrated on a large scale. The media is right to point out this is not the
first time.

Crass commercialism by our businessmen is to be blamed
for this. Within the Chinese community, many of us have long complained about
how the traditional mooncakes have been on sale in the midst of the Hungry
Ghosts Festival. For the traditional minded, it is a pantang because the
Mooncake Festival, which comes a month later, is regarded as a more divine

But some politicians have attempted to create a racial
dimension to this slip-up, which I think is unnecessary. The use of harsh
words, in this season of forgiving, is hardly appropriate.

The country needs more Malaysian heroes like Dr Mahathir
and his deputy, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who understand what
compromise and tolerance means.

Malaysians don't want self-seeking political wannabes,
who want to appear like heroes of their communities. For budding politicians
from political youth wings, they certainly need to learn a thing or two from
our true national leaders, if they aspire to bigger roles in national politics.

Over the past one week, there have been statements made
by some politicians and non-governmental organisation leaders without regard
for the feelings of Malaysians.

Statements have been distorted to suit the political
agenda of these personalities without considering the larger interests of this

In the past, such actions may help win votes but
Malaysian politicians have realised that they cannot hope to win elections by
depending on one community as electoral constituencies become more racially

It is best that our media, especially the Bahasa Malaysia
and Chinese newspapers, ignore these exchanges which lead to nowhere, except to
raise political temperatures.

Many of these statements certainly do not help to
integrate and unite Malaysians but only divide the country. After celebrating
Deepavali last month, it should be a joy to usher in Hari Raya, Christmas, the
New Year and the Chinese New Year.

If we want to prove a point to the world that we are
"truly Asia" and a showcase of multi-ethnicity, then we
should emphasise on how we have been able to live together for years in the
spirit of unity and tolerance.

There is a need for our budding politicians, who claim to
be role models, to exercise more self-restraint and caution in their choice of
words when making press statements.

It is more important for Malaysians to be able to
celebrate our festivals together, not quarrel over who should celebrate which
festival first in Malaysia.

Roslan's Hari Raya open house, to most officials and
journalists, is simply enjoyable because there is genuine warmth and friendship
among the visitors. The best part is, there are no politicians.