This is perhaps because Malaysians comprise many
different racial, religious and social groups at various stages of development
and we tend to view issues from different perspectives, coloured by our ethnic
or religious backgrounds.
Malaysia is a lucky country in many respects.
Located like an arc across South-East Asia, away from catastrophic typhoons,
volcanoes and earthquakes and endowed with a broad range of natural resources
including oil and gas, and populated by hardworking and talented people, the
country has been fortunate to be ruled by moderate, pragmatic governments which
Malaysia is lucky too because violence is not part of its political
True, once in a while, a fanatical, religious sect will emerge to create some
havoc and fear. But in almost all cases, their members are small in numbers,
their ideology borders on the absurd and bizarre and their activities are
quickly nipped in the bud.
Compromise and social justice are the hallmarks of the Malaysian way of life.
There is really no other choice, unless we want to risk situations like in
Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Rwanda, Chechnya or Chile under the Allende or
Under the Malaysian political and economic systems, every community has a voice
in decision-making and a stake in the outcome. No community can ride roughshod
over the others and no community emerges fully satisfied or empty-handed.
On certain occasions, one group may seem to be getting disproportionate
benefits from a government policy or action but most of the time, other groups
are compensated in other forms and in other situations.
Negotiations are never confrontational or held in public under the glare of the
media but always behind closed doors, where debate can be vigorous, even
bruising, but in the end everyone is conscious not to push too far as to tear
the fabric of compromise.
But despite our success and progress, Malaysians must never forget that it is
all too easy to ruin all that our founding fathers have achieved.
We are still very much a multi-racial, multi-religious society and our
political, social and economic progress is still fragile.
It would not not take much to undo our progress, substantial though it may
The racial riots of May 13, 1969 are a reminder of how the irresponsible
actions of a few hotheads against the backdrop of a tense political situation
can trigger a national disaster.
That is why it's crucial for us to reject all forms of extremism, be they
racial, religious or cultural.
Extremism on one end of the scale begets extremism on the other end.
Disputes and misunderstandings, which can easily be resolved through compromise
where the parties will be able to walk away with something including their
honour, will degenerate into recriminations and hate when exploited by
Malaysians, when casting their votes on March 21, must choose wisely. It's
their own future they are deciding on.