On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Orang kita should simply mean Rakyat Malaysia

Not everyone, especially Muslims, would approve of Tunku's personal interests. Some would even advocate that it is best we did not talk about it, preferring to forget or ignore what they believed to be his shortcomings. But the Tunku was never a hypocrite.

He was open with his poker games and love for horse racing including attending the prestigious Melbourne Cup races. It must be remembered that Tunku lived in the era of P. Ramlee movies, greased hairstyles, nightclubs, tight kebaya and Vespas.

That has always been one of the endearing qualities of the Tunku. He admitted his weaknesses and never pretended to be what he was not.

It would not be wrong to say that this is indeed a rare attribute in the context of present day politics.  Like Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, he strongly believed in the substance of faith, rather then its form.

His religious work was recognised by the Organisation of the Islamic Conference and he spent much money and energy on Perkim, which carried out missionary work on converts.

As Malaysia celebrates National Day on Wednesday, I decided to read the proclamation of independence by the Tunku at Stadium Merdeka. It was a simple nine-paragraph statement. The pledge of loyalty read by the student representatives at the annual Merdeka parade would probably be longer.

Our schools should make it a point for our students to read it. Not to memorise it but to appreciate the spirit of independence the Tunku had pledged at the stadium at the height of nationalism and patriotism.

The Tunku pledged that the Constitution would safeguard the rights and prerogatives of the Rulers and the fundamental rights and liberties of the people and the orderly advancement of the nation as a constitutional monarchy based on parliamentary democracy.

That proclamation, I believe, remains sacred to Malaysians today regardless of their race, religion and culture.  The keywords are the rights and liberties of all people.

Less and less is being written about the Tunku now. He has become a memorable item only for the National Day and probably a one or two-page mention in our school textbooks.

Yet, the Tunku was the man who brought together the Malays and other communities in the turbulent fifties in a common quest for independence. It surely was not easy convincing the Malays to give the Chinese and Indians citizenship.

On the other hand, the non-Malays must have been fearful their economic, religious and cultural rights would be affected now that the British were gone and the Malays had taken over.

But through the moderation of Tunku and the other Chinese and Indian partners, he managed to convince them that under the Umno leadership, the politics of consensus would prevail.

The keywords were compromise and accommodation – the very same formula that is now carried out by the Barisan Nasional, which takes into account the sentiments of all races.

As the nation celebrate its 48 years of independence, our politicians and people need to reflect upon our weaknesses and strengths. The biggest question is whether we have moved sufficiently towards the direction of Malaysian consciousness.

Some section of non-Malays still cannot appreciate the significant positions of Islam and Bahasa Malaysia while some section of Malays cannot grasp the importance of non-Malay languages, especially English and Chinese, in a globally-competitive age.

Terms like orang kita and kaum asing are still being insensitively used by some national leaders at public functions instead of the more acceptable economically-advantaged or disadvantaged.

Then, there are non-Malays who totally ignore Bahasa Malaysia or English at functions, forgetting the presence of Malays, Indians and non-Mandarin speaking Chinese at their gatherings. Hello, this is Malaysia.

We still struggle with the right approach to economic development. While the middle class has expanded, the poor, whether in the rural or urban areas, certainly need assistance. The rich surely should not be allowed to get richer, at the expense of the poor, simply because of their political affiliations.

Malaysians should also ask whether we have matured politically. Surely, parliamentary democracy isn't about elections, parliament sittings and press statements from politicians.

After more than four decades, the hopes and optimism of Malaysians have been renewed with the national commitment to public integrity, particularly the determination to fight corruption, greed and abuse of power in high places.

Malaysia is the only country we know – we were born and will die here, there is no other place.  Our destiny is the same, irrespective of our race, religion and culture. Orang kita should simply mean Rakyat Malaysia and nothing less.