On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Stand up as Malaysians

It’s not make-believe: We should let the world know that multi-racial Malaysia is real and does not exist only in glossy brochures.

It’s not make-believe: We should let the world know that multi-racial Malaysia is real and does not exist only in glossy brochures.

MALAYSIA loves to tell the world that we are a fantastically plural society. We spend millions promoting that image overseas.

We persuade tourists that they ought to choose Malaysia over our neighbours because we are Truly Asia. That’s our tagline.

Look at all the tourism advertisements where every race is represented. No one is missed out. That’s simply because the Tourism Ministry realises the value of a multi­-racial, multi-cultural and multi-­religious set-up.

It’s an asset for Malaysia and we sell it to the world. It is something that Malaysia is blessed with and we understand the occasional complications that come with it.

Why see only temples and eat tom yam daily when you can see our magnificent mosques, Chinese and Indian temples and churches in Malaysia, and enjoy the wide array of food from all races? Why choose a clinically sterile place with almost everything copied from us when we offer real adventure, and real food, for example?

In short, we have a great story to tell the world. We want the world to know that ­multi-racial Malaysia is real and does not exist only in glossy brochures.

Malaysia is Truly Asia and not a make-­believe theme park with actors dressed up in multi-racial costumes in parades. It’s for real.

For sure, ordinary Malaysians are not going to let anyone spoil it all with talk of racial killings. If stomping on the faces of politicians on posters and carrying out mock funeral prayers of leaders are already seen as gross and pathetic, posters threatening mayhem and murder are worse, and totally unacceptable.

Police reports have been lodged and these ugly posters, which had appeared in some towns, have been removed but we would like to see arrests being made as well.

Those who put up such posters are dangerous and they really need psychiatric help. No one with a rational mind would condone such thinking.

Protests are certainly a part of democracy. Like-minded people have a right to assemble and express their unhappiness.

If the yellow-shirted Bersih protesters could gather, despite being declared illegal, so can their red-shirted opponents. The police have not approved the Sept 16 gathering as well and if they proceed, then the organisers would have to face the same wrath of the police.

Just like Bersih 4 leader Maria Chin Abdullah, who has been charged, we would like to see the same punishment being meted out to the ring leaders behind the Red Shirt gathering, should they proceed. There should be no double standards.

But the difference here is that the Red Shirt gathering, at least according to some news reports, smacks of racism.

The impression Malaysians are getting is that the Sept 16 protest is a one-upmanship to show that they can gather more Malays than Bersih, which was predominantly Chinese.

What is worse is that some of their leaders want to pick Low Yat as the venue of protest, which, not too long ago, was a scene of tension due to the theft of a handphone from one of the stores which was transformed into a racial issue. The person has already been charged in court. He has pleaded not guilty and some parties have attempted to make him into a hero of sorts.

The shop assistants who took part in the ruckus have also been charged, pleaded guilty and fined. That’s all very fair because no one should take the law into their own hands. The police, too, have acted professionally.

In the case of Bersih 4, the police have also handled the situation very well by keeping a minimum presence. Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Zahid Hamidi must be applauded for this decision and he chose to act only after the protests ended.

While there were unnecessary, if not repulsive, side shows at Bersih 4, it cannot be denied that the protesters had generally acted well. It was carnival-like although our leaders naturally found themselves mocked, as in all protests.

Our politicians should stop expecting to be revered like an almighty. They can walk around with their entourage of political hangers-on and groupies, with their false sense of importance but really, those days are over.

Don’t expect the people to be their ­servants as it should be the other way around. Politicians can be elected but they can also be disposed.

Both the Bersih and Red Shirt protesters need to read up their history books. National Day is sacred to all of us Malay­sians.

Malaysia is one of the few colonies to have achieved independence without any bloodshed. There was no revolution, no riots and it was achieved mainly through negotiations. Tunku Abdul Rahman was accompanied by Chinese and Indian leaders – let’s not forget that.

The Chinese and Indians did not just take part in the push for independence, led by Umno, but also built the country’s economy. So, let no ignorant politician ask what the Chinese and Indians have done for this country of ours.

At the same time, we must recognise that the Malays welcomed the Chinese and Indian immigrants to this country.

Likewise, Malaysia Day is another important day. Malaysia would not have been formed without Sabah and Sarawak. The two states did not join Malaysia but they helped to form Malaysia.

That is why they still enjoy certain rights including immigration, legal and manpower privileges because they joined as equals. So, do not take Sabah and Sarawak for granted.

To choose Malaysia Day to protest, with no real reasons except to show one’s communal might and to strike fear among other fellow Malaysians is surely disturbing.

The organisers, in an odd way, are said to be unknown and, strangely, are able to gain some form of momentum, giving rise to suspicions that powerful forces are behind it.

For God’s sake, it is Malaysia’s Day. It is not Malay Day or Chinese Day or Indian Day or Iban Day. It is Malaysia Day and it is a day we should take pride in that we come together as a nation. We marked National Day on Aug 31 and took it a step further on Sept 16.

If there should be any gathering, it should involve all races. The strength of any leader, who represents all of us, is to bring together all Malaysians.

It is easy to be a communal leader, fanning racial sentiments by playing on imaginary fears of their ignorant followers, but it is more difficult to be leaders who speak on behalf of all Malaysians and understand our needs and aspirations.

Let us be Malaysians, not just when we are overseas or in tourism brochures, but to remember Sept 16 for the real reasons. We pray for rationality and reason to prevail – let the spirit of moderation reign supreme!

To mark Malaysia Day, we should be focusing our energy on nation building and economic competitiveness instead of spending time to see who can gather more people in a protest.