Hannah Kam

Hannah Kam

Hannah Kam holds a Bachelor of Laws degree from the London School of Economics & Political Science. She completed the Bar Professional Training Course at BPP University, London and is a member of the Honourable Society of the Middle Temple. She strongly believes that the promotion of a culture of mutual acceptance, respect and tolerance will secure a safe and vibrant Malaysia for generations to come.

 

 

DEXAMETHASONE! Sample B! WADA! These terms, typically reserved for those who work in sports medicine, now feature in the conversations of families during breakfast, colleagues over lunch, and lovers at dinner.

United in our need to support our national sporting hero, we are outraged at the thought of Datuk Lee Chong Wei being labelled a drug cheat. Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or background, stand behind him as he faces his toughest battle.

It is a sad reality, however, that it takes such devastating news to temporarily unite our nation of 30 million Malaysians.

Even the tragedy of MH17 seems to have had only a transient effect of keeping us Malaysians together. We wept as one as the first coffins brought our fellow brothers and sisters home on Aug 22, but of late we have regrettably returned to nasty politicking and malicious rumour mongering.

We have become so blinded by our own political affiliations that we fail to see the chasm that now separates us.

The universal importance of 1Malaysia has been forgotten in a large-scale competition to apportion blame and to “point fingers”.

My fellow Malaysians, we have a fractured and disunited society on our hands.

But why then is national unity so important? The answer lies in our past, our present, and most certainly in our future.

Malaysian history has many heroes, all of whom worked hard to make Merdeka a reality. Our forefathers – whether Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban, Dayak, Bidayuh, Sikh, Eurasian or Orang Asli – sacrificed their sons and daughters in the name of national sovereignty, liberty and prosperity.

Let not the bloodshed of May 13, 1969, or the efforts of those who worked so hard to ensure harmony, liberty and prosperity for future generations, be undermined by our current disunity. We have learned the hard way that extremism and hatred make the best recipe for tragedy.

And if we are to move forward into an era where Malaysians truly acknowledge the freedom to hold onto individual beliefs while respecting another’s, we must eradicate the reigning culture of mutual disrespect and suspicion.

Further, a failure to be vigilant in promoting national unity has clear negative implications for our present day-to-day lives. A neighbour (both literally and figuratively) who uses ‘bullying’ tactics and treats us with scorn, disdain and even hatred on grounds pertaining to our personal identity creates a very unpleasant environment in which to live.

Let us take the recent Scottish referendum as an example. The issue of Scottish independence was – and indeed continues to be – so polarising that the author J. K. Rowling was subject to (mostly anonymous) online abuse for her support of the Union, and that on the other side of the divide, the designer Vivienne Westwood felt compelled to say that she supported the ‘Yes’ Campaign because she ‘hates England’.

At a less public level, childhood classmates find themselves Facebook friends no longer, and any remotely politically themed Tweet was and is pounced upon by proponents of the opposing view.

Behaviour such as this engenders fear and mistrust.

Few Malaysian Indians will ever forget being hounded, harassed and abused at polling stations last year after being mistaken for Bangladeshi phantom voters following rumour mongering and the spread of misinformation and lies.

We consider ourselves mature and informed individuals who are aware of, and who condemn, the treatment of Nelson Mandela during Apartheid in South Africa; yet we insist on targeting a fellow Malaysian simply on the basis of the colour of his skin.

Such hypocritical and irresponsible conduct is unbecoming of anyone, let alone a people whose very identity is founded on multiculturalism and acceptance, and which prides itself on an understanding of human rights and freedoms.

We need to return to being a nation of clear-thinking, decent people. A fractured society does not bode well for the future.

As we approach Vision 2020, it is crucial that Malaysians remain steadfast to the core values of patriotism, loyalty and mutual respect.

So, how do we unite Malaysia? Clearly, this healing cannot happen overnight.

We can, however, take small but sure steps towards a more cohesive and tolerant society, and this starts with each individual adopting a more positive and practical mindset. We all recognise that we are different, but that we have our own strengths.

If we combine these strengths, we will grow stronger as a nation. We need to be more sensitive towards another’s feelings, beliefs and values, for only then will we begin to understand and respect the issues that are important to him or her.

The end result must be a peace-loving, harmonious and thriving multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-faith society, one which any visiting foreigner will credit as celebrating its diversity, and as “colour blind”.

The national pulse beats weaker due to division and dysfunction. Will the 30 million Malaysians out there realise this and come together as one to boost this flagging heartbeat, to heal our land? If we won’t, then there is only one conclusion.

In 1963, the New Zealand travel writer Maurice Shadbolt asked: “Can people of so many races, so many beliefs, find true harmony?

“The answer affects us all. Because Malaysia is not simply a test for Asians. It is a test for the human race itself”.

Malaysians, let us work together to pass this test, for its implications are far greater than our small-time grievances. History is watching.

 

Originally published on The Star on Sunday November 16, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM

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