Friday, August 31, 2007

Nation Building Dialogue

Wf, Hx & I had the privilege to attend the Nation Building Dialogue @ Sunway University College on 30 Aug 2007 in conjunction with our 50th Merdeka anniversary. Thanks Ed for telling us about it.

During the dialogue, Tun Dr Mahathir (our former PM) and Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu (former President of MCA and Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia) were supposed to give a special address on "Experiences, Struggles and Lessons from the Past". Unfortunately, both weren't present due to medical reasons. Tun Dr M was discharged from IJN recently and was advised to avoid 'emotional excitement'. :-(

Nonetheless, I learned a lot from the other 5 distinguished panel speakers on "Building a United Malaysian Nation". :) Here are some details on what the speakers shared (based on what i understood, if i understood correctly) :

Toh Puan Uma Sambanthan (Wife of former MIC President, Tun VT Sambanthan)
  • She lives near the surau. Every morning she hears the loud Azan prayers. She doesn't let the loud Azan prayers "disrupt" her peace of mind. Instead, she took it as a reminder for herself to pray in her own way and be grateful to the Almighty for all the blessings. We should do the same - Take it as a reminder to say our own prayers too. By doing so, we will also be respecting our Muslim friends at the same time. :)
  • As Merdeka came along, her parents taught her about freedom - the meaning of independence.
  • In being an effective parent in this modern era, she negotiates with her daughter instead of telling her what to do.
  • As a parent/senior citizen/politician/statesman/etc, one should never blame the younger generation for not being filial/patriotic/grateful if one does not lead by example.
Toh Puan delivered her speech in a wise yet humble motherly manner. She related many insightful & interesting personal stories about herself and her late husband who was one of the Founding Fathers of Malaysia.

Tan Sri Datuk Seri Panglima Simon Sipaun (Vice Chairman of SUHAKAM and former Sabah State Secretary)
  • The melody of a love song called Terang Bulan (Moon Shine) is used as the melody of our national anthem - Negaraku. :) He first sang it just before he left school in 1957.
  • Patriotism is something that is in the mind that comes from the heart; not from slogans (especially misleading ones) and etc.
  • The mother of all problems in Sabah is the overwhelming numbers of refugees and illegal immigrants. They have outnumbered the Sabahans. Detention centres are not solving the problem.
  • His hopes for the nation include:
    • The real value of RM must be realised in all government expenditure.
    • To have more statesmen instead of politicians.
    • To have a standard of good governance.
    • To eliminate the need to indicate race or religion on any forms. Celebrate human commonality.
    • To create a Minister of Indigenous Affairs.
    • The right to own land on ancestry rights should be respected.
    • To have a more equitable distribution of economic wealth.
    • Poverty has no border. Hence we should attack it at source.
    • To have a multicultural government.
Tan Sri Simon's 15 minutes speech was indeed short enough to attract attention but long enough to cover the vital parts - as what he intended it to be. He injected lotsa elements of humour. He is an entertaining speaker who nevertheless effectively delivered a profound speech. :)

Dr Chandra Muzaffar (President of JUST / International Movement for a Just World)
  • We must look ahead in a sober and rational manner.
  • Some websites claim that Malaysia is a total failure, a complete disaster. In his opinion, no thinking person can accept that.
  • Malaysia is one of the most successful colonial countries. We have:
    • Inter-ethnic peace.
    • Cultural diversity at street level!
  • He pays tribute to a group of Malaysians who are seldom praised - Our Policemen. Though some of them are corrupted, they contribute largely to the peace that we enjoy. Their sacrifice for the nation is important. Btw, some police live below the poverty line!
  • In 1950s, KL only has 4.5% Malays. Now, KL has at least 40% Malays. Since non-Malays dominate the economic activities in KL, if the Malay population didn't grow in KL, we would have been on the brink of disaster during the 1997 economic crisis.
  • We are still in a sad state of socio-economic disparity. To combat this, the 'losing ones' should have a greater vigour in fighting competition.
Dr Chandra is very articulated. He speaks with an influential air of confidence. He doesn't address us using "ladies and gentlemen"; he said "friends" instead. :) He is wheelchair bound... when he was wheeled into the hall, I thought he was Stephen Hawkings! At one glance, he looks like Stephen Hawkings from the side. I was not the only one who thought so.

Reverend Dr Hermen Shastri
(Secretary-General of Council of Churches Malaysia)
  • Let's celebrate Unity in Diversity!
  • Interfaith dialogue in Malaysia is not in a good state (yet) in terms of effectiveness.
  • As we are multi-racial and multi-religious, the interfaith commission is important in resolving dispute while preserving peaceful co-existence.
Ambiga Sreenevasan (President of Malaysia Bar Council)
  • Federal Constitution is a contract between the government and the citizen. It was carefully drafted after a long process of negotiation and compromise.
  • As such, every leader and politician must read and understand the Constitution wholly to ensure that they make responsible statements.
  • There should be no silent re-writing of the Constitution.
  • After 50 years of independence, politicians should not treat us like children. They must trust that we can handle sensitive issues. It will be stormy initially, but that will subside as open discussions go on.
  • We should be a secular state.
  • Our strength lies in our diversity.
Tan Sri Dato' Dr Ramon V. Navaratnam (Chairman of Centre for Public Policy Studies at ASLI)
  • After 50 years of Merdeka, we are at a major National Crossroad. Which Jalan or Road are we taking?
    • Jalan Adil - Our PM's road to the future. A road to Fairness for all Malaysians.
    • Jalan Ketuanan - The road of Dominance. Dominate with race and religion.
    • Jalan Tidak Apa - The road of Indifference. Accept all trends and development since there is nothing much that can be done to change or improve the future.
    • Jalan Keluar - The Exit. Being fed-up with uncertainty and fear, just migrate!
  • We cannot do much as individual citizens, but we can exert some influence collectively.
  • Hence, he urged the 5 million unregistered voters to register (urgently!) to vote and vote wisely.
Lastly, the following are what I've gathered from the Q&A Session

Q: The culture of corruption is widespread. It has become an unspoken rule. How to stop corruption?
A: Corruption is like a dirty floor. We cannot clean a dirty floor with a dirty mop.

Q: Federal Constitution is of utmost importance for the nation. When issues go wrong, we must fall back to the Constitution. So, why aren't students and the public being educated about it?
A: It's an inevitable weakness which is needed to safeguard the top-down notch.

Q: Does the public has access to the Federal Constitution?
A: Yes. View it at:

Q: The New Economic Policy (NEP) aims to reduce the disparity between the Chinese minority and the Malay majority. After so many years, the disparity is still obvious. Why?
A: NEP is a Never Ending Policy. :p It has good intention but bad implementation.

Q: Our fathers feel proud to serve the government. Civil servants were the elite those days. It is not at all popular anymore. What happened?
A: There is no equality in opportunity and promotion.

Q: How are ministers appointed? Some are disgracefully underqualified. Some don't appear to know what they are talking about.
A: Ministers are not necessarily the brightest with the highest IQ. However, they are appointed because they are popular, have connections and are influential.



Blogger weeleng said...

dear mei, thanks for summing this up for those working ppl who can't take time off for this seminar. i like the q&a part, i.e. dirty floor with dirty mop, Never-Ending-Policy...ehehehe
(btw, there's a wrong spelling: weakness, not weekness :P) sharp eyes leh?

7/9/07 6:35 PM  
Blogger cmeel said...

u r welcome, che. :)

spelling corrected. thankiew. :)

8/9/07 7:24 PM  

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