Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Respect and engage

Brave New World (The Star)
26 November 2015


IN Parliament on Monday, Deputy Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Junaidi Wan Jaafar had reportedly brushed aside Kuching MP Chong Chien Jien’s queries about secessionist activities in Sabah and Sarawak.
The Minister was supposed to have said that the number of such people consist of frustrated ex-politicians and is small and insignificant.
He backed this up by saying his “intelligence” (meaning sources) told him so.
Ah, the famous; “I know better than you because I have all the information” argument.
It is such an irritating argument because they never actually tell us anything about their “superior” knowledge and intelligence so there is no way of verifying its validity.
Be that as it may let us put aside that galling old tactic so favoured by those in power for a moment.
The Minister also says that there will be efforts made by the Government to try to extradite those calling for secession from overseas.
From his remarks, it appears that the country where these secessionists are operating from is Britain.
I presume that if the Government is successful (which I doubt as Britain generally does not extradite people for political reasons), then they will be punished using one of the myriad laws we have for such purposes.
Let me make myself crystal clear at this point; I do not want to see a break up of Malaysia.
I do not want to see any state going off on their own.
This is not based on any legal obligation, it is purely emotional.
I will be sad to see this odd amalgam of states, each with its own distinct dialect, culture and personality drift apart.
But I also think that being dismissive and high-handed is not the way to keep us together.
Actually it can be totally counterproductive.
The fact of the matter is that there are those calling for the secession of Sabah and Sarawak.
Whether they are small or big, what has to happen is that there must be engagement; not brushing them aside and not punishing them.
Look, Sabahans and Sarawakians have grievances.
On record, there has been much unhappiness regarding issues such as Project IC; the sense that their wealth goes mainly to the peninsula; the fear that the extremism blooming in the West is going to infect their cherished culture of acceptance and openness; and the list goes on.
Groups and individuals who are unhappy with the way things are, who think that the Malaysia Agreement has not been respected, must be engaged.
If they are deemed illegal and driven underground, this makes civil discussions difficult, if not impossible.
Worse, it will convince some that they have a case because why would you try to shut up a group with differing views unless it is because you can’t provide convincing counter arguments?
These grievances must be discussed openly and solutions must be found and if mistakes have been made in the past, then they must be admitted to and apologies tendered coupled with clear efforts at rectifying said mistakes.
This will require honesty and also humility.
Anything less is simply not good enough.
If one goes into this waving one’s big bad law, threatening people who disagree with you and acting in a generally arrogant manner, one will only be making things worse.

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