Patriotism in Malaysia

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The Malaysian Bar

Patriotism cannot be forced onto a Malaysian
Contributed by Charles Hector

The compulsory national service training 'programme is intended to foster the spirit of patriotism, encourage racial integration, and develop "positive and noble traits" among the younger generation' (Malaysiakini 13/6/2003). The targeted group is our youth of about 18 years. The object of this programme was expressed by Defence Minister Najib Tun Razak, who chairs the special cabinet committee. 'The programme will focus on basic military training, patriotic training and personal development including community service.' (Malaysiakini 17/6/2003) In the military, one is trained to follow orders of superiors without question. Would this be one of the characteristics graduates of this training would be instilled with? Hopefully not, because for a person to be a patriot, he must be a person concerned with the well being of the nation and this means that he must be a person who will be brave enough to stand up to criticize bad leaders, bad policies, bad laws, corrupt practices, lack of transparency in the leadership and/or the government of the day, injustices around him, abuses of powers and everything that is not good for Malaysia and Malaysians as a whole. He must be a participative citizen of Malaysia, and not a by-stander silenced by fear and/or other self-interest. A patriot must be a person who will also get involved in the day-to-day politics of the nation, at every level; this would mean he will not only support good candidates for leadership, but will also offer himself as a candidate. There was, at one time, many Malaysians who were like 'Hang Tuah', a person with total and blind loyalty to the rulers of the day, irrespective of whether justice or injustice was done or ordered to be done - but today we find that more and more Malaysians are becoming like 'Hang Jebats', a person who would voice out and protest injustices done even by the rulers of the day. Hang Jebat protested against the injustice done to Hang Tuah, unlike the blind unquestioning loyalty of Hang Tuah (although I may not agree with the form he employed). Many Malaysians, especially the youth of Malaysia, who were once all-believing of what their leaders said and of all that they read in the media are today in 2003, more critical and questioning. This questioning in the minds of Malaysians has today gone beyond private chit-chats in coffee shops in low voices to actual expressing of their opinions, views and questions freely. This questioning of the leadership and their actions, is not just at the level of the 'wakil rakyats' but is happening at all levels of society where election of leaders is still allowed, and is beginning to result in the rejection of bad leaders and the raising of new and hopefully better leaders. This, I believe, is good for the nation and country as a whole. This active participation of the patriotic citizen must be encouraged and supported. The government should have faith in its citizens and should do away with the present appointment of town councillors, members of Jawatankuasa Kerja Kampung (JKKK), Jawatankuasa Kerja Taman (JKKT) and such bodies, and give back the power of choice of leaders to the citizens of Malaysia. It is a misconception that Malaysians are not patriotic and need special compulsory 'patriotic training' to develop patriotism. Patriots shackled and prevented from the expression of their patriotism by a controlled media, the inadequacies of means of free expression, and lack of avenues of participation in nation building would and have inadvertently suppressed this sense of patriotism. For example, the increase in the amount of the deposit for persons interested in running for elections as wakil rakyats and state assembly men is definitely not in the best interest of the nation for it would only serve to prevent good people who are not financially well off from offering themselves as peoples' representatives....
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