Forum :- One Malaysia : Fact or Fiction

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  • August 10, 2010
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By Desmond Ho

The Malacca Bar organized a forum titled “One Malaysia : Fact or Fiction” on 6.8.2010 at Renaissance Hotel, Melaka. Jointly co-organized by  the Human Rights Sub-committee and the Contemporary Issues Sub-committee, the forum was a platform for Malaccans, from all walks of life, to gain an insight as to the current Prime Minister’s push for “One Malaysia”, it’s shortcomings and potential from the viewpoints of the panelists that have been invited.

Aloysius Ng

Aloysius Ng

The forum was moderated by Malacca Bar’s former Chairman of the State Bar Committee, Mr. Aloysius Ng Chee Seng. His introductory comments were a precursor to the topic at hand as he remarked that (paraphrased):-

“The ‘One Malaysia’ value is an asset which the citizens should be proud of. It is an attitude to accept all races and all people. It reflects social justice. However is the concept of ‘One Malaysia’ merely a slogan?”

Marina Mahathir

Marina Mahathir

The first panelist, Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir states that the One Malaysia concept is a difficult topic to think about  as it is difficult to define the concept. It is a fact in certain ways and a fiction in many ways too. This concept is understood in different ways by different categories of people, i.e. the politically slanted views and the view that it unites everyone. In jest, although warranting provoking thoughts, she puts forth a question, “Why is it that there is no proposal for “One Isteri ?” A concept not defined thoroughly, leaves room for interpretations to suit the ideology of anyone for that matter. To some quarters, the concept is even an “inter religion” concept.

The focus on race has even turned sports “race based“. Football  is predominantly “Malay”, Badminton is predominantly ‘Chinese and Hockey predominantly “Indian”.

Marina highlighted pertinent issues such as the inequality of rights for Muslim women as compared to non Muslim women. What would be of more importance is uniformity as opposed to unity. The acceptance of diversity allows for uniformity in understanding the concept.

Tan Jing Shen

Tan Jing Shen

The second panelist, 19 year old Mr.Tan Jing Shen provided inspiration for the youths in Malaysia. A student leader, he spoke of the necessity of change in the “small things”. Melissa Sasidaran’s recent article in Putik Lada, a bi-weekly column in The Star newspaper was highlighted. Simple everyday tasks like the filling up of forms need to go beyond race.

He was of the view that the One Malaysia concept is requires both the government and its citizens to move towards the same direction in order to achieve its goals. A change can only happen if there is a change within us as citizens. Where there is a common purpose or vision, it is heartening to see Malaysian united. To highlight his point, the trailer of “Invictus”, a movie that shows South Africa being united in the support of their rugby team was played.

Dr. Azmi Sharom

Dr. Azmi Sharom

Dr. Azmi Sharom, the third panelist, witty as ever and the crowd favourite, stunned the audience when he spoke about the ‘suffering’ he had to go through to prepare for this forum. With deadpan humour, he delivered his punchline, he suffered having to visit and readthrough a website explaining the “One Malaysia” concept!

He states, agreeing with Marina’s view, that diversity in ideology is more vital than the idea of unity. However. to embrace unity means to believe that everyone belongs on this  land unconditionally.

He made a critical review of the concepts laid down in explaining “One Malaysia” as stated in the website.

1.         Race is still an issue raised in the document.

2.         The Constitution. However which constitution are we referring to? The Constitution laid down by our forefathers or the one interpreted by race based “champions”.

3.         Affirmative action policies. Article 153 of the Constitution clearly makes no references to “Bumiputra discounts for purchase or properties” neither is PDRM a “Malay Insitution”.

A Spurs die-hard fan, he nonetheless disagreed with Marina’s daughter’s view that the intended ban of Manchester United’s jerseys for reasons of being devilish was wrong. They are evil. I agree.


Questions and statements from the floor made the forum livelier as the panelists each gave  their views. “It was interesting and we hope to attend more forums organized  by the Malacca Bar”, as a few of the attendees  remarked. A strong 300 crowd made one Malaccan stand up to say that looking at the demographics of the crowd, it was not One Malaysia yet. Dr. Azmi replied that earlier, the same morning, he was speaking to officers from MARA and someone spokeup and said the same thing. There is hope after all.


To sum up the topic of the forum, a quote from Dr. Azmi Sharom

“Malaysian taglines change so often, i.e. Islam Hadhari, Wawasan 2020, 1Malaysia that it feels like waking into Baskin Robbins. New flavours all the time”


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