A prescription for the nation

by Professor Adeeba Kamarulzaman
Whilst all these are taking place, I sincerely hope that the new leaders that we have elected will also pay attention to restoring the heart and soul of the nation. Close to 13 million people or 82.2 per cent of eligible voters turned out to vote in an election that has changed Malaysia’s political landscape forever. Many flew or drove miles to return to vote, young and old patiently stood for hours for their turn at the polling booths to elect leaders that we trust will have a genuine interest of the rakyat at heart. Leaders that will help us rebuild the nation with a culture that no longer solely emphasises material wealth, where greed is good and any form of self-enrichment is tolerated. In its place we need our leaders and citizens to work towards the greater good and with a common sense of purpose to rebuild the nation. The amazing outpouring of patriotism, the notion of Bangsa Malaysia and a sense of pride and accomplishment that were seen in writings, postings and pictures in the social media following the announcement of the results of the elections attest to the joy and hope of everyone for a new beginning. Let this be translated into a renewed vigour by every citizen to work together towards rebuilding Malaysia without race and ethnicity defining us, backed by policies and programmes to ensure that.Our doctors in charge will have to inject a large dose of respect and tolerance as necessary medicine into our society that has in the last few years seen an erosion of the harmonious and mutually respectful way of life that we once enjoyed in this multi-racial country of ours. Episodes of inter-religious conflicts that have been fuelled by increasing conservatism and ethno-religious politics such as the ban on the use of the word Allah by non-Muslims and harassment of or attacks on non-Muslim houses of worship indicate an increasing sign of intolerance and extremism. Policies and programmes to improve and promote religious freedom as enshrined in our constitution will need to be established or improved upon. The new administration will need to ensure that these policies are on par with international human rights standards, especially in terms of religious freedom, and the right to religious expression. In addition, respect and tolerance of sexual diversity and of basic human rights and dignity need to also be practised, practices such as the demonisation of transgenders and other sexual minorities must be stopped and no longer tolerated.

Whilst the French national motto of liberty, equality, fraternity had its origins from the 1848 February revolution, we in Malaysia have proudly shown the world that the people’s desire for change can be achieved through a peaceful democratic process. Fundamental to this desire for change has been the growing concern and impact of the large income disparity between the rich and poor and a desire for a just and caring society in which the wealth of the nation is equitably distributed. Whilst the need to fix the ever- increasing financial gap is essential and urgent, other forms of inequality will also need to be addressed. Equality must be promoted and practised in every aspect of life be it gender, race or social class. Central to this is to recognise the equality of all individuals as citizens and as children of God. Replacing the decades long race-based policies with one that is merit-based and that favour the poor in general regardless of race and religion will be one of the biggest challenges the new government has to face.

Much hope is being pinned on this new administration to right the wrongs of the last few decades and to rebuild the nation. However, change can only come if each and every one of us embrace a new culture that values integrity over dishonesty, excellence over mediocrity, hard work over hand-outs. Openness, transparency and accountability will be our new Essential Medicines. Malaysia has been blessed with an abundance of natural resources, free from natural disasters such as earthquakes and typhoons and a strategic geographic location. Our diversity is our strength. Let us together move forward to heal and rebuild the nation and put it back on track to become a developed nation not just in our economic achievements but also in our moral substance and values.

* Professor Datuk Dr Adeeba Kamarulzaman is the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at University of Malaya.

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