ETALING JAYA: Malays and non-Malays have been growing apart over the years, said former CIMB group chairman Nazir Razak, who reflected on ways the country has visibly changed in his lifetime.
It was not just non-Malays who had begun to notice that the Malaysia of today does not resemble the country they grew up in, he said in an interview with FMT.
“I think the Malays also sense that Malaysians have been living together but growing apart over the years, and I think this is driven by policies, by our education system, and by growing religiosity among many people in this country.”
He said it was “sad” to hear people say they did not recognise what the country had become.
“I think back to my time at St John’s Primary, when we were very multiracial, but recently I went in and looked into the playing fields and it’s become a national school – something like 96% Malays and 4% Indians and that was it.
“And I felt very sad when I saw that, whereas in my time, St John’s Institution was reflective of the nation’s population in terms of ethnic composition.
“Just yesterday I was in conversation with Tun Musa (Hitam), and he reminded me again that when it all started, we used the term ‘Malayan Nation’ as our agenda, the political leaders then, and of course it became the ‘Malaysian Nation’, yet today this kind of nation building project seems to have stopped, or isn’t working.”
Nazir agreed that it can be easy to idealise the past, reminding people that national and racial unity have always been works in progress.
“We must always remember that in the 60’s we had several breakdowns in civil order – race riots in Singapore in ‘65, Penang in ‘67 and of course May 13 in ‘69, and those are just the major ones.”
He said it could be time for a similar “reset”, as was done after 1969, when structural reforms such as the New Economic Policy, Rukun Negara, amendments to the Sedition Act and the formation of a grand coalition to govern the country were implemented to stabilise the country,
“I think the right way to have this national reset is to set up a new deliberative platform, a bit like the National Consultative Council in 1970.”
“Today’s national NCC, which I’ve called a Better Malaysian Assembly, needs to be less elitist than the one that was set up in 1970, with 67 selected people,” he said, suggesting that people from across the political spectrum and civil society come together to help nominate people to the assembly.
“You’d have this Better Malaysia Assembly, a composition of people debating structural reforms over, say, 18 months or two years, coming up with strong recommendations and tabling it in Parliament, for Parliament then to debate and enact the necessary policy and legislative changes.”