Malaya was granted its independence by Britain on Aug 31, 1957 and its leaders had been entrusted to guide the destiny of the country and its people. And the British also planned the formation of Malaysia that came into being in 1963 comprising Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo, later to be known as Sabah.
The main thinking of the then leaders of the Alliance coalition that governed the country was to balance the racial composition in the country. With Sabah and Sarawak in this federation, the Malays with the natives in Sabah and Sarawak would outnumber the non-Malays/Bumiputeras in this new entity.
The basis of this formation was therefore ethnicity. It was a mere coincidence when it was touted that in the new entity Kuala Lumpur would be like Washington, the administrative capital of the country and Singapore would be its New York, the financial centre. This was just a smokescreen to cover the actual intention of the Umno leaders in forming this federation.
When the foundation of a country is not based on anything concrete but more on emotional elements, the country would not progress as a vibrant and dynamic body. So when Singapore left the federation in 1965 and moved on its own, with its leaders knowing precisely what they wanted Singapore to be, the country now has surpassed all expectations and has attained first world status.
Malaysia, without Singapore, moved haphazardly into the future. The economic imbalance became more extreme. The government with its affirmative action had created an acute imbalance in the wealth of the Malay/Bumiputera community. This was due to the misuse of this affirmative agenda. The wealthy comprised a small percentage only and is tied to the leadership of the party.
It is impossible for the Umno Baru/BN government to correct this imbalance and hence ethnicity had been used to divert the attention of the people concerning the wrongs done by the government.
To Umno Baru especially, it is better to destroy the country than to lose power. Thus whatever is convenient will be used to the full, especially on the issues of race and religion.
Slogans about unity are mere rhetoric.
No effort has ever been made to counter the emergence of elements bent on fomenting disunity.
Even leaders in Umno Baru came out to defend their ethnic agenda. Thus there emerged several so-called ethnic solutions to create balance in the economic status of the people.
The Indian community became the focus especially during the 13th general election. Its vanguard movement, Hindraf, gave full support to Umno Baru-BN and even had a document signed to improve the status of the Indian community.
Everything was again based on ethnicity.
The leaders of all communities should have instead banded together and fought for the betterment of every deprived and downtrodden segment of society.
Every community in the country has its poor and needy who need help.
The overall situation is that there exists poverty across the nation. The fight therefore should have been national in character and not sectarian as is happening at the moment.
Exploitation and imbalance is nationwide and cuts across race.
With the focus on ethnicity, there emerged groups using religion as a bastion to wreak havoc on the people. All kinds of excuses have been used to demonise certain sections of the people. Even the Umno Baru-BN government joined the bandwagon instead of defusing the situation.
Economic disparities had been turned into being ethnic in nature. The failure of the current government has added to the uncertainty of the future of the country. A concerted effort must be made by enlightened leaders to forge a united front to combat this menace.
The remedy is to create a fresh start and guide the course for the future of the country and the people to achieve a balanced and united nation. All the evil legacies of Umno Baru/BN must be unshackled and thrown away. It is time that those in the BN coalition came out from their stupor and made amends to the faults that they had created by collaborating with Umno Baru. They are simply aborting the trust and the hope of their members.
Umno Baru has no desire to abandon its ethnic approach to solving the country’s problems. There was never a desire to evolve the coalition into a single national political party.
No entity can remain static. It has to move on or be left behind.
Component members of the BN must wake up and realise this and not to be part of their evil agenda.
Ethnic-based parties are a complete anathema to a one united nation policy.
Ethnicity will have to be pushed into the background and slowly but surely make it as a thing of the past. National interest should override the interest of each community.
The current agenda of each community fighting for its so-called rights will only court uncertainty for the country and its people.
A bold move must be taken to ensure that a united Malaysian nation will come into being.
Ahmad Mustapha Hassan is a former press secretary to second Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein and the writer of the book, "The Unmaking of Malaysia".