(in the news ::: The Star, Opinion section, September 1st, 2009)

I REFER to “The race to 1Malaysia” (Sunday Star, Aug 30). In scrapping the “race” column in official forms, the Government is serious about the 1Malaysia concept.

I wonder what could really be achieved with the “race” field in any official forms.

Many may say that it is important for statistical purposes, but how do Sabahans and Sarawakians fill in the forms when only three major races are stated and then “Others”?

I sometimes refuse to fill in the “race” column but when officials insist, I merely mark “Others”. If it says “Please specify:”, I will fill in “Bangsa Malaysia”.

Now, I bet I have the officials confused.

There is no “Bangsa Malaysia” for him to key into the system and, therefore, he will consider me as “Chinese” by my looks, skin colour and name.

I am very blessed to be born in Malaysia, a country with diversities to be proud of, various races, a range of religions, an assortment of languages; it is a uniqueness you really can’t find anywhere else in the world.

Nations around the world respect us so much for our diversity, yet for more than 50 years now we have been living peacefully.

I take these diversities to heart and really practice them in my daily life.

When we are with Muslims, although a drinker myself, we respect their choice and know when not to drink.

Eating with Hindus, we will not place beef on the table.

We will respect every prayer at the table before food and when we dine, we learn different languages on how we name each dish on the table.

We have “gulai tempoyak” (a Malay delicacy made of fermented durians) on our Chinese New Year reunion table and I have seen Chinese herbal soup on a Punjabi dinner table.

I fast during Ramadan to understand our Muslim brothers and sisters and observe vegetarianism during the Chinese Nine Emperors celebration.

In Malaysia, there is no difficulty putting food on the table and, therefore, at times we do not think much about being together or the need to be united.

History tells us how all races came together to fight our enemies. The recent march of 50 Muslims to protest against the relocation of a temple was against our 1Malaysia concept.

In fact, I am so glad that the Hindus were very patient, and Malaysians as a whole could see that the 50 people do not represent all Muslims.

Being blessed to be born in times of peace, I hope that we will not need times of war to be united with our fellow Malaysian brothers and sisters.

Many have also asked my views on the social contract. The contract that Anas Zubedy recently published as a full-page ad was a good one, but let me add another point.

Any social contract should be signed in the hearts for a united Malaysia.

There is no point putting a signature or placing a thumbprint on something if it is not upheld.

Let us all embrace our differences, respect our fellow brothers and sisters and together, we will take Malaysia to greater heights.

Kuala Lumpur.

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