KUALA LUMPUR, June 14 — Rukun Negara, the country’s national philosophy that has been ingrained in all Malaysians – especially during the 70s and early 80s – is the embodiment of the harmony and unity enjoyed in the country till today.
Therefore, it is important that the spirit and sentiments behind the formation of the philosophy are not lost, especially among the younger generation, says social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye.
The trustee of the Malaysian Unity Foundation who was still a budding politician when the Rukun Negara was proclaimed on Aug 31, 1970, said he had a first-hand look at how racial integration was forged following the May 13 incident a year earlier.
Serious efforts were made by the government in restoring racial unity, and this culminated in the establishment of the Rukun Negara aimed at uniting the nation, he said.
For Lee, talking about the Rukun Negara always brings back fond memories of the spirit of goodwill and harmony that existed in the 1970s and 1980s, something he feels is fading away from society today.
“I feel a little disappointed that after the 1980s, the Rukun Negara was not given prominence or taken seriously to the point that the meaning and spirit contained within it were lost,” he told Bernama in conjunction with the three-month-long golden jubilee celebration of the Rukun Negara this year.
The celebration was officially launched by Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin at the Perdana Putra Building in Putrajaya on July 9.
Lee, who represented DAP until his political retirement in the 1990s said he was only 24 at the time of the May 13 incident and had just been elected as the assemblyman for Bukit Nanas constituency which was then still under the Selangor state administration.
According to him, it was the 1969 General Election which ultimately led to the racial riots on May 13, with studies later revealing that economic and social imbalances were among the reasons behind the upheaval.
“The Rukun Negara is a guide or compass for Malaysians regardless of race or religion. When Rukun Negara was formed, I took the opportunity to collect references from media reports and newspapers as I was drawn by the national philosophy.
“The closest thing to my heart is how Rukun Negara became a guide that was easy to understand, appreciated and valued by the people at that time,” he said.
The five principles of the Rukun Negara – Belief in God; Loyalty to King and Country; Upholding the Constitution; Rule of Law; and Good Behaviour and Morality – highlight the concept of moderation as an effective philosophy for unity the country.
Lee, 74, who has also been Bukit Bintang MP for four terms, said the then government’s seriousness in instilling the spirit of the Rukun Negara in the society saw it embraced by all, regardless of race, religion and culture.
“The Rukun Negara, when it was originally created, garnered very positive feedback attracted everyone among the multiracial community because they felt that if the philosophy behind the Rukun Negara could be applied, it would be able to solve the problems, especially in terms of unity and other economic and social aspects,” he said.
However, Lee said since the 1990s, racial issues were often fanned or politicised, causing much racial tension in the country, and if left unchecked, could lead to more serious problems in the future.
The native of Ipoh, Perak, stressed that Malaysia’s survival depended on how well the people accepted the Rukun Negara as a guide and principle to live in peace and harmony.
In this regard, he said that the Rukun Negara should be given a new lease of life, and be the basis for determining the policies and actions taken by the government.
“Malaysia can continue to remain peaceful amid the diversity as a multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-cultural country which can become its strength to continue to progress based on the principles contained within the Rukun Negara.
“We have no other choice…we have to refer back to the Rukun Negara because it is an important foundation for the country build upon, that will remain relevant forever,” he said, hoping that the country’s future generation would appreciate and stay true to the philosophy which has achieved so much thus far.