Monday, January 07, 2008

Sowing Unity Through Leadership By Example

Datuk Clement Hii, who has been a columnist in The Star, has been highlighting on various interesting issues lately. His recent article on Leadership by Example, is definitely suitable for current situation. He wrote on the racial unity situation currently, and talked about how we, adults and also people who have been entrusted to bring people together, to lead by example.

Do the general Malaysian public, or the working adults live the testimony of racial integration. Do we come together, irrespective of race? Do we differentiate ourselves by our skin colours? Can we work together? Can we leverage on our strength of diversity to bring Malaysia further.

If we really look around Malaysia for the most united and diversed company. Which one would it be? Are there firms out there which are really diversed? Is diversity our strength or weakness?

For the full article, go to The Star

Sowing unity through leadership by example


DISCUSSIONS on racial unity have become increasingly intense of late. I find this rather ironic considering the fact that it has been 50 years since independence and we are now even more concerned over creating unity as compared with the early independence era. Some fingers point to the education system as one of the culprits, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the Malays, Chinese and Indians intermingled freely in and out of schools without racial or religious barriers. There was no need for moral classes, Rukunegara Clubs or special programmes to create a muhibbah environment.

However, in the past decade, racial unity has become somewhat less evident. In secondary schools and public universities, students are seen to generally mix with only their own race.

Some people blame the different schooling streams – national schools and national-type schools – SJK(C ) and SJK(T) – for creating this racial gap because of the segregation of race in the education system. This apparently leads to the culmination of programmes such as Students’ Integration Plan for Unity (Rimup) and e-Integration, which are meant to foster closer ties and encourage racial integration among students of different schooling streams.

Cluster schools comprising a selected national school and two national-type schools have been created under the Rimup scheme. Each school takes its turn to present and host one major cultural festival. This could increase understanding of the different cultures, but would it truly create racial unity?

This brings to question what racial unity means. In my opinion, it is more than tolerance, knowledge and understanding of other cultures and religions. It is more about respect for each other and a firm commitment by all races towards achieving national unity.

When there is respect, people do not undermine the values and importance of each other’s culture and religion.

A commitment to live peacefully alongside each other can only exist when there is no resentment and bitterness. Racial unity cannot exist if there are such thoughts that “my culture and religion are better than yours.”

Tolerance and understanding on their own will not take unity far, because tolerance is just a matter of non-confrontation and understanding is a matter of knowing.

Critics say the current debate has come about due to a disparity of policies practised in the education system, which has consequently and indirectly caused some form of racial polarisation in the country. Our children are not blind or ignorant. They will notice any difference in treatment in various aspects, even in their growing years.

It is not just the system. We also need to consider what we are imparting indirectly to students. Do teachers display examples of racial unity in school? It is not what is taught in Moral and Religious class that matters, but informal comments and opinions that students pick up like a sponge. Students will also observe how politicians behave and hear their parents’ grouses, showing imperfect examples of “unity.”

At the end of the day, I believe leadership by example and impartiality in policies and practices would create a greater impact on the young than anything else.

Perhaps when lifelong learning is more widespread within the Malaysian society, the message of unity can be disseminated more effectively to all citizens who are prepared to open their eyes and ears at later stages of their lives.

Datuk Clement Hii is the executive deputy chairman of LLL Lifelong Learning Network Sdn Bhd which promotes and coordinates lifelong learning among Malaysians.

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