Published in The Sun on 24 May 2013

Halimah Mohd Said

THE buzz word these days is “reconciliation”. Without going too much into semantics as I’m often tempted to do, I’m offering a couple of analogies to better understand the concept.

Last Friday, my Facebook status registered quite a few hits when I declared “(HMS) thinks there are important lessons to be learned from estranged couples who love each other enough to get back together and work out a more equitable relationship; and estranged parents/children who love each other enough to accommodate one another’s needs. Love sustains”.

A “reconciliation” presumes there has been an estrangement – a falling out so to speak – between two or more parties who once liked or loved one another. When the word is used to describe a dire socio-political need in Malaysia, the presumption is that the inter-party (political) relationships have fallen into great disarray. Worse still, at the community level, the inter-group links have disintegrated. All too true judging from the writings on the media wall.

Having once been likened to King Lear’s ungrateful daughter Cordelia and having had to eat humble pie to appease an irate father, I believe that for reconciliation to take place there must be, first of all, self-realisation by the feuding parties.

For human relationships to break down there must have been mutual disappointment and hurt. To start the process of healing, there must therefore be honest acknowledgement of the part played by each in creating the emotional/psychological chasm underlying the racio-ethnic one.

Too much has been said and too much venom has been spread by those intent on making a mockery of Malaysia’s multiculturalism. Once and for all, we must accept the fact that we are not a homogenous society.

There are differences in history, race, ethnicity, religion, culture, philosophy and ideology which we have the right to uphold with the greatest honour and dignity.

We have a right to be racial, ie proud and protective of our own ethnic group and its rich heritage, but we have absolutely no right to be racist, ie decrying and discriminating against other groups.

True multiculturalism is not a song and dance act but gathering strength from one another’s differences.

The process of national reconciliation must start by getting Malaysians at all levels to sit down and face one another – not on Facebook but Face2Face.

There must be honesty in declaring one’s grievances and unhappiness but equally, there must be openness in confessing to one’s own shortcomings. Pointing out the faults of other people while hiding behind one’s sense of superiority will only cause the other side to retaliate.

Once and for all, Malaysians of all ethnic compositions must search their souls and admit we have all contributed to this sorry state we are now in.

BN and PR and their component parties must stop dealing the racist card and work out their political differences in a responsible way. Stop the name-calling, the slander and the slur and grow up.

Be the mature democracy you say you are aspiring to. Stop inciting hatred in the name of the electorate. Urge them instead to demonstrate the best of their cultural values.

Instead of circulating the hate mails and atrociously racist articles, those who are active on the email and social media circuit should undergo a process of atonement and keinsafan, bury their arrogance and keangkuhan and cleanse their black and kaudu hearts.

If they are sincere about building up a respectable Malaysian society and an enlightened Malaysian civilisation, they must instil the right values in the Malaysians that they lead.

May I surmise with this beautiful example of community living among the porcupines contributed by my email colleague Sallih Amran:

It was the coldest winter ever. Many animals died because of the cold. 
The porcupines, realising the situation, decided to group together. 
This way they covered and protected themselves; but the quills of each one wounded their closest companions even though they gave off heat to each other.

After awhile, they decided to distance themselves one from the other but they began to die, alone and frozen.

So they had to make a choice: either accept the quills of their companions or disappear from the Earth. Wisely, they decided to go back to being together. This way they learned to live with the little wounds that were caused by the close relationship with their companion, but the most important part of it, was the heat that came from the others. This way they were able to survive.


The moral of the story!

The best relationship is not the one that brings together perfect people, but the best is when each individual learns to live with the imperfections of others and can admire the other person’s good qualities.



  1. 1 Thumb Logic
    June 1, 2013 at 10:56 am

    Multiculturalism will be dead if we do not strictly adhere to the principle, ‘ your freedom ends where my nose begins’.

  2. 2 ninitalk
    June 1, 2013 at 11:37 am

    Again Thumb Logic – I don’t understand what you mean. If you could explain the metaphor I’d appreciate it

  3. 3 ninitalk
    June 1, 2013 at 11:40 am


    I was delighted to have read the article by Halimah Mohd Said
    “Multiculturalism at its best”the Sun dated 24/5/13.
    Yes,without a doubt,Malaysia’s multiculturalism has been our greatest
    strenght and priceless asset and will be so for generations to
    come.Malaysians may be different in ethnicity,religion,culture,ways of
    life,philosophy and ideology but 56 years ago through the noble
    aspirations and mutual co-operation and effort, we managed to free
    ourselves from British rule and jointly founded a new and free nation
    called Malaya(later Malaysia).And on hand to guide this new and young
    multiracial nation was the Federal Constitution-the highest law of the
    land.Malaya prospered under the great spirit of Federal Constitution with
    its people-the Malays,Chinese and Indians living,working ,supporting and
    loving each other just like members of the same family.Malaysia is what
    it is today due to the patriotism shown by all.For
    centuries,Malays,Chinese and Indians have successfully proven to the
    world we are able to co-exist peacefully despite our
    different background and this
    is certainly the nation’s highest blessing by the all-mighty.Because of
    this,foreign tourists found Malaysia amazing with many of them keep
    coming back time and again,mainly due to our country’s unique multiracial
    characteristic and simple,easy-going and peaceful lifestyle as the main
    factor ,next only come our natural beauty,places of interest,local
    foods and beverages, airports,buildings,roads and how rich and
    knowledgeable we have become!How Malaysians live , behave and react are
    more important than anything else in our day to day life.
    Without being arrogant, I am proud to write and share ,Malacca,my home
    state is the best example where people of diverse racial
    origin,faith,culture and occupation co-existing peacefully and
    harmoniously for centuries even until
    today.Malays,Chinese,Indians,Portugese,Babas,Chittys,Eurasians and
    Eurropeans easily mix and make friends with other and for so long this
    melting port of the East and West have been attracting vistors all over
    the world and the numbers keep increasing.Malacca may be small physically
    but the people’s heart and mind are all embracing and united inside out
    and joinly work hard to develop and prosper the state, this to me is
    truly Malaysian.
    Coming back to national reconciliation proposed by the Prime Minister,I
    am of the view the top leadership of both BN and PR must have the truest
    sincerity and greatest commitment and HAVE THE INTEREST AND WELL BEING
    OF MALAYSIA AT HEART by dropping race politics and stop playing the race
    card and move according to times.Leaders from both sides must have the
    political wisdom,will and courage to stop all negative thoughts,words and
    actions on racial politics and also make sure their respected media be
    free from racialism and printing news that could incite racial hatred and
    In a pluralistic society like ours,responsible ,cultured and clean
    politicians are very important and critical to us as these
    representatives of the people can either make or break the nation.The era
    of devide and rule is over ,all politicians know this and the people ‘s
    political consciousness and maturity are much higher now compare to
    decades ago in this globalised and internet world.
    Any party that fails to reform,adapt , change and serve the
    nation unconditionally will not last and this is the reality no one can
    avoid.Government can come and go but the people and nation remain ,this
    is what DEMOCRACY and freedom of choice is all about.
    Thank You for reading.
    David Tih,

  4. 4 Thumb Logic
    June 2, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    Dear Nini,

    In life the most difficult thing to do is to wake up a Man who is pretending to sleep.

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