Take steps towards building a more diverse and inclusive country

Dr Arnold Puyok

By Peter Sibon

KUCHING, Aug 17: Public figures and political leaders of this country should promote nation-building instead of promoting the dominance of only one race, reminded Universiti Malaysia Sarawak (Unimas) senior lecturer in Government and Political Studies Dr Arnold Puyok.

He pointed out that identify of each individual citizen in the country is Malaysian.

“What we want to hear from our public figures is how to build this country. Moreover, in building the country, it is not about one race whether you are a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban, Kadazan and so on and so forth,” he told Dayakdaily today.

“The emphasis must be made on how we can work together regardless of what race you are. Malaysia celebrates racial and cultural diversity. Promoting the dominance of one race is not the same as encouraging non-Malays to speak Malay,” he added.

He was commenting on Perlis mufti Datuk Dr Mohammad Azri Zainul Abidin’s recent statement that Malaysia belonged to the Malays and the non-Malays must find ways to know the Malay language and adapt the customs.

Citing an example of Malaysians travelling overseas, he said that their identity remained Malaysian.

“We should be proud to say that we are Malaysians first and then we can talk about our own specific heritage such as race and religion,” he stressed.

He strongly rejected Azri’s argument and emphasised that Malaysia is made up of 11 states in Peninsular Malaysia and Sarawak and Sabah.

“The starting point must be made on the formation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963 because before that, there was no Malaysia. But if he just want to talk about Tanah Melayu, which refers to Malaya, then I can’t comment on that,” he elaborated.

He thus hoped that other public figures from Peninsular Malaysia will not repeat the misconception that Malaysia is made up of only 11 states in Malaya.

Meanwhile, on controversial Indian preacher Dr Zakir Naik, Puyok said he (Zakir) made a big mistake as he was not only finding faults but has been cynical to other religions.

“Naik should preach common values and promote religious understanding. He should use his status as a well-known preacher to promote inter-religious dialogues or promote understanding of Islam,” he said.

Puyok added that Zakir’s approach has created unnecessary tension among adherents of other religions in the country.

Zakir has been on the run from Indian authorities since 2016 for money laundering charges and for allegedly inspiring terrorism after five militants attacked a bakery in Dhaka, Bangladesh that ended with 29 dead.

He was under police investigation for incitement over remarks made against Indian and Chinese Malaysians during a lecture in Kota Baru, Kelantan on Aug 10.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has said the government will not send Zakir back to India because he risked being killed there, but added that any other country willing to accept the preacher is welcome to take him.

Yesterday, Zakir has been called by Bukit Aman to give his statement following at least 150 police reports lodged against the Indian fugitive.— DayakDaily