PETALING JAYA: More than mere lip service and slogans are essential to realise the “Keluarga Malaysia”, or Malaysian Family spirit espoused by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

While social activist Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye said there should be policies that benefit every Malaysian, regardless of race or religion, former senior civil servant Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam stressed that all individuals should be treated as equals.

Lee said that for the Malaysian Family concept to be realised, everyone in the family should be loved, respected, nurtured and given all opportunities to develop to their full potential.

“It is hoped that the government will do whatever it takes to ensure that family values are practised in all aspects of national life,” he told theSun.

“In a family, we do not discriminate against any member. Everyone deserves equal treatment and opportunities. There should be no favourites.”

Lee said special consideration should be given to Malaysians who are disadvantaged or deprived regardless of race, religion, creed, gender or geographical location.

“Only then can we create a true Malaysian Family. Let’s not just talk about it. Let’s experience it in our daily lives.”

Lee pointed out that the Covid-19 pandemic had shown that all Malaysians are “in the same boat”.

He said the pandemic has taught Malaysians a “very valuable” lesson, and that is everyone is vulnerable in the same way.

“We all need the same level and measure of help. There must be no discrimination.”

Lee noted that fostering national unity has been the nation’s greatest challenge over the years.

“The concept of ‘unity in diversity’ used to be touted as our greatest strength. However, we seem to have lost that sense of oneness. We are drifting apart, along racial and religious lines.”

He said the Malaysian Family spirit should be practised by all strata of society. “It must be an extension and expression of our own family unity and values. This means breaking down racial barriers while organisations should not be race or religion-based.

“We have to do this if we are to move away from the current race and religious bias in so many aspects of our national life.

“Let’s apply the Malaysian family spirit in all aspects of our national life. After all, everyone is Malaysian, with equal rights, responsibilities, hopes and aspirations and we require equal opportunities.”

Ramon, who now heads the Centre for Public Policy at the Asia Strategy and Leadership Institute, said that if Malaysians do not change their ways, the nation risks going down the path of racial and religious prejudice.

He singled out the RUU355 (Rang Undang-Undang 355) proposed by PAS as one of the ways that could lead to disunity and impede progress.

The RUU355 is a Bill tabled by PAS to seek an amendment to the Syariah Courts (Criminal Jurisdiction) Act to increase penalties for various offences.

Ramon said there should not be a situation where one person stands dominant over another. “People want freedom and equality.”

He proposed that the next five-year plan should focus on providing opportunities to the poor. “Income level rather than race should be the basis on which aid is provided under these new plans. The poor, no matter who they are, should receive help. If we continue to ignore the needs of the poor, it could lead to social disunity in the long term.”

Ramon also noted that some leaders do not want unity for fear that they would lose their grip on power.