PETALING JAYA: People in Peninsular Malaysia can learn a lot about racial unity, harmony and tolerance from those living in Sabah and Sarawak.
Datuk Seri Azman Ujang, who was born in Sarawak, said the two states are perfect examples of total racial and religious harmony, which are areas Peninsular Malaysia still has a lot of catching up to do even after 64 years of independence.
“Malaysians in both states live up to the aspirations for Malaysia by our founding father Tunku Abdul Rahman,” he told theSun.
“In Sabah and Sarawak, race and religion are non-issues. The people will never quarrel over them.”
Azman said Malaysia has had a federal National Unity Ministry for many years.
“I would love to see it make an impact by adopting the Sabah and Sarawak formula for national integration,” he said.
Selangor-born A. Kumaran went to Sabah in his 20s and spent about 10 years there.
He said he decided to go to Sabah in the mid-90s as he had difficulties finding a job locally.
“I had several friends from Sabah and they encouraged me to try my luck in Lahad Datu. It was a bit of a culture shock when I arrived but I soon found that the people there were very welcoming,” he said.
“I decided to open a kopitiam, with several stalls offering different kinds of food under one roof.”
He said the customers that came to the kopitiam were of different faiths but they did not mind what their friends had for their meals.
“I was surprise as this does not happen in West Malaysia. They also said they visit each other during festivals.”
Kumaran added that it reminded him of his childhood days when friends of different races would visit him during Deepavali.
“Sadly, over time, this has changed.”
Kumaran, who married a Sabahan while he was in Lahad Datu, has since returned to Petaling Jaya.
He still goes back to Lahad Datu at least twice a year, if possible, with his wife and children.
Esther Golingi of Perpaduan Anak Negeri (PAN) Sabah said it was disheartening to see the rights to freedom of religion was being threatened again.
She was referring to a recent statement by the Prime Minister’s Department (Religious Affairs) Deputy Minister Ahmad Marzuk Shaary, who said four new syariah laws were being drafted, including a Bill on control and restrictions on the development of non-Muslim religions.
“We appeal to you (Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob) to act immediately to curb another attempt to introduce more syariah laws, one of which is aimed at curbing the rights of non-Muslim religions.
“This is unacceptable as it strikes at the very core of freedom of religion for all as enshrined in our Federal Constitution.”
Esther said Ismail Sabri, in a speech recently, called for a common ground to build a “Keluarga Malaysia” that cuts across religious, racial and ethnic boundaries.
Yet days later, Ahmad Marzuk spoke about the four new syariah laws, she said.
She added Ahmad Marzuk has not withdrawn his statement nor has he been taken to task for trying to undermine the “Keluarga Malaysia” initiative.
“Sabah is against any proposal that will restrict the freedom of religion of its people and Chief Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor on Sept 9 was quoted as saying so,” she said.
“PAN would embrace the ‘Keluarga Malaysia’ proposal, where we can all be one big, happy family that cuts across religious, racial and ethnic boundaries,” she said.
“Sadly, we are fast becoming strangers in our own land, with erosion of our birth rights to freedom of religion,” she added.