Tuesday, July 17, 2007

National Unity Panel - should it be top heavy or with fingers on society's pulse

I have amended this posting here and there as my original inevitably showed the results of a 15-minutes job. I made a lot of grammatical errors as well as used incorrect words without checking - shame on KTemoc ;-) The end result of the original rush posting is that I even have to amend the title

UPDATE 18 July 2007: A more polished version, ie. minus blogger's irrelevant and loud thoughts, and yeah, coarse language ;-) has been printed in malaysiakini today, with even a more couthy title - see Marina Mahathir ideal for National Unity Panel


VRK wrote a letter to malaysiakini voicing his concerns over the composition of the National Unity Panel members.

He reckoned, hmmm, correctly, to some extent if I may add, that retired civil servants and not-so-senior members of the government will only be nothing more than a bunch of Sir Humphrey’s idling in cosy comfort and indulging in ‘talk shop’.

I reckon one or two bureaucrats may not be bad as the panel would need these civil servants to manage the administrative and funding aspects. But VRK is right because I can predict that if the panel are made up of only government employees, past and present, we may expect them to be ringing up HQ for instructions on what ‘findings’ and ‘recommendations’ to issue.

So, why bother with a National Panel. Give the job to some party hack or a senior civil servant in the PM’s Department, unless of course it’s just more 'jobs for the boys’.

But VRK is not entirely non-constructive. He praised the importance of such a panel which will be responsible for analysing inter-ethnic problems buggering our society and dreaming ‘thinking’ up fresh ideas to improve national unity.

But the following is where I feel VRK might have veered from his initially correct course when he recommended that the panel should have important personalities from both the government and private sectors. For example, he proposed the president of Petronas, deputy prime minister (DPM), CEOs of Cimb and Maybank as well as the other captains of industries.

He even nominated the crown prince of Perak to chair the panel, saying: "Perhaps the panel should be headed by a member of a royal household; the Crown Prince of Perak comes to the mind given his urging recently on the issue of unity."

I disagree – too blooming top heavy!

Admittedly kaytee is a socialist and thus doesn’t take kindly to societal Brahmins, but OK, leaving my personal prejudice aside, I don't believe that captains of industry are exactly experts on issues of national unity or have the sort of minds which emphatize with the fears, prejudice and worries of society. For them, the prime objective has always been and is about profits.

I am not even talking about sweat shops, serf-like labour in plantations with some in medieval bondage which malaysiakini in recent articles had shockingly revealed as existing in some Malaysian agricultural estates.

Then, there is also the unmitigated evil of a few unscrupulous plantations exploiting illegal immigrants as poorly paid semi-slaves. The lack of official control over such abysmal conditions could and would have indirectly contributed to the frightening rise in crime rates that now plagues us, when some of those more entrepreneurial workers moonlighted as Robin Hood, or committed worse crimes.

Where were the captains of industry then?

OK, perhaps the DPM can sit on the panel as the Chair but I doubt he wants to. Obviously VRK likes a member of the royalty to head the panel. I have no objections to his nomination of the Perak prince as the latter seems to be a fine young man, and if the panel could do with his leadership that's good, but there is no point in having him and the DPM together in one room.

What we really need on the panel are people who have a finger on the pulse on what's troubling the nation and can propose solutions to bridge the politically created rifts between ethnic, religious, social groups. They should be people who have the ability to break down prejudice.

And since I mentioned the rifts in society have been caused by politicians they should be kept out of the panel.

I am thinking of people like (nah, not kaytee):

(1) Marina Mahathir, a dedicated worker for those unfortunate members of our society afflicted by the dreaded HIV-AIDS. Her caring compassion has in many ways overcome cruel ostracism. National unity is not just about inter-ethnic problems but the ill-informed prejudice of our society which denys the needy of much needed compassion.

Marina can be the person to span the needs of victims of cruel fate with a more compassionate generous understanding Malaysian society, and help foster an inclusive caring and tolerant Malaysian people. We could do less than bigoted and cruel suggestions to maroon the sufferings to some isolated Devil's Isle.

Marina is highly respected for her caring nature and dedication in such a difficult field of social work and I dare say many, especially yours truly, adore her - the ideal personaility for the National Unity Panel.

(2) The Mufti of … nah, not ... Disgrace ... what, you think I'm crazy?

Having frowned upon cruel bigoted suggestions to consign our sufferings to Pulau Buang-Dia, we gratefully look across to the other side on the religious front and see that we should co-opt the Mufti of Perlis, a man who has shown his comprehensive confidence and strength in his faith, that he does not need to behave like paranoid neo-cons.

Together with moderate leaders from other religions he can help heal the divide by promoting improved mutual understanding leading to a tolerant multi-ethnic multi-religious mutually respectful society.

(3) Brother Ong Boon Keong of SOS Penang - As a Penangite, I have witnessed his sterling community work, where his social contributions have been above narrow ethnic considerations. He certainly has a finger on the pulse of the anxieties, fears and worries of the common people, those that the National Unity Panel should be focusing on.

Obviously there are other capable and suitable people to be nominated to the panel, but these three social luminaries are representative of people I have in mind for the National Unity Panel.

While VRK has correctly pointed out the panel members are being disproportionately made up of bureaucrats, his solution was unfortunately more driven by impressions of prestige, power and position. Let us have people who know what have been troubling our society and who can come up with meaningful recommendations.

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