(Penang, Friday): In his Hari Raya Puasa message, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad said that the double festivities of Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Aidilfitri "reflects our understanding in overcoming racial differences", and asked: "Isn't this better than the blind enmity that we see in certain countries which has prevented people from celebrating their festive occasions?"
Yesterday, Mahathir also called on Malaysians to "avoid putting the interests of self, race and associations above national unity" in the economic crisis facing the country.
The most important thing all Malaysians can do during the double festivities of the Chinese New Year and Hari Raya Aidilfitri is to commit themselves in the national economic crisis to the economic bailout of the nation and not a bailout of any individual, group or association at the expense of the national interest to achieve as quick an economic recovery as possible.
In the face of the national economic crisis, all Malaysians must be prepared to make sacrifices, even those who are in no way responsible for the hard times which the country and people are facing. However, those who are responsible for the country's economic woes because of their imprudent corporate and financial decisions and deals must be prepared and be seen to be making more sacrifices than the ordinary Malaysians!
In this connection, a recent comment on the Internet is worth serious consideration by the government and all Malaysians.
This is a call for the need to "change the mentality of Malaysians, regardless of their race, religion and origin", the need to emphasize on "Bangsa Malaysia" and to "change the NEP to help all the poor in the country".
Malaysia has not only something to learn from the film "Titanic", but even more from the national trials and tribulations of Indonesia, the most important of which is whether there could be successful economic reforms without political reforms.
The first important task of the National Economic Action Council (NEAC) which has been given the task of steering the country through the national economic crisis is to focus after the double festivities on the necessity for political reforms to institutionalise accountability, transparency and integrity as important preconditions for full restoration of confidence and the success of any economic recovery strategy.
The formation of state integrity committees does not mean that corruption and abuses of power would be eliminated in Malaysia, just as the formation of the Anti-Corruption Agency three decades ago did not mean that corruption had ceased to be a serious problem in the last 30 years. In fact, the reverse was the case with corruption reaching unprecedented levels until a new Anti-Corruption Act had to be enacted last year, whose effectiveness is still to be tested.
The NEAC should solicit the views and participation of all Malaysian organisations to propose a blueprint for political reforms within a month which could lay an effective basis for both the restoration of confidence as well as for a national economic recovery in the shortest time possible.