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Friday, 24 June 2016

Science and Technological Progress: Supported by the Rukunegara


The Rukunegara

For the uninitiated, the clueless, and the non-Malaysians, the Rukunegara is often described as the "ideology" of Malaysia. These days, the Rukunegara does not seem to be valued by Malaysian society. But it's part of the Malaysian ideology.

On  10th May, 1969, there were general elections in Malaysia, following which on 13th May 1969, there erupted racial riots which led to many deaths. Malaysia was torn due to racial riots, and trust between communities was eroded. In the aftermath, a document called "Rukunegara" was promulgated by the government of the day.

Further reading available at the Hansard of 5th March 1971. (The Hansard is a record of Parliamentary proceedings.)

The Rukunegara as usually found at the back of exercise books in Malaysia. Sadly, the first half is missing. ("Cita-cita tersebut") How can you deliver a message without the proper context?


The text of the Rukunegara was not recorded in the Hansard, so here it is:

The Rukunegara in Malay

BAHAWASANYA negara kita Malaysia mendukung cita-cita untuk
  • mencapai perpaduan yang lebih erat di kalangan seluruh masyarakatnya;
  • memelihara satu cara hidup demokratik;
  • mencipta masyarakat yang adil bagi kemakmuran negara yang akan dapat dinikmati bersama secara adil dan saksama;
  • menjamin satu cara yang liberal terhadap tradisi kebudayaannya yang kaya dan berbagai-bagai corak;
  • membina satu masyarakat progesif yang akan menggunakan sains dan teknologi moden;
MAKA KAMI, rakyat Malaysia, berikrar akan menumpukan seluruh tenaga dan usaha kami untuk mencapai cita-cita tersebut berdasarkan prinsip-prinsip yang berikut:
  • KEPERCAYAAN KEPADA TUHAN
  • KESETIAAN KEPADA RAJA DAN NEGARA
  • KELUHURAN PERLEMBAGAAN
  • KEDAULATAN UNDANG-UNDANG
  • KESOPANAN DAN KESUSILAAN

The Rukunegara in English

WHEREAS our nation Malaysia nurtures the ambitions of:
  • achieving a more perfect unity amongst the whole of her society;
  • preserving a democratic way of life;
  • creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner;
  • guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions; and
  • building a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.
THEREFORE WE, the people of Malaysia, pledge to concentrate the whole of our energy and efforts to achieve these ambitions based on the following principles:
  • BELIEF IN GOD
  • LOYALTY TO KING AND COUNTRY
  • THE SUPREMACY OF THE CONSTITUTION
  • THE RULE OF LAW
  • COURTESY AND MORALITY

Dear Reader,

Science and Technological Progress

You will notice that the Rukunegara has two portions. The first half of the Rukunegara details what ambitions the nation has. The second half details how the nation will achieve these ambitions. In business school talk, the ambitions are the vision; while the "how" are the mission.

We often emphasize the mission but forget the vision. In Malaysian schools, we are taught to recite the second half of the Rukunegara, but never the first.

And so, the Rukunegara supports and hopes to build a progressive society that will make use of science and modern technology.

Does this mean establishing a strong intellectual property rights regime? Yes, it does. Probably.

But it also means that we must inculcate a culture of science and technology. Younger Malaysians need to look at science and technology as the first choice of tertiary education. Only then, can we become a producer of new technology. Only then can we lead technological progress. Because technology will be important in the world of tomorrow, we must start emphasizing it today.

The Bigger Issue: Progressive Society

As you may notice, the Rukunegara envisions the building of a progressive society. It's not just about technology and science. A society that uses science and technology to spread hatred over social media isn't progressive. A society that uses science and technology to create weapons of mass destruction isn't progressive. A society that uses science and technology to kill the innocent en masse, isn't at all progressive.

But a progressive nation isn't one that abstains from science and technology. There is no need to be an Asian Neo-Luddite. It's our hearts that we must nurture, so that we make it a better world for all people, regardless of who they are. Your neighbour is as entitled as you to partake in the better world that you are building, together. Could you envision a world with cleaner air and clearer skies, only for you but not your neighbour? I rest my case.

In this regard, the African concept of "ubuntu" has been touted as "love for all". It's a universal value. It would be fair to say that nobody gets to heaven by putting others through hell. Those who cry with the delight at the thought of slaughtering his neighbour because of a different faith or creed are not progressive. I'm not sure if they are even regressive. They are harmful to society, by trying to recreate a vision of a society in which only people from one faith can prosper. In the event that they do create that society, the same people will spawn a generation which discriminates among people of the same faith, thus starting a never-ending cycle of trying to show how much more puritanical they are than the last generation.

Being puritanical isn't necessarily progressive. You have to understand the other aims and goals of the Rukunegara to know what being progressive is, and how to create a progressive society. The other ambitions are:
  1. Achieving more perfect unity among Malaysian society
  2. Preserving a democratic way of life
  3. Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner, and
  4. Guaranteeing a liberal approach towards her rich and varied cultural traditions

As you can see, it involves, very much, the happiness of other communities, whether "they" are different in terms of race and religion, wealth and social standing, political ideals, cultural heritage, and others. When I read "guaranteeing a liberal approach", and juxtapose it against the idea of a progressive society, I believe that a progressive society is one that becomes more and more accepting of others. 

For a document that was forged in the aftermath of a terrible racial riot, and in the early, formative years of this nation's history, the Rukunegara should figure as one of the most important documents for Malaysian policy makers and law makers. Unfortunately, it does not seem to enjoy any position of importance -- just see the considerations of government policy makers for these past few years.

Support the Rukunegara, and let's make Malaysia a progressive nation based on science and technology.
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