All this while, as a multi racial and multi cultural country, Malaysians exist in perfect harmony as the mutual tolerance, acceptance and celebration of the multi-ethnic communities and cultures in Malaysia are traits that have been successfully inculcated throughout Malaysia's history. These multiple facets of Malaysia are what make Malaysia so colourful and fascinating to others.
Despite diverse cultural and traditional backgrounds, the people of Malaysia have been able to coexist peacefully in unity and harmony.
However lately, the "Ethnic Relations" course that was introduced into the curriculum at University Putra Malaysia (UPM), has caused uneasiness among the public and a heated debate in the parliament. The course is said to contain inaccuracies in its course material relating to the May 13th 1969 racial riots, where the unfortunate incident has always been considered a taboo subject.
Famous Malaysia historian Prof. Dr. Khoo Kay Kim commented that ethnic relations is a sensitive subject that needs to be handled with care, and universities should not rush to get their teaching materials and content out.
Why do we always fall into the typical Malaysian pitfall of rushing into something, only to discover that the results are not up to expectations? Historical facts, for instance, need to be easily verifiable.
Writers dealing with historical facts must be able to give the precise source of where they get their facts. If the source is vague, then their facts will be highly questionable.
It is a rash statement because there is no evidence of who started the riots. It is a complex issue that needs to be studied from all aspects. It is important for historians not to pass judgment and be able to deal with hard facts coldly.
While blogger Ktemoc called it a half-past six book, blogger Penthesilea questioned the need of a text book for a class of ethnic relations. A simple Malaysian is wondering when Malaysians will learn to pick the good from the bad. Blogger Siva hopes Prime Minister will send correct message over the ethnic issue to the Cabinet and at the same time instruct his ministry to send circulars to all the universities, schools and government departments regarding this matter, in order to help the small minds to see the bigger issues.
As for Malaysia Opposition Leader and blogger Lim Kit Siang, he condemned the textbook and the Higher Education Minister Mustapha Mohamad for defending the indefensible and what Lim perceives as half-truths, untruths and the generally biased, tendentious and divisive accounts in the textbook as "historic facts" when they are in fact "historic lies". He too called upon Prime Minister to review all varsity courses and school history textbooks.
After a heated debate in Parliament over the Ethnic Relations course at Universiti Putra Malaysia, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi’s decided to withdraw the book. Following the withdrawal, a new module for ethnic relations subject will be drafted soon, by a newly set up special committee.
Is That So would like to remind every Malaysian that while ethnic integration is never easy, however when taking our own path, let us not forget that the world is here for all to share. Minncandy believes that Malaysians need to own a higher degree of maturity, putting ownself in other people point of view and discuss sociopolitical matters rationally without hurting the other party.
And perhaps the most important for Malaysians, is that we must treasure the peace and the stability that we now enjoy as it's easy to take for granted what we have now. We must never again descend into conflict.
Peace, it is!