The idea of national unity, from the far-right fringe

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(October 8): You know it is Umno divisional meetings season when the same idea crops up in their gatherings – shut down vernacular schools and keep one system to foster national unity.

This is the parochial, nasty, extreme underbelly of Umno – the ones who believe only their ideas work and that they should dominate the country's national narrative, not others.

Cheras Umno division chief Datuk Seri Syed Ali AlHabshee yesterday reiterated the call by his party members in urging Putrajaya to abolish vernacular schools and to set up a single-stream school system which, he said, could help foster national unity in the country.

He said Malaysia was probably the only country in the world that still practiced a multi-stream education system, which he said was a breeding ground for racial discord.

"Maybe it's time that the Malaysian government abolish vernacular schools which is seen as the platform in creating the thickening racist sentiments among the people," he said in a blog posting.

Really? The blame is on all other Malaysians and no one else.

It is really rich that the likes of Syed Ali who are talking about national unity are really the ones who push the racial line. Remember what he said last year, that the Chinese and Indians should know their place by not taking advantage of the Malays as they have been kind enough to share the country with them.

“The Malays are the majority in the country so they (the Chinese and Indians) should not trample on our heads,” he told FreeMalaysiaToday last year.

“Malaysia is Tanah Melayu. We’ve been kind enough to share it with them, so don’t take advantage of us,” he said when commenting on pressure on Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to boycott the Commonwealth Head of Government Meeting in Sri Lanka.

Is it national unity when you tell people to know their place?

These are also the same guys who are cheering the abuse of the Sedition Act on those who speak their minds, but contrary to their narrative. Are we a country where there can only be one type of thinking, one type of education, and voila – national unity is created?

To add to the hypocrisy of this sudden affection for national schools is the fact that many Umno officials send their children to private schools or are streamed to schools for their community.

Fact is, many Malaysian parents do send their children to vernacular schools for better education opportunities. There are those who opt for private or home schooling because they have lost faith in the national system.

And, there are enough reports of alleged racism in the national school system for some parents to opt for vernacular schools.

National unity does not come from having one system or one party that dominates the country's politics And, please do not equate national unity with political unity.

National unity is when everyone believes they are Malaysians and allow diversity in opinion, thought and philosophies without any discrimination or prosecution. It isn't about the system really, it is about the people.