THE National Consultative Council headed by Tun Abdul Razak worked on formulating the principles of Rukun Negara following the 1969 riot.
On Aug 31, 1970, the declaration of national philosophy was instituted by royal proclamation. In the following month, Razak took over from Tunku Abdul Rahman and became the second prime minister.
In 1971, the New Economic Policy (NEP) was launched with the aim of creating unity among the various races in Malaysia through economic equality via the reduction of monetary gap between bumiputras and the Chinese and Indian communities.
The 20-year NEP expired in 1990. Although introduced 50 years ago, there has been little change in the monetary gap.
Many with low income remained poor and had to compete with waves of foreign workers that came to our country and left, but many have stayed behind.
But the well-connected grew rich from the NEP through government contracts, licences, commercial vehicle permits, import permits and directorships, or granted company stocks.
While the NEP was pursued with great zeal by self-serving politicians, our national philosophy has been largely ignored and expediently forgotten.
Come August, the Rukun Negara will reach its 50th year and plans are being made to commemorate its golden jubilee.
Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah disclosed that a proposal for the long-term Rukun Negara education programme will be presented to the Cabinet for approval and it would be placed under the jurisdiction of the National Unity Ministry.
Like many other school subjects that include moral and religious studies, many students learn the Rukun Negara by rote.
While almost all students could recite the five principles, few could articulate them meaningfully and even teachers may not be able to express with conviction.
Contrary to popular belief, education alone is not enough. A child or student cannot be educated just by knowledge.
The adults including parents, teachers and leaders must set good examples.
Educating children is not so simple and straightforward, such as telling them “Do as I say, not as I do”.
“Courtesy and Morality” is the fifth principle of our Rukun Negara but in practice it is clearly lacking among many citizens.
Our Rukun Negara will continue to be given lip service as long as good values are not embraced.
As a baby boomer, I grew up without knowing or experiencing the ugliness that is prevalent today, as race and religion then were non-issues at schools and in homes.
Those were the halcyon years when Malaysians mixed freely and played with anyone we liked, regardless of race or religion.
I studied in an English-medium school and my schoolmates in the village that I grew up were mostly Indians.
Although I could speak some Chinese dialects and Mandarin, I was more comfortable conversing in English with my Indian friends.
It was only after finishing secondary school and moving to another town that I discovered something amusing.
There, a Malay boy asked me in English “Why are you speaking like an Indian?”
Since then, I learned to speak in a neutral accent which was easily understood by everyone, including foreigners when I worked as a tourist guide five years later.
I now wonder what it would take to jolt Malaysians into practising the Rukun Negara and go beyond reciting it.
Razak said the secret to perfecting the Rukun Negara is through its practice. Otherwise, the Rukun Negara is merely a piece of document bereft of meaning.