Posted on July 23, 2008


Unity by its very nature should not be factional. Factional unity is what the English Language calls a oxymoron which originates from two Greek words- “oxy” meaning sharp, and “moros” meaning dull. Thus, an oxymoron is the child, if you wish, from the marriage between two normally contradictory terms.

There are some interesting results: bittersweet, act naturally, clean coal, clearly ambiguous, conciliation court, deafening silence, designer jeans, exact estimate, found missing, friendly fire, friendly takeover, genuine imitation, good grief, government organization, holy war, half naked, instant classic, non-working mother, old news. I think you get the point.

In a plural society like ours in Malaysia, to have so-called unity talks between people of the same race, understandable though it may be, even if they are successful can be counter-productive because it may lead to a no-win situation for the country as a whole.

Understandably, some measure of factional unity can galvanise support within an ethnic or religious group to facilitate a kind of unified front for obtaining or drawing the attention of others to the needs and concerns of a particular grouping. To a certain extent, to work out a national unity there must be some coherence and understanding within the respective ethnic or religious groupings. Only then can there be progress in the negotiation process for national unity. Otherwise, if the leaders representing a certain grouping argues for or gives assent to some points only to go back to find that there are major dissensions within the group on these points, the national unity talks will be stymied.

But the pursuit of factional unity is a dangerous game (another oxymoron!) if and when taken too far. If every group pursues its own interests and we have Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Kadazan, Iban unity or Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, Tao unity, in other words if we have all these respective factional unities, then it may become a serious problem to pursue and achieve national unity.

A plural society will always have to struggle with this issue. What takes priority: unity within our respective groupings or national unity? The bigger goal must always be national unity.

Factional unity which does not favour national unity will be disasterous to the nation and if the nation collapses for lack of unity across religious and ethnic lines then who wins? Nobody. All of us will be the losers and talk of ketuanan anything will be in vain. It will be a case of semua kalah, semua rugi.

Posted in: Perspective