PETALING JAYA: Diversity is strength, but a senior officer from a government department tasked with promoting national unity today said it can also be a dangerous thing.
The Department of National Unity and Integration (JPNIN) said it was based on this premise that the department carried out its tasks while at the same time ensuring peace and harmony.
“When you are living in a diverse nation, you can look at it positively or with a sense of caution,” said Zulkifli Hashim, who heads JPNIN’s management unit.
He said while Malaysia’s diversity was beneficial and may even be monetised such as in the tourism sector, the department sees it differently.
“We look at diversity as potentially creating problems such as discord and friction which tend to occur in a diverse nation,” he told the 7th National Conference themed “Non-Discrimination: Enjoyment of Cultural Rights in Malaysia”.
Zulkifli said his unit was aware of several issues at the grassroots level involving both racial and religious sensitivities.
“To manage a population of 31 million is not easy and we need to equip officers with skills,” he said.
“We might have knowledge but we don’t have the skills.
“In order to create national unity, you cannot deny the boiling issues at the grassroots level, and these are 21st century problems.”
Zulkifli said one question is whether his officers have expertise to handle such issues, adding that his department could not be left on its own to attend to them
“We are only one out of hundreds of government agencies and all must play their part in order to ensure that Malaysia can be truly united.
“We must also engage with civil society. Although I cannot speak for other departments and agencies, JPNIN has opened our doors to these civil societies and I myself am always engage with them.”
He said he was aware that Malaysians often questioned why the country had yet to come up with a proper mechanism to ensure interracial and inter-religious harmony, even with a unit like his.
“Malaysia is taking precautionary measures because we want to be a responsible government and decide which instrument is best.”