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Wednesday, 5 February 2014

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NELSON Mandela was a statesman par excellence. As a tribute to him, the Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) recently organised two programmes.

The first was the screening of the film Long Walk to Freedom, which is based on his autobiography of the same title.

The first screening of the film in Kuala Lumpur was on Jan 9. That evening, GMM booked a whole theatre and invited 200 guests. The guest of honour was the South African High Commissioner Thami Mseleku.

The second programme was a discussion on the Legacy of Nelson Mandela co-organised by the Association for the Promotion of Human Rights (PROHAM) and GMM, on Jan 20, at the GMM Office. It was attended by 40 participants.

Both programmes were very well participated by Mandela fans, for example, ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, academia, professionals, students/youths, media and civil society activists.

The discussion on the Legacy of Mandela involved four speakers: Thami Mseleku, PROHAM Chairman Tan Sri Simon Sipaun, National University of Malaysia Institute of Ethnic Studies’ Prof. KS Nathan and yours truly.

It was moderated by PROHAM Secretary General Datuk Dr Denison Jayasooria. It was also attended by the UN Residence Coordinator Michelle Gyles-McDonnough.

According to Thami Mseleku, the legacy of Mandela was his abundance reserve of love, simplicity, honesty, service, humility, care, courage, foresight, patience, tolerance, equality and justice that continually serve as a source of strength to many people of South Africa and the world.

He was a resolute leader who would uphold his principles even though they may not be popular at the time. He was referring to the occasion when Mandela went ahead to talk to the government about the possibility of reconciliation despite this being against the stand of his own party members.
And above all, Mseleku said, the greatest legacy he left was democracy in South Africa, where everyone is free to say anything about his legacy, to agree or to disagree, and nobody would be jailed for criticising Mandela.

Simon Sipaun meanwhile said Malaysia needs a leader like Mandela to turn the country away from an overdose of politics based on race and religion. Mandela’s style of leadership would not tolerate discrimination based on race and religion. Mandela was against black supremacy.

According to Prof KS Nathan, revenge and retribution was not part of Mandela’s diet. For Mandela, reconciliation, inclusion, integration, compassion and cooperation were the answer to the monumental problem of reforming race relations based on human equality, not racial supremacy.
He believed in the power of moral authority to govern, not brute force disguised through the application of economic, military, police, legal, cultural and religious domination.

As a Mandela fan, my take is that Malaysians can learn at least three things from Mandela.
Firstly, towering leadership. One of Mandela’s characteristic was that he was very confident with his stand point, and was bold and brave enough to uphold and defend it, even if it was a minority stand point and even against the majority, including from his own party. A good example was his idea on national reconciliation.

Secondly, tolerance. I like another book about Mandela, Playing the Enemy, by John Carlin, which was turned into a movie a couple of years back, entitled Invictus. It told the story of how tolerant Mandela was towards people who made him their staunch enemy.

And thirdly, sports as a platform for unity. Mandela optimised rugby, which was earlier dominated by whites, and turned it into a sport that is played and supported by all.

On Jan 29, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced that he would lead a National Reconciliation process through unity and consensus. The next day, on behalf of GMM, I issued a statement welcoming and fully supporting the process, which is practical and workable, because it is comprehensive, progressive, participative, inclusive and bi-partisan.

This is indeed a timely announcement that has been long awaited by many. Najib first made the call for reconciliation in his victory speech after the GE13 results was announced on May 5, 2013.
This was followed with his launching of the National Unity Consultation Council on Nov 25, 2013.

In the meantime, the Universiti Malaya Centre for Democracy and Election (UMCEDEL) survey showed that 67 percent of the people want BN and PR work together on fundamental areas in nation building. And recently, Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim made a call for national consensus.

National reconciliation was Mandela’s legacy. Now, it is Najib’s destiny.

Former deputy education minister and Temerloh MP Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah is presently CEO of the Global Movement of Moderates. He tweets at @Saifuddinabd


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