The man behind efforts to restore unity

KUALA LUMPUR – Every time the holy month of Ramadan arrives, the face and the voice that every Malaysian Muslim will be looking forward to seeing and hearing is none other than that of Tan Sri Syed Danial Syed Ahmad, the Keeper of the Rulers’ Seal.

The reason being is that he is the one entrusted to announce the date for the Muslims in the country to begin fasting during the month of Ramadan and also the date to celebrate Aidilfitri upon the consent of the Rulers.

Advertisement

While most people will get excited to hear his announcement, many are probably unaware that he was among the important individuals involved in restoring unity among the people in Malaysia after the May 13 tragedy in 1969.

It was that tragedy that led to the formation and launch of Rukun Negara on Aug 31, 1970, which has become the foundation and pillars of nationhood and enabled Malaysia to remain a peaceful and united nation for the past 50 years.

Syed Danial, 76, said before the drafting of the Rukun Negara, the National Goodwill Council (MMN) was established by the government under the leadership of the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, as a preliminary effort to defuse the racial tensions following the May 13 tragedy.

He said his involvement in the MMN, which was established on July 18, 1969, was mostly prompted by his love for the country and his wish to ensure that racial divisions would end and that the people could be united again.

“I was just entered my second year as a government officer when the tragedy occurred. I was serving the Prime Minister’s Department when I received the offer for a new position – as Nibong Tebal District Officer or an MMN Officer.

“Without hesitation, I chose MMN. Because I watched with my own eyes the tragedy that took place in Kampung Baru on that May 13,” he said in a special interview with Bernama during the recording of a special documentary titled ‘Rukun Negara: A Nation United’.

The two-episode documentary produced by Bernama in conjunction with the 50th anniversary of Rukun Negara will be aired between Aug 29 and Sept 19 at BernamaTV on ASTRO Channel 502, Njoi 502, UnifiTV 631 and MyFreeView 121, apart from BernamaTV official Facebook and YouTube channel.

The MMN’s tasks at that time were to promote the spirit of goodwill and also to nurture and maintain mutual trust among the multi-racial people across the country.

“The main agenda of the MMN was to bring the social situation back to normal…just like the current situation where the government is striving to flatten the infection curve of COVID-19, which is a very critical issue now. Back then (in 1969), the racial issue was also very critical,” he said.

Elaborating on the roles of MMN, Syed Danial, who hails from Penang, said he had to travel to various rural areas to explain to the people about the national language through the Public Unity Class (KPR).

“The challenge I had to face at that time was being mocked because (after the tragedy) the Malay and the Chinese just did not see eye to eye. But there we were, trying to introduce the Public Unity Class, teaching Bahasa Melayu to the non-Malays.

“Although we already have a national language since 1967, it was not widely used. So, we want to educate the people at the grassroots to accept Bahasa Melayu as the main language. We want to promote the national language,” he said.

Syed Danial said the MMN efforts to unite the people at that time were welcomed by all quarters including political leaders, despite the differences in their political beliefs, because the ultimate goal was to achieve racial unity, which is very important for the multi-racial society in the country.

Meanwhile, Syed Danial also opined that the younger generation needs to really understand the meaning of the five principles of Rukun Negara, rather than just paying lip service to the idea.

He said the principles of Rukun Negara should be upheld by each member of the society in order to achieve the goals and objectives of the national philosophy, which is none other than to achieve racial harmony and unity to ensure Malaysia’s success and stability.

The five principles of Rukun Negara are Belief in God, Loyalty to King and Country, Supremacy of the Constitution, Rule of Law, and Good Behaviour and Morality.

— BERNAMA