THE two “kith and kin” countries in Asean have in recent weeks been busy consulting one another on their relations based on “rumpunism”. Many believed this was prompted by the uneasiness many countries felt, including Malaysia and Singapore, for the most part, over Indonesia’s “slow response” at taking effective actions to fight the haze problem.

  At the same time it was noted that during that period Malaysia and Indonesia were involved in several exchanges of high-level visits including visits to Jakarta by the prime minister, deputy prime minister and other members of the government. On the Indonesian side President Joko Widodo had been here and their senior officials, too, came to attend several of the Asean-level meetings hosted in Kuala Lumpur.

Such heightened diplomatic activity signified a continuous reliance on consultative channels such as “rumpunism” whenever the two close neighbours have some “sensitive” matters to be put right between them.

  “Rumpunism” has been the age-old tradition resorted to by the two countries in times like this. For the record “rumpunism” is a social process that will deliver a high calibre regional diplomacy based on a single identity and a set of values.

For this to work three requirements are needed: a true sense of past history, realising a core role for Indonesia in the process and engagement with the people of both countries. A clearer understanding of the philosophy behind “rumpunism” is essential for everyone to know.

 As we come to understand it, historically “rumpunism” has bequeathed to us the Alam Melayu (Malay world) since the founding of the Malacca Sultanate. If our forefathers as the erstwhile seafarers have plied and plundered the waters around us for centuries earlier we as the returning terrestrial Malays are now the builders and shapers of a future in close collaboration with the other peoples in the region.

Our intellectual history and cultural growth included, have only prepared us for the shorter term and not for the challenges of the present century and beyond. We have to match the pride and excellence of our past relations in several ways.

  FIRSTLY, it is to accept a true sense of our past history by revisiting the greatness and achievements of the empires of Srivijaya in Sumatra, Majapahit in Java, and Malacca in the Malay Peninsula. These were all momentous developments in the history of the terrestrial Malays.

For reminders we only have to look at the splendour of Borobudor in Java, the 9th century monument to the Buddhist faith, and the inscription in Stone of Terengganu, Malaysia, a relic in the Jawi script, of the advent of Islam in the region, discovered in 1130 AD.

 SECONDLY, it is to come to terms with the fact that Indonesia has always been at the centre of things in the region. Several significant events of our history as a nation have had a beginning in Indonesia.

There were the Indonesian independence struggles, Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation, Indonesia and the Non-Aligned Movement, Indonesia Raya, Nusantara, archipelagic concept, migrant labour, batik, dangdut, arts and crafts and painting just to name a few. Malaysia gained from the Indonesian experience by adapting and adopting after modification, bits and pieces of the models provided by the country across the Straits.

The mass migration of Indonesians from Java and Sumatra to the Malay Peninsula in the mid-18th and early-19th century pioneered the opening up of the Malay Peninsula for a time. Today migration internally within the two countries and also externally from China and India brought the class of builders and small traders that helped push the boundaries of economic development into the region.

FINALLY, there is the need to engage the people in the respective countries to understand the cultural depth and intensity of emotions and feelings that bind us together. The bond that exists is forever in us to be realised and activated for the common good and solidarity among the two peoples. As the saying goes: “Kalau roboh kotanya Melaka, papan diJawa kita dirikan.” (If the city of Malacca falls, we will build another one in Java).

The writer is a former ambassador and now Fellow, Foreign Policy Study Group