Such understanding would also strengthen the relationship and respect in a plural society such as Malaysia said Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. (pix by MUHAIZAN YAHYA)

TAPAH: Cross-cultural communication must be instilled among Malaysians to nurture mutual understanding among all races, said Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

He said such understanding would also strengthen the relationship and respect in a plural society such as Malaysia.

"We know that there are sentiments played by certain quarters to divide us. The divide-and-rule policy, which was a practise during the colonial era, or compartmentalisation must be stopped to safeguard harmony among Malaysians.

"After 60 years of independence, this should not happen here. Umno, as the backbone of Barisan Nasional (BN), has always been at the forefront of cross-cultural communication.

"Yes, Umno is an old party established 71 years ago, but if it is strong, why should we destroy it? Take this building, it is old, but the pillars are strong. Instead of demolishing, a facelift is what it needed, with installation of air-conditioners, for instance," said the Umno vice-president in his speech while opening Tapah Umno division delegates meeting at Dewan Merdeka today.

Citing Tapah constituency, he said the area was a good example of how Barisan Nasional (BN) practised power-sharing, with its MP from MIC (Datuk M. Saravanan), and assemblymen from MCA (Datuk Dr Mah Hang Soon-Chenderiang) and Umno (Datuk Samsudin Abu Hassan-Ayer Kuning), who were present at the event.

"Such 1Malaysia spirit is clearly shown here where the component parties work closely together and they have statistics to back their achievement.

"Tapah received more votes when BN suffered a drop in majority (of votes in the general elections) in some constituencies in Perak. In 2008, the constituency received a majority of 3,020 votes and the number had increased to 7,927 in the last general elections," said Zahid.

He said BN, under the leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, had always stressed on safeguarding the wellbeing of the people, regardless of their background or political preferences.

"Despite suffering from reduced number of support from the Chinese, we remain steadfast in providing our services to all as it is our responsibility.

"Party leaders must have more engagements with the Chinese community including the non-governmental organisations and clans' associations."

Zahid also said due to the plural nature of the community, Malaysians should also embraced their roots.

"I am proud to admit that I am a "Jawa" (of Javanese descent). My father was born in Indonesia and my mother was born in Malaysia.

"However, some people were being sensitive when I merely stated a fact of someone's background," he said, in a veiled response to reactions that came following his comment on former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's parentage recently.

Also present was Umno Youth deputy chief Senator Khairul Azwan Harun.

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