Sincerity: Pillar in a plural society

03/09/2020 12:18 PM

By Nursyabiha Sukri

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 3 -- On the belief that humanity is the most powerful recipe to maintain harmony in a plural society, Datin Paduka Zaitoon Othman, 80, who is the country's first female deputy public prosecutor, has always helped others, regardless of who or what religion or race they belong to.

This sprightly woman is active in various organisations and associations, activities she has been involved in since more than 50 years ago, especially during the emergency in 1969.

During the May 13, 1969 incident, she turned her house into a shelter for nearly 30 of her neighbours of various races and religions who were scared of the tense situation then.

Zaitoon, who served as a magistrate in 1969 and a year later as a Sessions Court judge in Kuala Lumpur, risked her life and that of her husband by taking in the neighbours, who were mostly women and children, into her home.

The neighbours stayed at her house for nearly a week.

“During the curfew, I had to go to court to handle cases. The police escorted me for a week as the situation was dangerous then.

“My house only had three rooms. They (neighbours) asked for help because they were scared, they felt unsafe...there were Chinese housewives who came to me for help because their husband was abroad,” she said in an interview for a special documentary by Bernama,  'Rukun Negara: A Nation United'.

The two-episode documentary was produced by Bernama in conjunction with the Rukun Negara’s 50th anniversary and it will be broadcast between Aug 31 and Sept 19 by BernamaTV on Channel 502 ASTRO, Njoi 502, UnifiTV 631 and MyFreeView 121, as well as BernamaTV's official Facebook page and YouTube channel.

Zaitoon, who is a Council Member of Sime Darby Foundation, said apart from accepting her neighbours into her home, she also helped them to buy daily necessities such as milk and food as movement was restricted then due to the emergency.

Not wanting to be known a ‘hero’, Zaitoon played down her deeds, saying that others would do the same if they lived in a society.

“To live in a society, we got to have noble values, sincerity to help others in need,” she said, adding that safety and security were uppermost on everyone’s mind then.

On the Rukun Negara, she said it was formulated to unite the races.

“It was because of a racial crisis, particularly in Kuala Lumpur, there was a bit of friction. I believed that was one of the reasons  Rukun Negara  was instituted. It was to unite the races.

“So, and subsequent to that, I can see efforts made by the people to be together and to relate to each other, no matter what race or religion they are,” she added.

She said there was also the need for the present generation to eliminate racial prejudice, but to cultivate or nurture love in the society,  regardless of religion and race.

The feeling should be instilled in children from an early age, on the importance of respecting others, to create a harmonious society, she added.

"During my school days, and after I left school, I think there was  good interaction among the races. Everybody were together, never looking at others, like they were from another race, we look at ourselves as Malaysians," she said.

Zaitoon said schools also play a role in explaining to students the importance of Rukun Negara because the spirit of patriotism and love for the country is not something that can exist on its own in each individual.

“It has to be nurtured in students, so that they can practice the noble values ​​in their daily life.

“What is emphasised in Rukun Negara should be practised.  It's very important, especially for today’s young generation who are so exposed to the Internet.

“They are also exposed to the negative effect of using technology, resulting in the tendency of them making sensitive statements that offend or annoy other races. This has to be avoided,” she said.



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