By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
Perhaps, Datuk Lee Chong Wei had never expected that he would become a symbol of unity that stimulates patriotism, while at the same time, triggered a political controversy.
Although Chong Wei has once again failed to win the Olympic gold medal, he has become a national hero in the eyes of Malaysians. When a country relies on an athlete to unite the people, it shows that politics has seriously split them.
How long would the Chong Wei effect last? Could it really resolve political differences? Wars of words would be restored once the enthusiasm subsides.
On that day, people of different skin colours cheered for Chong Wei at mamak stalls and coffee shops. However, to be honest, would the Chinese be so passionate the athlete was not a Chinese?
Patriotism means one's love for the country. The athlete must be unreservedly supported regardless of his or her skin colour.
However, the definition of the world "country" is too abstract. Who would still care about the country when racial and group interests surpass national interests? Many people can no longer clearly differentiate among government, politics and country, and they are afraid that the country might be "hijacked" by the government. Thus, they resist the call for patriotism.
When everyone was in a frenzied passion, Kota Alam Shah assemblyman M Manoharan made a sarcastic comment on Twitter. He tweeted, “LIN DAN wins. He played better than Lee Chong AWAY”, "Najib, whatever monetary reward promised for Chong Wei, please give it to the poor boy Lin Dan" and "Malaysia will win its first GOLD Medal in Olympics after Pakatan takes over Putrajaya."
Manoharan was severely criticised by netizens while Malay and English language newspapers also made it their cover story, assailing him for being unpatriotic.
In fact, this is not the first time for him to trigger a chaos. He had to apologise in September last year for posting a comment on Facebook, saying that the Jalur Gemilang should be changed. He was also given a six-month suspension.
To put off the fire, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng slammed Manoharan's remarks and said Manoharan does not represent the party.
Lim also said that the Penang state government appreciates Chong Wei's gallant efforts in winning the silver medal and thus, he suggested that the Penang Water Supply to reward him of RM10 million.
Eventually, Manoharan apologised.
Politicians must have a certain level of sensitivity. In addition to racial and religious issues, they should also avoid playing with national issues, particularly the country's symbols like the national flag, and national figures.
For example, on the eve of the 2008 Merdeka Day, a blogger was greatly criticised for calling the people to hang the Jalur Gemilang upside down.
Former Perak Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin was also severely criticised by his political opponents after posting a comment on Twitter and called the Jalur Gemilang "jalur malang (unlucky stripes)".
It is also an unfortunate event to have politicised the Merdeka Day. For example, some said that the Merdeka Day's theme "55 Tahun Merdeka, Janji Ditepati (55 Years of Independence, Promises Fulfilled)" is inappropriate as Janji Ditepati is a BN slogan, designed to ridicule the Pakatan Rakyat for not being able to honour their commitments.
The movie Tanda Putera featuring the May 13 event is expected to trigger another round of war of words, amidst the celebration of the country's 55th Merdeka Day and 49th Malaysia Day.
Only those who love all regardless of race, religion, social status and political background are qualified to talk about patriotism. For those who claim to be patriotic but are wantonly splitting the people, they are actually just making use of the country to achieve political purposes.
Many people are willing to sacrifice for politics, but refuse to express their love for the motherland. The crux of the problem lies on the lack of recognition for the country, while personal interests have been prioritised instead of public interests.