On March 7, 1999, Royal Professor Ungku A. Aziz was invited to deliver a lecture, entitled ‘Cultures in Malaysia – Differences and Similarities’, at the SGM Culture Centre. This was the first of a series of lectures lined-up for 1999 and organised by the SGM Peace Activities Sub-Committee, constituting part of SGM’s efforts to promote the understanding of peace among the members and the society at large.
About 800 people turned up for this lecture. Also present were Professor Dato’ Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, Dean of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University Putra Malaysia (UPM), and Professor Norman Williamson from Massey University, New Zealand.
Royal Professor Ungku Aziz, who was the Vice-Chancellor of University Malaya from 1968 to 1988, a span of twenty years, gave a penetrative analysis on the topic he lectured. Ungku Aziz, who specialised in rural economics, outlined his past research into the diversified cultures existing in Malaysia. He defined cultures as people’s way of life which include their sense of aesthetic, customs, beliefs and religions.
Finding it appalling to hear people claiming dogmatically that their particular religion is absolute, he praised the uniqueness of our Malaysian society, which though consisting of various ethnic groups who practise different customs and cultures – the people are able to live together in peace and harmony.
He remarked that as we have a high toleration rate of one another’s religious beliefs, we live in harmony, rarely having conflicts. On the other hand, he believed that Malaysia has a high percentage of the middle-class, a ‘relaxed’ group of people, who is more worried about materialistic gains than about the existences of the various other religions of the different places of worship.
Although convinced that a full blend of all the cultures in Malaysia is impossible, he pointed out that a certain degree of cultural absorption had taken place; beginning from the edges of societies where different races meet and come to an understanding.
His lecture showed his excellent understanding of all the different cultures existing in Malaysia. His audience was on the whole, going along with him, punctuated by the clapping and laugh-ter, mostly at his witty remarks.
After the lecture, the Royal Professor was later taken on a conducted tour around the Tadika Seri Soka (TSS). He was particularly impressed by the various facilities of the kindergarten. He was also orientated on the lessons taught there and the methods of teaching adopted. Along the way to TSS, he also shared the early struggles of his youth as well as his ideas of the future.