September 29, 2022

Seeing Vision 2020 in a letter

2 min read

I READ with deep empathy the letter from the 14-year-old girl, “Teen’s skirt ‘not nice’, no entrance to library” (The Star, Dec 3). It reminded me of an incident experienced by my family when my wife and I took our children to the Tun Abdul Razak Public Library, Ipoh one day in the late 1980s, and the letter my wife wrote to The Star after that. I still have the newspaper cutting of the letter.

My wife who was wearing knee-length skirt pants was stopped at the library entrance by the guard who told her that she was inappropriately dressed. When I checked the notice outside the library, it stated among others that shorts were not allowed for males and females above 12 years old even though at that time, shorts were still widely used as school uniforms for secondary school boys and as sportswear for schoolgirls.

I thought the dress code must have been prepared by an over-zealous officer, and the guard could not differentiate between shorts and skirt pants. As the guard would not listen to our reasoning, we decided to go home without visiting the library, very much to the disappointment of our children and their embarrassment at witnessing their mother being humiliated for “indecent” dressing.

I thought it was only an isolated incident at that time and the situation would change as Malaysia was supposed to become a fully developed nation after Vision 2020 was launched by our then and current prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in 1991.

Coincidentally, a few days ago I was asked whether I thought Vision 2020 could be realised next year and if not, why? I answered that Vision 2020 is only a dream.

There were actually nine strategic challenges which Dr Mahathir had listed that Malaysians must address for the vision to be realised. His challenges were focused on culture, ethics and human development, and Malaysians were to become more cultured, ethical and open-minded in tandem with the country becoming a developed nation.

However, most of our programmes in moral education and social development have failed because they focused only on form and not substance. This is because leading by example and becoming role models in morals are more difficult to achieve than performing moral policing on others.

I felt sad for Malaysia after reading the girl’s letter. I have visited our national library and some of our state libraries which are in dire state and have a very poor collection of books. I feel that they cannot even match a local community library in a developed country. We will be left far behind if we continue with our complacency and self-delusion.