Today Malaysia celebrates its 57th ‘Merdeka’ anniversary – an auspicious occasion for Malaysians to reminisce about our struggle for independence and the sacrifices made by our past leaders in their efforts to free the nation from its colonial yoke.
Though the celebration will be on a modest scale in view of the tragic aviation incidents befallen upon us, it will however not affect the spirit of patriotism associated with our ‘Hari Merdeka’.
We have been independent for 57 years. Although the Malaysian nation may not be perfect, it has weathered many storms and laid the foundation for the attainment of racial harmony and unity.
Let us not jeopardize what we have achieved so far through the spirit of understanding and accommodation. Let us not allow extremism in whatever form divide the nation which we all love and care for as this is our birthplace, our home, our workplace and eventually our final rest destination.
As Malaysians of all races commemorate another anniversary of our independence allow me to stress once again the very fundamentals that have brought us together thus far which are the very principles contained in the Rukunegara.
The Rukunegara was formulated in 1970 to achieve consensus with regard to national aspirations among the various communities in Malaysia regardless of their geographical location or ethnic character.
Apart from achieving greater unity among the people, maintaining a democratic way of life; creation of a just society; a liberal approach to cultural traditions; as well as building a progressive society oriented to modern science and technology, the Rukunegara also sets out a social guide in the form of the following principles;
- Belief in God
- Loyalty to the King and Country
- Upholding the Constitution
- Rule of Law, and
- Good Social Behaviour and Morality
The Rukunegara is our guide for nation-building and should be respected by all. It is a shared vision for national unity. Its principles should always be upheld and practiced for we must never take for granted the stability, peace and harmony we have attained so far.
Although ethnic relations in the country are generally satisfactory, we must certainly not take our inter-racial and inter-religious harmony for granted.
Looking at the current political and social landscape I and many other Malaysians cannot help being concerned about the growing intolerance of diversity in our multi-racial and multi-religions Nation.
What I have distinctly observed is that the spirit of friendship and neighbourliness – based on sharing and respecting each other regardless of social, economic and religious backgrounds – which we experienced in the 70s to late 90s seem to be waning day by day and this is a serious matter which must not be ignored by our Nation builders.
It appears to many of us that our nation is becoming more polarized along the line of race and religion.
All religions encourage their followers to do good, be courteous, humble, honest, respectful, and above all not to hurt one another even unintentionally. Unfortunately we have deviated far from these virtues. Issues affecting our nation are being skewed along the lines of race and religion.
Crime, social behaviour, politics, education, health and laws etc have been infused with the element of race and religion from negative perspectives. At every opportunity an incident is viewed from a racial or religious angle. In certain matters, sentiments have been heightened almost to boiling points leading to unnecessary tension. The voices of extremism seem to have been amplified beyond acceptable norms.
In challenging times like this it is improper for anyone to make provocative and incendiary statements against any ethnic groups which can lead to conflict or racial tension. This is not the time to incite hatred through hate speeches. On the contrary we need to go back to the 1957 Merdeka Spirit and work towards genuine re-conciliation, racial and religious harmony.
To achieve this , Malaysians regardless of race, religion or political affiliation must build bridges and not walls which will only divide Malaysians. We need more inter-ethnic bridge builders and not racial and religious bigots. We need to neutralise the politics of hatred, racial polarisation and racial exclusiveness.
We as a nation cannot afford to have any racial and religious tension. Common sense tells us that any attempt by any quarters to instigate racial or religious tension is of no benefit to the country. It will only further polarise our nation along racial and religious lines.
The immediate and most urgent task for all Malaysians today is to stand up and be counted to check the surge of extremism and religious bigotry.
We need urgently to strengthen the voice of moderation. We cannot be fence sitters. Moderate Malaysians of all races must stand up and be counted.
For those who persist in making incendiary statements and instigate racial and religious tension our law enforcement agency should act against them without fear or favour and help restore public confidence in the process.
The immediate task of all political leaders and all strata of society is to stop the drift towards racial polarization.
Too much emphasis has been given so far to the role of politics and politicians to ensure harmony among the diverse races.
And many a times Malaysians are disappointed and even disenchanted when certain politicians play the race card to gain popularity.
What is even more disturbing is the emergence of race-based politics and the playing up of racial issues unashamedly by some without realizing the consequences of their actions.
It is now time for the people to innovate and take initiatives to break any racial divide that exists and go beyond politics to strive towards unity.
Malaysians must take on the responsibility of building and reinforcing unity as a people’s initiative as ultimately it is the people who will decide the destiny of our Nation.
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