MALAYSIA should focus on creating more “moments of unity” among Malaysians so that the people, rakyat, especially the younger generation, will would appreciate and embrace our uniqueness and diversity in terms of ethnicity, culture and religion. This will foster national unity and solidarity. In his televised National Day message on the eve of Aug 31August, the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said that Malaysia must sow the seeds of “moments of unity” in order to preserve its sovereignty and independence.

He cited various instances of “moments of unity”, where multiracial people of this country came together as Malaysians, such as when supporting our Olympic team recently, or when patronising Ipoh’s famous nasi vanggey, a nasi kandar stall in a Chinese-owned restaurant that had existed since 1957. He also referred to the film Ola Bola, which that had inspired feelings of oneness among Malaysians, as well as the works of cartoonist Lat (Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid) that portrayed characters of various races.

We need more “moments of unity” and to remove “moments of disunity” from our society such as religious bigotry, irresponsible politicians who use the race card to gain support, or who and irresponsible politicians who make provocative and incendiary statements that create racial and religious tensions. Malaysians can organise more community-based activities to bring together people of various , irrespective of races and religions together for a common objective.

These include activities such as crime prevention programmes, anti-drug campaigns or gotong-royong to keep the environment clean and healthy. Crime and drugs are a threat to everyone, irrespective of race, religion, age or gender. Availability of parks and recreation centres can create “moments of unity” as nearby residents can assemble for recreation and exercise, to spending time with family, friends and neighbours, as well as to enjoying nature.

A stronger sense of community can be established if weekly or monthly activities are held at these parks. The ongoing national-level healthy lifestyle campaign organised by the Ministry of Youth and Sports Ministry called Fit Malaysia, and the fortnightly car-free Sunday mornings on Sunday, held by the Kuala Lumpur City Hall, where city folk can cycle, jog, walk or skate every fortnightly are two main “moments of unity” that remove the race, cultural, religious, gender or age barriers.

Other ministries should also organise relevant activities that can gather people of various ethnicities, social background and age. For instance, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment Ministry can organise tree planting or jungle trekking activities while the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-Based Industry Ministry can hold a large-scale farmers’ market every quarterly with various other fun activities for the community. The Ministry of Health can work together with the Ministry of Youth and Sports to carry out health awareness programmes, including blood donation drive in a more upbeat atmosphere. Foreign tourists and expatriates can be invited to attend and take part in these campaigns and programmes to help them so that they would understand and appreciate our diversity in people, culture, religion and nature. The Communications and Multimedia Ministry should be aggressive in disseminating information and publicising all the programmes organised by governmentthe ministries or agencies so that a lot of so that more people are aware of the campaigns and will take part in them.

The same activities could also be held at district, community, enterprise and school levels to involve, where local councils, community associations, employers and schools. Members of parliament should also be the main driver of gotong-royong in at their respective constituencies. Today, the gotong-royongsuch activities are nearly extinct in our country and , where the younger generation has probably never seen or taken part in such voluntary communal activity. National unity can further be reinforced if the government introduces National Unity Impact Assessment on all its policies and development programmes for the people. It is time that stakeholders change the current social setting in the country, especially in big towns and cities, where people are mostly busy with work and business and any free time, which is scarce, is spent with their own families instead of interacting without much interaction with the neighbours or community.

This is made worse with the advancements in technology where mobile gadgets and social media contribute to make are making people oblivious to those others around them and discourage interest not interested in outdoor activities. In a multiracial, multicultural and multireligious society like Malaysia, it will mean weaker national integration, solidarity and unity.

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