MALAYSIA Day, which is celebrated today, should be a day for all Malaysians, regardless of ethnic background, religion and age to reflect on our nation’s achievements and the future. A historic day like this should be able to rekindle the spirit of patriotism in our hearts. There is a long road ahead for our nation and it is important for us to ensure that multiracial Malaysia continues to have a conducive and encouraging environment for its people to develop their potential to the fullest.

Malaysia was officially formed on Sept 16, 1963, when 11 states under the Federation of Malaya merged with Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. However, Singapore withdrew from Malaysia in 1965. The vast South China Sea, which separates Peninsular Malaysia from Sabah and Sarawak, should not be a barrier for multiethnic Malaysians to share the same hopes and aspirations. Together, the people have achieved progress and milestones in various fields. Those in the peninsula should learn from those in Sabah and Sarawak, where people of diverse ethnicity, religion and custom live together in harmony and peace.

Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak must continue to support the country’s social integration so that sustainable progress can continue, not only to be enjoyed by the present but also the future generations. We need to stop talking about “Sarawak for Sarawakians” or “Sabah for Sabahans”; we are all Malaysians. The Federal Government should ensure a close bond between the peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak, especially in making sure that the people in Sabah and Sarawak enjoy equitable development and modernisation. After 53 years of the formation of Malaysia, we, regardless of the states we come from, should be more united because we share the same hopes, dreams and goals.

I always believe that being a Malaysian does not make a person less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban, Bidayuh and others. All of us should proudly identify ourselves first as Malaysian. We need to strengthen solidarity, especially in the current challenging domestic and external environments. History proves that Malaysia is able to overcome any challenge if the people are united and jointly overcome the adversities. In fact, our diversity is our strength and the recipe for success in achieving development and socio-economic progress, as well as our ability to overcome difficulties.

Looking at the current situation in the country where racial polarisation remains an issue, the need to strengthen social harmony and unity has become more important now than ever. We must never allow the harmonious relations among the various races to be threatened by racial polarisation, which could lead to racial discord and lack of understanding and mutual respect. Racial polarisation is a major obstacle to national integration and unity. Malaysians must oppose religious bigotry and racial extremism, and instead stand up for moderation. We need to appreciate the concept of unity under 1Malaysia, where everyone accepts the uniqueness of the others so that we can live together in mutual respect and trust.

We should not deal with challenges emotionally. Instead, we should face them with maturity, moderation and mutual understanding to find solutions based on dialogues and consensus. For this year’s Malaysia Day, we must renew our sense of love for the nation and support the country’s resolution to bolster its identity in the international arena. The success and fighting spirit of Malaysian Olympic and Paralympic teams in Brazil should be a springboard to renew and fortify the patriotic spirit of each Malaysian and, subsequently, strengthen the unity among Malaysians regardless of race, religious belief and culture. We should be mindful that unity is a priceless gift that must be valued, preserved and respected by all Malaysians.

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