AS we bid farewell to a turbulent 2016, we are set for 2017 which will be an even tougher and more challenging year, with many uncertainties. Nonetheless, a new year brings with it new resolutions, hopes and aspirations.

To the 1Malaysia Foundation, if there is one New Year’s resolution which should be pursued, it is the need for all Malaysians to stand firm for diversity and moderation as a way towards reducing conflict and building a strong foundation of unity for the future in our multiracial nation.

Moderation is vital for unity, peace and harmony and our Foundation wishes to applaud Eco World Development Group and Star Media Group for jointly launching the #Anak-Anak Malaysia annual campaign which encourages all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, to stand up for moderation and unity through diversity.

Multiracial living and community are part of our history and heritage. They have become an important source of racial integration for many years and have certainly played a part in making Malaysia a harmonious place to live, learn, work and play in.

To me, achieving unity among the diverse races, religions and cultures is the nation’s biggest challenge – the challenge that is key to our very survival.

Racial and religious polarisation is the biggest obstacle to social cohesion and national unity and it should be the responsibility of all Malaysians to reject such polarisation.

Policy makers, planners and implementers have to be committed to the principle that their thoughts and deeds would always be guided by moderation and governed by the aims and objectives of the Rukun Negara and the Federal Constitution.

Looking at the present scenario, our nation, particularly peninsular Malaysia, appears to be more and more polarised along the lines of race and religion despite having achieved almost six decades of independence.

The spirit of neighbourliness, mutual respect and trust based on sharing and respecting each other regardless of social, economic and religious backgrounds that we experienced from the 1970s until the late 1990s appears to be diminishing day by day.

Crime, social issues, education and politics are often infused with the elements of race and religion, followed by the articulation of extreme and insensitive remarks by several quarters without due regard to the sensitivities of and respect for one another’s race and religion. Even a simple consumer dispute can be turned into a racial issue.

Urgent and concrete steps have to be taken to address these various fundamental issues. The Government needs to expedite the implementation of the National Unity Blueprint which contains 16 recommendations proposed by the National Unity Consultative Council, which are vital to achieve unity.

The immediate and most urgent task for all Malaysians today is to stand up and be counted to check the surge of racism, extremism and religious bigotry.

For those who persist in making incendiary statements and instigating racial and religious tension, action should be taken against them without fear or favour, helping to 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 and religious polarisation. The Government has to play a key role in this regard by ensuring that it gives substance and meaning to its pledge to initiate and implement equitable policies to unite all races.

The process of achieving unity must begin in our schools and educational institutions and students must be prepared to integrate, beginning from a young age, with the help of the teachers.

We need to be able to put our children together and let them grow up together. In play and in the classrooms, our children must be able to know, understand and appreciate their fellow citizens of different skin colours.

They will soon need to build this nation together. They must accept each other as Anak-Anak Malaysia.

The most urgent task for all patriotic Malaysians, irrespective of race, religion and political affiliation, is to ensure racial and religious harmony and reject all forms of extremism which can undermine inter-racial and inter-religious peace and harmony and destroy our social fabric.

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