Unity should begin with each person and every Malaysian should help strengthen it.

IT was a defining moment for Malaysia on Monday night when its contingent clinched the 111th gold medal at the 29th SEA Games (KL2017).

The whole country was ecstatic when Keirin World champion and Olympic bronze medallist Mohd Azizulhasni Awang took the gold medal in the men’s sprint category at the National Velodrome in Nilai.

Congratulations to all our athletes who gave their best throughout KL2017.

KL2017 and other international-level games held in the country prove that sports can unite people.But the strong unity and patriotic spirit shown must transcend sports and cover all spheres of life.

This is vital for Malaysia’s success as a stable, cohesive and united nation.

Malaysia can consider itself the overall winner of KL2017 after exceeding its 111 gold target and holding an advantage over second-placed Thailand.

With the continuous and strong support from all Malaysians, the national contingent might haul in more gold medals and create history by making KL2017 Malaysia’s most successful SEA Games.

The Malaysian contingent’s victory is also a meaningful gift for all Malaysians in conjunction with our National Day celebrations tomorrow.

It was truly heart-warming to see Malaysian spectators cheer in support of our athletes.

The cheers grew louder when our athletes went up to receive their gold, silver or bronze medal.

I’m touched by the sporting spirit and unity shown by all Malaysians; this proves we are colour-blind.

Supporters of different ethnicity have always given their undivided support to Malaysian athletes without a care for whether he or she is a Malay, Chinese, Indian, Iban, Kadazan or of any other race.

The same spirit was evident when our badminton heroes, such as the Sidek brothers and Datuk Lee Chong Wei, competed in tournaments before.

I hope that we can have more moments such as this. It is also important to maintain the same spirit of patriotism and unity when we celebrate our Independence Day tomorrow and Malaysia Day on Sept 16. Ideally, it must last for generations to come.

Regardless of their background and profession, Malaysians must fulfil their responsibility to maintain unity as emphasised by the theme of this year’s Merdeka celebrations, Negaraku, Sehati Sejiwa (My Country, One Heart One Soul).

Being a Malaysian does not make anyone less Malay, Chinese, Indian, Kadazan, Iban or other ethnicity and we should start accepting each other as Malaysians, regardless of race and religion.

Unity should begin with individuals and every Malaysian should take part in strengthening it by speaking in one voice to represent all Malaysians, irrespective of their ethnic background or political inclination.

Unity should be the basis of all activities for nation building and Malaysians should be more conscious of their role and contribution towards national unity which is paramount to the nation’s growth and development.

National development would not be meaningful without mutual understanding, harmony, goodwill and trust among the multiracial people. Racial and religious polarisation are the biggest hindrances to national unity and it should be the responsibility of all Malaysians to reject polarisation in any form for the sake of racial and religious harmony, as well as unity.

As shown throughout KL2017, we should be proud to identify ourselves first as Malaysians, for such identification fosters patriotism and develops unity.

As I have repeatedly reminded, we need to be cautious because unity can be a fragile thread that breaks easily or a powerful anchor which holds the nation steady.

This is the time for all level-headed, patriotic Malaysians to stand up and be counted in furthering the cause of a united Malaysian nation.

What we are currently experiencing reminds me of the burning spirit and deep love for the country in the “Aku Negaraku” song, which is the theme for the Negaraku initiative.

Sung by popular local singers Hafiz Suip and Jaclyn Victor, the upbeat song, which translates to “I Am Malaysia”, is a reminder that we are the ones who play an important role in building a successful country.

While we are still in a joyous mood celebrating our athletes’ success in the KL2017, I sincerely hope that Malaysians can help alleviate excessive ethnic, religious and political identity through mutual respect for one another and create a united “Bangsa Malaysia”.

Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye is a social activist and trustee of the 1Malaysia Foundation.

Image source: https://thestar.com.my

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