THEY were not born when the country achieved independence 57 years ago - heck, for some, even their parents were not born yet – but as Sunday Star discovers, Malaysia’s youth have a strong Merdeka spirit.
Shelbie Diana, 19
THE road to independence paved by Tunku Abdul Rahman and his multiracial delegates noted a remarkable inscription to the Malayan history. Not long after, the merging of Malaya with (the now) Sabah and Sarawak formed Malaysia.
As a Sarawakian, Merdeka to me means that we need to appreciate the harmony and independence that we are given and bury whatever inter-communal disputes on a proper ground of tolerance and respect. I have the simple pleasures of knowing friends from all walks of life and of different cultural backgrounds. That is how the spirit of merdeka can be reignited. Everyone regardless of races and creed can unite when we are proud to call this place our home.
Mover of UndiMsia Azira Aziz, 27
TO me, Aug 31 1957 is not just the day Malaya achieved independence, it was also the date that the youth took part in nation building. It was about how the youth then were empowered to lead the nation into a new era. We had a youthful cabinet then – the average age of the cabinet was 30-40 years old. Even the Tunku was in his early 50s.
Fast forward, you see such a big difference. Our cabinet does not have enough young people.
What we need now is also a united front. In 1957, people actually listened to each other and saw the nation as a cohesive whole. Now we are more divisive - we are highlighting sectarian issues and rights instead of standing back and looking at the big picture.
Actor and writer Dinesh Kumar, 27
THE spirit of 1957 is Malaysians of all races and religions coming together for the nation - everything else is secondary. This is a very beautiful thing our forefathers enjoyed when we became independent from the British. Unfortunately, over the years of politicking by parties with vested interests, people seem to have forgotten that we are all Malaysians, brothers and sisters living in a beautiful country. People, especially our politicians and leaders, need to come back to the spirit of oneness.
Writer Andrea Filmer, 29
I think moderation is increasingly crucial as we see more and more mixed-race marriages in the country. Our children embody true multiculturalism and need to be identified not by a single race, but what they truly are - Malaysian.
Fresh graduate Ti Lian Yew, 23
We need fair and equal opportunity for all. The government needs to do something to retain the talent in the country. Many have left for other countries, including Singapore. We don’t need quotas, now the Government need to focus on quality.
Budding entrepreneur Nor Raeesa Syahirah Mohd Nor, 25
Merdeka and the spirit of 1957 should start with individual Malaysians themselves. If we want to move forward, we need to work towards it. I think we are generally united and living in harmony. But then again, we are in KL where it is common to see different races. Outside KL unfortunately, the different races are still segregated, living in their own communities and when they leave their community, they still tend to flock together.
Businessman G. Clement Paul, 26
I personally don’t share or like any racial postings in social media as I always believe we live in a multiracial country and moderation is really important.
Business developer Afif Ter, 31
We need the 1957 fighting spirit, never say die and keep getting up after you fall, even when you face disappointment you need to get up and keep walking.
Graphic designer Ahmad Azlan Shamsuddin, 31
Obviously unity is a 1957 spirit that we need now but apart from that, we should be thankful because looking at the troubles in the world now, if you compare Malaysia and other countries that are fighting or still struggling (to grow), we should be thankful.
Student Sri Kugan, 18
IF you ask me, the younger generation do not pose a threat to unity but it’s the older generation who are sometimes immature and merely speak emotionally without respecting the sensitivity of others. The spirit of Merdeka can and will be achieved if we are able to respect each others’ cultures. We should also look back to our glorious past with pride in order to move forward as one big happy family regardless of race and religion!
Student Daniel Joshua, 19
MERDEKA to me means a huge deal. The day on which Malaysia became ours became a launch pad for what we have now. Our forefathers gave everything they had so we can live comfortably today. I think to reignite the spirit of Merdeka we need to raise public awareness about Merdeka, highlighting the fact that it was not an easy accomplishment and that everything we have today is because of that wonderful moment on Aug 31, 1957.
Blogger and student Melinya Sarah DeRich, 21
I grew up moving around and thus moving schools. When I was the new kid, the only question that I was familiar with is “Where are/were you from?” That changed when I went to a new school in PJ and my new classmates then (now BFFs) asked me three questions: “Are you Chinese?” “Are you Malay?” “Then, what are you?”
Unity to me, comes from the mentality of not segregating along the lines of race and religion. Standing in unity is as easy as taking the initiative to give everybody a chance in your life and putting aside the differences. It’s not rocket science and certainly not a place for anyone to point fingers at, because ultimately it comes back down to us - are we doing what we can to stand in unity? Your (collective) answers determine the future of Malaysia 50 years down the line. If we’re still pointing fingers, we are NOT doing this right.
Student Chong Joo Yee, 19
Even though there is a lot of concern about the relationship between races, I think it is fine. I believe that the different races in Malaysia are working together. It also depends on the individual, so they need to make an effort to reach out to the other races. We also need to love Malaysia more and buy more Malaysian stuff.
Student Yong Jia Lyn, 19
In 1957 they were more patriotic, so we need to be patriotic too.
Student Liew Shi Wen, 19
We need to be more respectful of each other, especially between the different races and be more tolerant of each other. Sometimes people just say bad things to other races and insult them. Even if they don’t mean it, it will hurt the other person, so they need to be more careful.
Student Anira Fazira Sabran 19
The spirit of 1957 is to be free to think and express oneself. That is the spirit we need now.
Student Darshinee a/p Pratipakumar, 16
In Malaysia, we have everything we need, the country is developed and the different races are living side by side. The thing we need most now if we want to continue to have Merdeka or freedom is tolerance between the races.
Student Maria Faustina, 16
We need the spirit of togetherness. Our country has grown so much since 1957 – we have achievements in many areas like business, sports, IT – and all of us now can work and live together. This is not easy, so we need to remember how far we have come so that we can continue to have this in the future.
Student Samuel Ho Li Feng, 16
I think the spirit of 1957 is during that time Malaysia is united, not to say that we are not now, but it can definitely improve. We have been living together for more than 50 years, and we need to work harder to continue that.
Student Kenrick Pedro Roch, 15
We need to have unity between the different races, it helps our economy and promote our country’s name internationally. And we need unity and teamwork if we want to succeed, like in sports.
Student Malvenderjit Singh Sidhu, 16
We need to have the united spirit and thank our forefathers for their struggle, as well as all the people who fought for our independence.
Student Muhd Irfan Daniel Effendi, 16
Merdeka didn’t come that easily, so we should appreciate what all the people who fought for our independence – not just the political leaders - have done for us. As a young person I also want study hard to give back to the country.
Re-igniting love for the land