KUALA LUMPUR: He had the multi-racial crowd erupt into deafening cheers, and everyone wanted a selfie with him.
Judging by how the people, both young and old, go gaga over him, national badminton ace Datuk Lee Chong Wei truly deserved the Unity Icon title bestowed upon him.
“Be it Chinese, Malay and Indian, we have to work together,” Lee said after receiving the honour from Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak at the “Moments of Unity” event at Perdana Botanical Garden here.
“We won’t achieve success if we act alone. We have to unite and work hand-in-hand,” Lee said.
Organised by the National Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (NCCIM), the Associated Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry of Malaysia (ACCCIM) and the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor, the event saw a multiracial crowd gathering to celebrate unity among Malaysians.
Najib, who joined them in reciting the Rukun Negara and in an aerobics session, said mutual respect and empathy are crucial for unity.
He urged Malaysians to reject extremism “which is the enemy of harmony and peace”.
“We are all here at this park, breathing the same air and doing many things together. We are Malaysians and we love this country.
“If we can remove the barrier between us, we can foster unity and national integration,” he added.
Najib said as the Prime Minister, he was responsible in ensuring a peaceful and harmonious country for the citizens, but it could not be his responsibility alone.
Pointing out the famous sports personalities among the crowd – football legends Datuk Soh Chin Aun and Datuk Santokh Singh – and Lee, Najib said they brought Malaysians together.
He recalled fond memories of the days when Malaysians of all races packed the stadium to watch the Pestabola Merdeka (Merdeka Tournament) in support of the local football, which – he added in jest – had “standards much better than today”.
Najib also rattled off a list of local delights, such as yong tau foo, nasi kandar, tosai and yee sang, proving the diversity of Malaysian culture.
NCCIM and ACCCIM president Datuk Ter Leong Yap said Malaysians could not take unity for granted as it was not easy to achieve.
“It requires vision, mission, positive action and commitment from the Government and all rakyat,” he said.
Ter likened the harmful elements that threatened the national harmony and unity as destructive termites.
Meanwhile, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Joseph Kurup quoted former prime minister Tun Abdul Razak in his speech.
“The progress of this nation will depend on the state of unity we have,” quoted Kurup.
“He (Tun Abdul Razak) has clearly underlined the importance of national unity in our country’s development,” he said.
He also adopted a Chinese saying to inspire the people to work closely together.
“It is easy to break a chopstick, but when you bundle many chopsticks together, it is very difficult to break them,” he said.
It was also announced during the event that the Unity Internship programme, which recruited bumiputra university students to undergo internship at non-bumiputra companies, would be extended to include non-bumiputra students in bumiputra firms.
So far, 2,243 undergraduates have completed their internship at 161 private companies.