AS we commemorate National Day, we as citizens of this beloved nation need to take stock of the state of our country.
Should we count our blessings or lament our woes? Both are part and parcel of our existence.
There is no denying that our country has progressed by leaps and bounds since gaining independence in 1957 as a result of the cumulative efforts of our leaders and the people. We must count our blessings.
Outside of World War II, the communist insurgence, Indonesian confrontation and May 13 riots, the nation has not experienced major security problems. We have, in fact, enjoyed peace and tranquillity.
We have progressed to become a developing country with impressive economic credentials. Abject poverty has been eradicated although there are still lingering patches but no one suffers from malnutrition or goes hungry in Malaysia now.
We have among the best, if not the best, public and affordable private healthcare in this region. The reach of our healthcare in outlying and remote areas through government clinics is excellent. Even in the most remote areas of Sabah and Sarawak, we are able to provide medical services through the flying doctor service.
Our education facilities and standards are on par with or even surpass those in other Asean countries. But there is still room for improvement, such as upgrading of proficiency in English, sufficient research allocation, and aligning and integrating the education system into a cohesive whole.
In addition, we have good land, sea, air and cyber connectivity as well as mainstream and alternative print and electronic media. We also have freedom of expression within the bounds of the law.
And the security forces are doing a credible job in ensuring a peaceful and safe environment.
These are our blessings.
Now let us look at our woes.
First is the political culture that oversees the correct expressions in terms of pride, loyalty and patriotism towards the nation, which may be skewed towards sectarian interests rather than universal ethos.
There is a need to transform our political culture from its adversarial, chauvinistic and predatory syndrome to an integrated cohabitation, self-effacing, ethical and moral bastion.
Such a culture would streamline all our instruments of governance towards a harmonious, equitable and just existence in which the rulers and the ruled work in a synergistic collaboration, each checking and helping the other towards harmonious and prosperous living.
To achieve this, we need to seriously address the factors that impede the realisation of these objectives. One is to stop the misuse of public funds for personal gain.
Then there is the need to arrest the spiralling cost of living and shore up our weak currency to make housing and the basic necessities affordable to the bottom 40%.
We also need to reduce the trust deficit among the people, and between the people and the authorities. One cannot deny that our race-based political parties have caused a certain amount of mistrust among the people.
In their effort to appeal to chauvinistic sentiments, they have stoked the fire of anger and suspicion among the various races and religions.
Despite all of these social and political aberrations, our societal fabric remains intact. The people have not resorted to violent physical confrontation. Instead, they engage in verbal and written exchanges through legally sanctioned avenues to redress their grievances.
That speaks volume for the sanity and sensibility of the Malaysian people.
But looking at the overall Malaysian scenario, we have not done badly at all. In fact, we could have done even better than our neighbours had we not been distracted by bickering and dissensions that sapped our creative and developmental energy.
The overall national disposition, however, gives us hope for a better future. We should not be depressed nor reclusive because of aberrations in our social and economic fabric. They will be properly addressed in time.
Let us be positive in our outlook for the nation and celebrate National Day. And keep our Jalur Gemilang flying high as it symbolises our hopes and aspirations.
MOHAMED GHOUSE NASURUDDIN
Universiti Sains Malaysia