PETALING JAYA: Malaysia, here where love grows – there could not be a better reminder than this year’s Merdeka theme for the nation as we celebrate our 57th year of Independence.
And as many young Malaysians agree, it’s time to re-ignite that simple love of the land and each other, as exemplified by our founding father, Tunku Abdul Rahman who once said, “No matter what we are, we are all Malaysians.”
We need to remember that Merdeka belongs to all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, said lawyer Azira Aziz, 27.
“Malaysia was created through a memorandum, so everyone played a part. It was a consensus.”
Universiti Malaysia Pahang final year student S. Shravanya believes moderation is the key to uphold the spirit of 57.
“Merdeka is the reflection of the unity in our country, but now our forefathers’ struggles to achieve independence are marred by racist remarks uttered by certain politicians and narrow-minded Malaysians.
“Although we are different in skin colour, we should be always united as Malaysians,” said the 24-year-old who hails from Merlimau, Malacca.
Penangite Kyle Chan, 19, who is pursuing his studies at the London School of Economics and Political Science, agrees that living in a multi-cultural country, it’s always important to practise moderation and work towards a common goal.
“Respect and acceptance of each other’s differences and uniqueness is crucial especially as the nation constantly faces new racial and religious tension and conflict,” he said.
Mobile app developer Syed Muhammad Muaz Syed Abdullah, 31, said it is important to keep the spirit of independence alive at all times.
“Especially now, with all the challenges the country is facing, we need to be united. . A lot of work needs to be done to foster unity and understanding between the races in Malaysia. Keep the spirit alive and Insyallah we will unite.”
For business developer Shahrin Shamsuddin, 28, respect between races is paramount.
“We need to strengthen our unity but to do that, we need to respect our mutual differences. We should not try to erase or cover the differences.”
Echoing his sentiments, technopreneur Wong Shin Chong, 26, said: “We need to be more open to other people’s cultures and respect each other.”
But as Sarawakian Melinya Sarah, 21, pointed out, we also need to remember that Aug 31, 1957 is the independence day of Malaya, not Malaysia.
“Personally, Aug 31 means almost nothing to me as Malaysia did not exist until 1963, but I still celebrate it by remembering that I’m blessed to live in a country with beautiful cultures, delicious food, colourful personalities and stunning landscapes.”
Social activist and co-founder of Justice for Sisters, Thilaga Sulatireh, 27, also thinks that if we are to accept the diversity of the country, we also need to accept the alternative histories of Malaysia.