Saluting a nation

Malaysians despite their diverse backgrounds stand united and celebrate the country’s independence with a wide range of activities.

As Malaysians, we take pride in being a melting pot of different ethnicities and cultures.

We must appreciate our unique diversity and should never take it for granted. The Merdeka Day festivities each year is perhaps the best time to remind ourselves of how we must appreciate our similarities while working hard to set aside our differences.

At a recent celebration to mark the nation’s independence, Cempaka Cheras pupil Chong Kylie was excitedly waving the Malaysian flag - Jalur Gemilang — that she had drawn and coloured herself.

“I know that the flag represents our country Malaysia, and we must be proud of it,” said the girl admitting with the pure innocence of an eight-year-old that she wasn’t sure of what the stars, crescent and red and white stripes signified.

Although Kylie and some of her schoolmates were not able to get the answers right about the Jalur Gemilang, the enthusiasm shown by the students while belting out the late singer Sudirman’s hit Tanggal 31 was superb.

In a medley of patriotic songs and traditional dances, students at the school put up a dazzling performance showcasing the country’s diverse cultures.

In many primary and secondary schools across the country, various activities in the form of concerts, competitions, exhibitions, and parades were held last week and more will be held over the days to come, to mark the nation’s 56th birthday.

Among the schools that had held events were SJK (T) Ramakrishna Jalan Scotland, Penang, SK Methodist (ACS) in Ipoh, Perak, Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) Kubang Pasu and SMK Padang Serai, both in Kedah.

Tertiary institutions had also organised their own programmes. At Taylor’s University, students came dressed up in traditional costumes for the university’s Merdeka Day celebration themed “We cherish unity, live in harmony”.

Student council president Lim Ben-Jie said that the younger generation’s patriotism now had more “fervour” especially after seeing the latest devlopments and happenings in other countries.

“Looking at the unrest in Egypt, I believe young Malaysians have come to realise that nothing can be achieved if the nation is divided,” said the 20-year-old Finance and Economics student.

“Also, the last General Election had sparked the Malaysian spirit ... a great number of young Malaysians are now interested to find out more about our country. It was reflected in social media circles when everyone was talking about the political happenings during that period,” he added.

International student Azan Ali Khan who joined in the celebration, said he observed that Malaysians shared a common identity irrespective of their racial and religious backgrounds.

“Whenever I meet my Malaysian friends, they always tell me that they are Malaysians no matter what their race is. That has inspired me ... there is a need to do the same in my country which also has a diverse culture,” said the 21-year-old International Business and Marketing student from Pakistan.

As for the recent move to play the Negaraku before movie screenings, many tertiary students thought it was a good idea as it would help foster patriotism among young Malaysians.

Biomedical Science student Muhammad Nur Alif Mohd Zamri said: “It is a matter of discipline. We stand up to sing the Negaraku because we respect our national anthem. By doing so, we are also showing our respect for the country,” said the 19-year-old.

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