KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s young people should strive to always be competitive to excel in any field they choose, said Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
“We have to be competitive because other countries have come up and are competing with us. If we do not remain at the forefront, we will be left behind,” the Prime Minister said.
Only by doing this could Malaysia achieve excellence, glory and distinction, he told reporters after launching the National Youth Day 2004 celebrations at Stadium Putra at Bukit Jalil, here, yesterday.
Citing sports as an example, Abdullah said the young generation should take heed of what had happened to sports as badminton and football, where Malaysians were once world and regional champions. Malaysia is now faring badly in these events.
Using the Thomas Cup tournament to show how bad the situation could become, Abdullah said that in the 1950s, Malaysia was feared among other badminton-playing countries.
“For a long time, no one could beat us.
“However, today we are no longer number one; beaten by Indonesia when they were virtually nobody when we were champions,” the premier said.
He also pointed out that Malaysia had one of the best football teams in the Merdeka Cup, when it played against South Korea and Japan.
“South Korea moved on to almost becoming world champions in the past World Cup. Where are we now?” Abdullah asked, adding that youths should try to bring back the previous success.
Asked why Malaysians still could not to do well in sports despite the opportunities and facilities, Abdullah said maybe it had to do with the “human factor” and sportsmen did not work hard enough.
“Maybe, the standard of hard work in Malaysia is not as good compared with the standard of hard work in other countries,” he said.
He said while the intention was not to express his displeasure at the performance of the country’s sportsmen, the call to be continuously competitive was applicable to all fields and areas.
“It is applicable to economic development.
“You can see countries like India and Thailand, which have developed very quickly and become our competitors,” he said.
Abdullah said the young generation should always equip themselves with the ability to be ahead of others.
They should strive to gain knowledge as well as make use of the programmes and opportunities in education and sports provided by the Government.
“We are a country with all the facilities.
“We are not a poor country and we have given tremendous opportunities to young people to do well and make a name for themselves.
“This is why I say that it is great to be young in Malaysia,” he said.
Present at the event, themed Belia Cemerlang, Bangsa Ge-milang, Negara Terbilang (Excellent Youth, Glorious Pe-ople, Country of Distinction) ,were Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman Said, her deputy Datuk Ong Tee Keat and Malaysian Youth Council president Datuk Seri Dr Khir Toyo.
Around 10,000 youths from various youth organisations nationwide attended the event.
Abdullah was conferred the special award of Father of National Youth Development at the rally.
National Youth Day awards were also given to four individuals and three youth organisations for their contributions to the youth movement of the country.
The four were Norzin Mokh-tar for the leadership category, Mohd Sharulzilan Said (volunteerism), Shafie Kassim (entrepreneurship), and Datuk Abdul Malik Maidin (fighting spirit - “Malaysia Boleh” ).
The Kampung Sungai Gulang-Gulang Youth Associa-tion from Tanjung Karang, Selangor, won the first prize in the Premier Youth Organisation Awards.
The Perkampung Permatang Tinggi youth organisation from Bukit Mertajam, Penang took second place and the Kuala Medang 4B Youth Organisation from Lipis, Pahang, came in third.