BUTTERWORTH: For many Malaysians, they fondly recall the days leading to the founding of Malaysia in 1963.
#AnakAnakMalaysia organising chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, for one, was a 17-year-old schoolboy then.
“I was in Form Five and didn’t know much about politics. But I remember how excited everyone was,” said Lee.
From neighbours to schoolteachers, Lee said everyone talked for days about Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and the Federation of Malaya forming a new country.
“The impression I had then was that we would become a bigger and stronger country. And it is not just about Malays, Chinese and Indians anymore, but about many more ethnic groups.
“We had a history teacher who spoke excitedly about Malaysia and taught us much about Sabah and Sarawak.
“More than 50 ethnic groups united to become Malaysians. The thought of forming a country so vastly multicultural excited all of us.
“Now, here we are, 55 years later and still going strong,” Lee said with a smile after leading Penang’s #AnakAnakMalaysia Walk in Eco Horizon Show Village at Bandar Cassia, Batu Kawan.
At least 4,000 participants were at Eco World Development Group Bhd’s sprawling estate yesterday with the air cool after a rainy night.
Chief Minister Chow Kon Yeow and several other state leaders were among those who turned up.
“Let us be ‘colour-blind’ and put our different ancestries behind us. We have shown the world how we can have unity in diversity,” Lee said.
He also called on corporations to play a role in fostering unity as one of their corporate social responsibilities.
“Fostering unity is not just the government’s job. It is everyone’s duty,” he said.
#AnakAnakMalaysia is a four-year-old national unity campaign by EcoWorld and Star Media Group. It began in 2015 as a simple gesture of wearing red wristbands marked with the Jalur Gemilang.
Since 2016, the campaign included symbolic unity walks in the Klang Valley, Johor Baru and Penang, while the wristband evolved creatively and became a fashion accessory this year with the chance to affix pins onto the bands.
The pins, among others, depict nasi lemak bungkus, Mount Kinabalu, Sarawak’s hornbill and the wau of the east coast.
Among Penang’s walkers this year was retired teacher Agnes Teh, 73, who carries in her heart what she described as the “Malaysian hope”.
She felt that Malaysians today were “guilty” of gravitating towards their own race.
“It was not a sudden change. It happened gradually over the years. We started to divide ourselves.
“People should participate in walks like this where we are all together.
“Hopefully, with the changes we have seen this year, things may go back to how it was when I was young,” she said.