Celebrate as well as reflect on our 46 years

  • Letters
  • Sunday, 31 Aug 2003

By Wong Chun Wai

MY friends and I cut short a family vacation in China to be home in time to celebrate National Day. After five days in Beijing and Dalian, even with the best hospitality from our Chinese friends, home was still very much in our hearts. 

My wife and I were greeted by wondrous autumn cool air at the coastal city of Dalian, located in northern eastern China. 

We were treated to sumptuous meals daily but we yearned for nasi lemak, prawn mee and roti canai, despite being seasoned travellers. 

So, on stepping out of KL International Airport, we welcomed the familiar steamy heat of Malaysia. We were glad to be home. 

Having travelled to over 40 countries on work or on holiday, I have always taken great pride in telling foreigners that Malaysia is the best place to live in. 

Australians may claim that they live in the luckiest country but I say we ought to lay claim to that honour. 

Just a week ago, I had lunch with public relations practitioner Tony Nathan. He narrated to me how his family members had persuaded him to migrate Down Under. 

He questioned the logic in running small businesses such as grocery and laundry shops after years of tertiary education and professional experiences. The fact is that Asians have little chance for promotion in the mostly-white environment even if they denied the existence of racial discrimination. 

We agreed that Malaysia remained the best country even if there were flaws in some of its policies and administration. 

We have abundant natural resources (our commodities are in demand), decent education and health facilities, a sound bureaucracy and an established rule of law. 

Today we are 46 years old. We are already middle-aged, so to speak. As the politicians emphasise the numerous record-breaking feats of Malaysians, let’s not forget that we have done what other countries have not been able to achieve – we have our independence without a single shot being fired. 

There was no bloodshed, no power grab and certainly no revolution. What we did was to get all races together and start a government. 

More importantly, we have been able to live together peacefully. Except for a blot in our nation’s history, our multi-racial society has been a shining example. 

Most of us would rather blame the politicians and the media for statements that caused us to feel unhappy. The rest of us have more in common in our daily lives than to fret and fight. 

That in itself is record-breaking, and uniquely Malaysian. The politics of accommodation has lasted until today with the same government since 1957, which to me is another record of sorts. 

Our national birthday is a time for celebration but it is also a time for deliberation. Even as we stomach some of the silly feats in the name of Malaysia Boleh over the past years, we must also be willing to reflect upon our weaknesses, as much as we gloat over the many successes. 

We have taken a more honest direction now. The same politicians who used to shout nationalistic slogans are telling us to study English now, after having produced a generation of graduates who can no longer write job application letters in English. 

We are now more ready to toy with the idea of meritocracy in various sectors as the results of social engineering proved its benefits, which is a major stride. 

But many Malaysians feel that there should be a higher sense of commitment to public integrity. 

There is a greater need for a political will to fight corruption, social greed and the abuse of power in high places. 

Brave words would mean nothing if there is no real follow-up action. The struggle of our forefathers in securing the country’s independence would be meaningless if we are unable to meet the present and future challenges. 

As we gear ourselves to face new global changes coming to our shores, Malaysians should by now be thinking of how we intend to cope with the future. 

We should stop wasting our time listening to third-rate leaders who seem more preoccupied with banning dancing than devoting their energies to charting the country's economic destiny. 

Let’s not turn back the clock after what we have achieved over the last 46 years. We have to move forward and in doing so quicken the pace. 


  • Wong Chun Wai can be reached at onthebeat@thestar.com.my  

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