TODAY, Muslims in Malaysia celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which marks the end of the fasting month. A month after this celebration, our Christian brothers will celebrate Christmas.
Both these celebrations along with the other major communal festivals in Malaysia, such as Chinese New Year, Deepavali, Kamaatan and Pesta Gawai, have all recently been designated as national celebrations.
This recognition is an important milestone of our maturity as a nation and as a people in accepting multi-culturalism and multi-religion as a way of life.
It is a laudable move by the Federal Government in enhancing national unity and cohesiveness. This recognition of national celebration status is marked with the time-honoured and traditional Malaysian practice of an open house at the national level, where everybody, irrespective of race or religion, are welcome to join in the merry-making.
On such a festive occasion, as a nation and as a people, let us reflect on the challenges of the present and near future that we have to surmount before we can realise a fully-developed Malaysia under our Vision 2020.
Among the challenges is the current phenomenon of globalisation and the ongoing revolution in the information and communication technology sector that offers both a threat and an opportunity to our nation. We can choose either to benefit from it or to be left behind.
In our quest for national development we are, to a certain extent, dependent on foreign investments to fuel our growth.
And, as a nation competing for foreign investments, we have seen how China is getting a huge slice of that pie, currently amounting to more than half of all foreign investments in Asia because of the low cost of its labour.
Besides this, with a population of 1.3 billion, China is the biggest market in the world.
We have witnessed how a nation such as India is trying to leapfrog the rest of the developing world in creating a knowledge-based economy.
We have also seen how our tried and tested model for economic success has been successfully copied by other developing nation states.
With such a competitive scenario, Malaysia and Malaysians cannot afford to be complacent. We need to buck up fast.
We must enhance our competitiveness by increasing our Total Factor Productivity, lowering the cost of doing business locally, upgrading the skills of our workers and increasing the quality and efficiency of our public sector by further cutting red tape.
We must also be more creative and innovative in marketing Malaysia as a profit centre globally and fine-tune proven policies while replacing failed ones and maintaining the superiority of our physical infrastructure.
We will risk stagnation and the loss of our competitive advantages if we do not stop being nostalgic about the achievements of yesteryears to the point of being lulled into a comfort zone and failing to take the necessary steps to ensure preparation for a more competitive environment in the future.
Recently we witnessed the peaceful and orderly succession between former prime minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and the nation’s fifth Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.
Such peaceful and orderly transition rarely takes place in the developing world.
Our new Prime Minister Pak Lah has managed to capture the imagination of the rakyat with his battle cry of “work with me, not for me” and with his determination to weed out graft, improve public sector efficiency and cut red tape.
This, along with his humble demeanour, piety and resoluteness, I believe, will usher in a new dawn for Malaysia.
Together building on the legacy of his predecessors we must ensure a progressive, prosperous and developed Malaysia.
It is a known fact that every Prime Minister since the late Tunku has had differing styles of governing because of their different backgrounds.
But all have had the same overriding objectives, the most important and sacrosanct being the preservation of national unity, second being the preservation of a free, sovereign and democratic Malaysia which is plural in nature and the third objective being the pursuit of social justice through the market economy mechanism.
Today we have seen how discontent, intolerance and extremism have bred hatred, destruction and anarchy worldwide.
We live in uncertain times where peace, stability and security, once taken for granted, are now precious commodities.
We have seen people at the prime of their lives being violently molested for reasons best known to the unholy perpetrators of murder and mayhem.
Bombs exploding as life and limbs are lost. These are but some of the common occurrences and the reality of the world we live in.
It will take the collective sanity and the goodwill of all decent human beings worldwide to reverse this sad and depressing reality.
We in Malaysia with our experience in harnessing diversity are in a position to show the way forward for the rest of humanity.
All this while, our diversity has been our source of national strength and resilience, not our source of weakness or a cause for division.
We have been able to harness our diversity to our advantage, thus bringing peace, progress, dynamism and prosperity to our people. This is our offer to humanity.
Notwithstanding this, we Malaysians must also guard against succumbing to extremism, chauvinism and anarchy.
We must continue the current path of mutual acceptance regardless of differences and pursue a course of moderation in our journey to fulfil our manifest destiny as a nation and as a people.
There are those who doubt our past successes, their sustainability and our resolve to achieve future successes. Well, let them doubt. We will continue to surprise them with our achievements.
All these we can realise if we stay united and do not succumb to temptation. Our future and our children’s future are dependant on this very fact.
Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir Batin.
DR MOHAMAD KHIR TOYO,
Malaysian Youth Council.
Did you find this article insightful?