WHILE we celebrate our 59th National Day, every one of us must be beaming with pride at seeing the socioeconomic progress we have made together as a nation since gaining independence from the British in 1957.
Malaysia is probably the most multi-racial, multi-cultural and multi-religious nation among its Asean neighbours, if not the wider Asian community. Guided by the profound principles of the Rukun Negara, we have demonstrated to the world that people of diverse backgrounds can live in harmony, work together and build a great nation.
Since we gained independence, we have never looked back. We have continued to enjoy political stability and worked relentlessly, together, transforming our beloved country into an economic power house. We have enjoyed an economic growth rate of up to 8% for much of the past 25 years. The fruits of our labour can now be seen everywhere. Today, we enjoy a quality of life parallel to that of developed nations.
What facilitated this success story is our willingness to coexist in peace and harmony, except for the ugly chapter of the May 13 racial riots, which unfortunately still sticks out as a sore thumb. The May 13 chapter perhaps reinforces a powerful message that intolerance can shatter years of collective hard work in an instant.
Unfortunately, this unity and harmony which we have always celebrated is being threatened as racial slurs are becoming a norm these days and groups with vested interests are selfishly pawning the wellbeing of the nation for their racially-charged demands. This is indeed a sad reality which should ring alarm bells.
However, all these happenings appear or seemingly appear to be condoned by politicians. We want our national leaders to reprimand these groups.
While preserving national unity is the responsibility of every individual, it is ultimately shaped by political will. Politicians have to decide if they want a divided or united Malaysia. The peace and stability which we enjoy today can only be sustained if the politicians chose to do so.
Differences in political ideologies and varying viewpoints are bound to exist in any country but we must continue to respect each other’s existence. There are bound to be challenges but all that we have achieved thus far must never be held to ransom.
Racial polarisation is probably the biggest hindrance to achieving a unified Malaysia but we have entrusted political leaders and administrative institutions to effectively deal with this. As such, people who walk the corridors of power must act decisively to address the current realities before we reach a point of no return.
Commendable leadership in a country like ours cannot be judged on mega infrastructure development alone, but it must be rated on how successfully racial integration is realised as well.
DARSHAN SINGH DHILLON
Malaysia Consumers Movement
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