AUGUST 31 has a special place in the heart of Malaysians. It is a date most nostalgic especially to those who were able to witness the occasion at Stadium Merdeka when the flag of a newly-born nation was proudly hoisted with much pride and to the chants of “Merdeka”.
With Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore (which later left) joining in, Malaysia was indeed formidable.
Some had opined that we would fail in time given our multi-ethnic diversity. This has been proved wrong and we are acknowledged as a nation which has risen to great heights, building on the strengths of our diversity.
It is our diamond anniversary which we are celebrating this year. So how are we faring? Economic growth is sound, averaging above 5.5% over the last two quarters. The global ratings agencies and World Bank have reported positively on the current state of the economy and its future outlook.
This is commendable given the malaise in the world economy and drastic downturn in oil prices. Implementation of the Goods and Services Tax (GST), which had been roundly criticised by many, especially those with a poor knowledge of economics, has served to be a gap filler to the unforeseen reduction in oil revenues.
We have been blessed on many fronts. The infrastructure in the country in terms of connectivity – road, rail and mass transit – is second to none. The MRT is testament to this. It is a boon in terms of its multiplier effects on the economy.
In sports, we are scaling new heights in squash, diving and cycling, among others, when once we were only known globally for badminton. Sports has always served as a unifying force.
There are, however, hideous forces which are threatening our peace and stability. The rise of religious extremism, flat-lining of efforts to curb corruption, religious intolerance, racial bigotry and cultural insensitivities are among these dark forces.
The National Transformation 2050 (TN50) initiative is a step in the right direction. We need the next generation to rise up and upskill themselves not only on the expectations related to occupational preferences but also to foster camaraderie among fellow Malaysians to ensure that we continue to be a land blessed and fruitful.
We have a role to play in the global world and cannot afford to be naïve and narrow-minded. Our efforts in relation to moderation and ability to live harmoniously in a multicultural and multi-ethnic backdrop will speak volumes of our maturity as a nation.
The challenge is to identify the challenges ahead for the next 60 years and soldier on to improve ourselves, setting the tone for the rest of the world to follow in terms of living harmoniously.
We were born on this land and we have a duty to ensure that we have in our small way played a part in the rise of our nation to greater heights. This is what the Merdeka spirit is all about. We should ensure that nothing and no one destroys this pioneering spirit of ours.
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