AS I sit here today in my twilight years, I can’t help but reflect on how far we have come: 56 years of nationhood (not counting from independent Malaya, but from when Malaysia was formed), and the 86 years of the Malaysian Armed Forces.
We started off “steel cable” strong in our relationships among the major races and the minorities that came together to form Malaysia in 1963. Sadly, one state left for its own nationhood as dictated by fate and the political scenario then. Never mind that, as we moved on with a greater resolve, to be one nation forged by a fierce determination to succeed.
In 1969, we faced a terrible challenge during the May 13 race riots. In that dark period, we were set back in many ways, with years of trust and self-confidence eroded within hours.
Many would not know that we were just short of an “armed insurrection”. Certain segments of society were influenced to support underground elements that nearly succeeded in overthrowing a legitimate, democratically-elected
Here, the armed forces demonstrated its credo of “God, King and Country”. Remaining apolitical and true to the trust bestowed upon them by royalty and the people, the forces ensured a swift return to normalcy. The airspace, the seas around us, and the cities, towns and streets were safely secured and handed back to the government of the day.
Our neighbours stayed away but international geopolitics could have dictated otherwise, as the Vietnam War was going on at that time and there was a belief in the “domino theory” (ie, if one country in a region became communist, then surrounding countries would follow in a domino effect). Can we dare deny that the dreaded sickle and hammer could have arrived on our shores if not for the sacrifice and duty shown by the armed forces?
We survived colonisation, occupation, confrontation and also a dragging active insurgency.
We are one of the rare few nations in the world to defeat armed insurgency in unique circumstances. We met the communists head on in the jungles, invited them for peace talks, and returned to military actions when peace talks failed. Combined with these operations was coordinated development of rural areas. This certainly won the hearts and minds of the people and helped defeat communist propaganda.
I admit we too had propaganda: one to influence neutral and friendly people (psychological operations) and the other to influence the enemy (psychological warfare). We also had in our police force the Special Branch, which was the best of the best in the world then.
As a nation we stuck to our monarchy and parliamentary democracy. Year on year we prospered and even earned the moniker “Tiger of Asia”.
Today, we stand proud on our achievements, but that “steel cable” relationship we had has been allowed to deteriorate and can now be best described as a slowly fraying thread.
Many questions rise in my mind: Did we bring this upon ourselves? Did we forget to call ourselves Malaysians first, and always? Did we go for economic prosperity against our values?
No, I cannot put my finger on it and can only simply say, all of the above.
I hope I am not selfish in urging everyone reading this to stop and ponder for awhile. We have to ask ourselves, what does nationhood mean to us? How can we cultivate future generations of Malaysians to be better than us in creating that One Nation, One Vision that eludes us?
I ask myself, before I fade away, will I be blessed to see my beloved Malaysia as a united nation, in peace and prosperity and the envy of our neighbours?
Let us rise now above race, religion, politics and say: “This is my nation, and here I’ll stand forever!”
A (belated) happy Malaysia Day and Armed Forces Day, which are both marked on Sept 16.
MAJOR AR RAMACHANDRAN AMN (RETD) , Seremban