We are always stronger together

Our forefathers worked together to achieve what we have today, and our stories of harmony far outweigh the stories of distrust.

ONE of the most heart-warming stories to come out of the success of the Malaysian contingent at the Paralympic Games in Rio occurred after the gold medal win by one of our athletes.

Mohamad Ridzuan Mohd Puzi made history as the first Malaysian athlete to win the gold medal at the Paralympics by winning the 100m T36 event at the Games.

After his win, he was interviewed by a reporter together with his coach, R. Jeganathan. The reporter asked Jeganathan what he wanted to say to Ridzuan for his gold medal win.

Jeganathan, overcome with emotion, hugged Mohamad Ridzuan and said that Ridzuan was his son, and thanked the athlete.

“This is my son. Thank you, thank you. I may push you and shout at you but this is the outcome,” said Jeganathan to a tearful Ridzuan.

Even the reporter was caught in the moment as tears welled up in her eyes. When the video was uploaded and shared on the Internet, many more could not contain their tears.

Here is a Malaysian Indian coach, who trained a Malaysian Malay athlete until the athlete reached the pinnacle of success. The bond that they shared as coach-athlete transcended the colour of their skin so that they could see each other not merely as professionals, but something akin to familial ties.

Scenes like this should not be rare. It should be the norm, really. We have lived together so long that we should realise that our destinies are intertwined.

We have always taken pride in the fact that we are a multi-racial country. That we are “Truly Asia”, a potpourri of ethnicities, cultures and religions. We also say that despite our differences, we have lived harmoniously with each other. We are a “beacon of tolerance”, we say.

Yet under this veneer of harmony, it appears that there is still a lot of distrust, suspicion, prejudice and racism amongst us. This has been further compounded by those who seek to exploit our racial and religious differences for their own selfish interests.

Thus it appears that lately, we are facing great challenges in inter-racial and inter-religious relations. Videos like what we saw between Ridzuan and Jeganathan would appear timely and apt.

But we forget that Ridzuan-Jeganathan relationships happen all the time amongst us. The reason why it seems so special and rare is because we have been swamped with negative stories and videos about deteriorating racial and religious relations.

We have always worked together to build something. Even before Merdeka, even before Malaysia, achieving something always required our forefathers to work together. The same still holds true for us today.

This country has so much potential. So we should drown out the negativity of race relations.

We should call out individuals who wish to exploit our differences. We should reject them wholeheartedly and resoundingly. A lesson must be taught to these people so that they have no choice but to abandon their sectarian rhetoric.

The story of Ridzuan and Jeganathan should remind us that we are always stronger together. If we put aside our differences, if we do not see each other based on the colour of our skin, we can achieve greater things.

Fresh Faces Young Voices offers a new space to a new generation that’s passionate about their causes. Syahredzan Johan is a partner of a legal firm in Kuala Lumpur with an interest in the laws that shape our country. He can be reached at syahredzan.johan@gmail.com

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Opinion , Shahredzan Johan , columnist


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