Today we celebrate our nation’s 56th Anniversary of Independence – ‘Merdeka Day’. We are thankful to be able to observe this milestone in relative peace, harmony and prosperity. We have to thank our forefathers and elders for their untiring work to hand us this inheritance which is Malaysia. Our gratitude also goes to civil servants, private enterprises, good citizens and our foreign guest workers for helping us in the challenging task of nation-building.
Five decades ago, our nation’s founding fathers had great awareness and appreciation for the conditions of our nascent country – our ethnic, cultural, and religious plurality, coupled with a chequered social history – necessitated a different developmental approach towards nationhood. It was this awareness and realization that afforded Malaysia social stability and communal harmony for the most part of our history, thus laying the foundation for our subsequent economic growth and transformation.
Today, this precious social harmony is increasingly under threat from religious intolerance, cultural insensitivity, unnecessary moral policing, and a lack of genuine religious-cultural understanding. The unmindful and uninformed statements made by communal politicians create further tensions and promote sectarian politics, which are not at all helpful in nation-building.
It would be good for us latter-day Malaysians to revisit the enlightened spirit of our founding fathers, and emulate their integral statesmanship in leading our nation forward. As citizens, let us not forget our common cultural roots and lead our personal lives wisely and wholesomely. We should respect our leaders and elders and not constantly talk bad about them. On the other hand leaders too have to be upright, exemplary and respectable in every aspect to earn the trust of the people and carry out the mandate entrusted by the citizenry.
After five decades as a nation, we should not be talking about mere ‘religious tolerance’, but rather, ‘religious acceptance’. As the minority, non-Muslims in Malaysia have to understand and accept the tenets followed by Muslims and respect their way of life. Muslims too have to learn to accept and respect the diverse beliefs and customs found among the minority groups in this country. This acceptance has to be nurtured by consistent efforts to study each other’s beliefs and practices, and through objective dialogues.
Mutual respect should be the basis of our social discourse; mutual understanding should be the outcome. The leaders and people of this country should not only strive to prosper materially. We must collectively and genuinely strive to develop our nation holistically – socially, politically, economically, and spiritually – so that one day, Malaysia can proudly join the ranks of ‘Mature Nations’ in the world.
Selamat menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan ke-56, dan Hari Malaysia ke-50. Salam metta ke seluruh pelusuk negara; semoga rakyat jelata hidup bahagia. Dirgahayu Malaysia!