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Malaysia Day 2023: After 60 years, woes of the ‘three S’s’

We need to stop pretending. We have much soul-searching to do

Zunar with a cartoon depicting how deep-rooted racial and religious politics is - ALIRAN

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We are supposed to be celebrating 60 years of nationhood in 2023.

Sixty years ago, the leaders of the peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak saw the wisdom of coming together for the good of the people.

But truth be told, Malaysia Day 2023 is marred by haunting disunity, distrust, suspicion and widespread unhappiness.

Where did we go wrong?

The three S’s – Semenanjung (the peninsula), Sabah and Sarawak (unfortunately, minus the fourth S – Singapore) – could have emerged as a beacon of diversity. It could have been moulded into a formidable social, economic, environmental and political bastion in Southeast Asia.

But 60 years on, the seams are fraying.

Decades of self-rule – directed by the federal government – have laid bare multiple failures.

We failed to capitalise on our diversity, the coming together of the many cultures, religions and traditions when Malaysia was formed.

Instead, we ended up with a total imbalance in social and physical development.

Even the King and the royal family, while paying tribute to the greatness of the people of Sabah and Sarawak during their maiden road adventure there, were gravely concerned about the obvious neglect in the two territories.

We could have reaped much more for every single person if only our political mould was shaped differently.

While we try our best to celebrate nationhood on this historical date, we know that behind the smiles and promises lurks a potential nightmare.

The fear is that the people of Sabah and Sarawak might say ‘enough is enough’. We cannot pretend that there is no such fear lurking, can we?

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Sadly, we have allowed racism and religious extremism, even fanaticism, to creep in.

We have allowed corruption to spread.

Politically, we have reached a low point.

That failure is now flowing like an undercurrent beneath the foundations of our nationhood.

It will take a capable, courageous and determined leader and a sound government to change course to avert a shipwreck.

It is a tough call given the geopolitical scenario playing out, which will affect in the coming months.  

We lie in the middle of superpowers intent on making their presence felt in this region of strategic importance.  

We have lost six precious decades during which we could have become a developed nation, an economic powerhouse.

Instead, we are still measuring our success in empowering bumiputras by counting the number of millionaires and handful of technocrats enjoying the spoils of the nation.

Meanwhile, the low-income group simmers with discontent at the lack of basic infrastructure, especially in East Malaysia.

Imagine, this country could have become a major exporter of food, given our geographic and natural advantages.

We could have surpassed neighbouring countries as an eco-tourism and education hub.

Even our oil wealth could have eased the quality of life of the people and made the nation the envy of other less resource-rich nations.

Instead, we persist in arguing over religion and chipping away at the Constitution. Indeed, racism and religious extremism have become instruments of political power and brokering.

On this 60th birthday anniversary of Malaysia’s nationhood, we need to stop pretending. We have much soul-searching to do.

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

AGENDA RAKYAT - Lima perkara utama
  1. Tegakkan maruah serta kualiti kehidupan rakyat
  2. Galakkan pembangunan saksama, lestari serta tangani krisis alam sekitar
  3. Raikan kerencaman dan keterangkuman
  4. Selamatkan demokrasi dan angkatkan keluhuran undang-undang
  5. Lawan rasuah dan kronisme
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