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What are we celebrating?

We have a different kind of society - one of a kind in its customs, cultures and languages. This is what is special about Malaysia

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By jem

The “Malaysia Madani” (Civil Malaysia) logo was unveiled not long ago as the symbol for the Independence and Malaysia Day 2023 celebrations.

The theme is to ensure that everyone in Malaysia lives in peace and harmony. By doing this, people can enjoy progress, wellbeing, self-respect, politeness, and the nation’s prosperity together.

The usual parade in the peninsula will be held at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur on 31 August.

The prime minister and his “unity government” ministers, the opposition coalition leaders and other bigwigs will be on stage to watch the raising of the flag and the parade. Many of them will probably pretend to like each other even though they might wonder who to ‘poke’ at to get some free publicity in the papers the next day.

Is there anything for us to celebrate on 31 August?

If the country’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, is looking down and watching, I wonder what he would think? Would he be impressed or would he be disappointed that his dream six decades ago for this country to become “a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world” is nothing close to what he envisioned?

The country is “disturbed and distracted”, without a doubt.

The federal opposition bloc, Perikatan Nasional, is likely to continue in the same vein: it will court ethnic Malay-Muslim voters by touting itself as the ‘protector’ of Malay interests, thus walking down the far-right road. Riding on a high and using the same rhetoric, it will do its utmost to win the hearts of the Malays in the by-elections in Johor next month.

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Then there is former Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamed, who has said that Malaysia belongs to the Malays!

Seriously? What does he gain from saying this? Is he that desperate to be in the limelight that he has to stoop so low? What about the ethnic minorities? What about Sabah and Sarawak? The only way for this to stop is for Sabah and Sarawak to sever their connections with PN if it continues down this path.

Religious, cultural and ethnic bigotry has to end. Surely, we are better than this. The people of Malaysia, as a whole, are not racist. It is the politicians – who should know better – who keep harping on these issues for political mileage. Do they not see how dangerous this is? Do they not see that what they are doing is wrong?

Many Malays out there are more open-minded and far-sighted and do not want the kind of Malaysia that the far-right politicians are pushing for.

So where are all these open-minded, middle-of-the-ground Malay intellectuals, who surely must see that this is not the right step for the country to take? Why are they silent amid this scary scenario?

Why is it that the opposition PN coalition cannot see – or do not want to see – that we are a multi-racial, multi-religious country, and that so many communities have contributed to the development of this country?

Why does it seem to think that the ethnic minorities are not entitled to want to live well, to bring up their children and grandchildren in a harmonious society, where the unity of the people is the basis of ‘the good life’ we all seek.

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We have a government and political parties that operate based on democratic principles. But the country is now growing more sectarian in its outlook – an approach the PN coalition is going to use ad nauseum for as long as it suits them.

Even the King and the Perak royalty could see this coming. So, if Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim believes in his Madani concept, he and his government cannot sit on their laurels and hope this ‘blip’ facing the nation will disappear. It won’t!

The PM wants to be equal and fair to all the people while he also wants to show the Malay community he is their ‘champion’. But he cannot be everything to everybody. He has about four years, maybe less, before the next general election. Indeed, he has his work cut out for him.

Anwar needs to show that his words mean something. He has to prove that his Madani ideals – respect, trust, compassion, integrity, fair and just governance – can be achieved and are not just words to suit the occasion.

The PM should not vacillate in his leadership. He has to stand up and be counted if he wants Malaysia to be better than it has been. If he wants his tenure as prime minister to mean something, this is the time to prove he is, hopefully, better than the rest put together.

Anwar’s government should look at what is happening and not close a blind eye to the rhetoric that is dividing the people.

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(Oh yes, that mock cheque with the DAP logo for schools – such a bad idea, and the local government minister’s comment that it is “no issue” is downright stupidity.)

So, what are we celebrating on 31 August? We have a different kind of society – one of a kind in its customs, cultures and languages. This is what is special about Malaysia and this is what we should celebrate. What do you think?

jem is the pseudonym of a reader of Aliran

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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