Are Malaysian politicians prepared for this challenge, Ronald Benjamin wonders.
The nation celebrates Malaysia day on 16 September every year to commemorate the establishment of the Malaysian Federation on the same date in 1963.
The event saw the union of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Singapore eventually separated from Malaysia on 9 August 1965.
The significance of this event was the vision and intention of our first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to strengthen Malaya for the sake of political stability and security in the context of the communist threat that was engulfing South East Asia.
The very intention of strengthening the state to safeguard a young nation from foreign threats was a major moral decision that Tunku made. This was to serve the common good of the nation.
Fast forward today, we see a Malaysian nation that is still struggling with the acceptance of diversity, where politically inclined bigotry regarding Malay supremacy and Islamist exceptionalism divides Malaysians. Empathy and acceptance are placed on the back burner. Politics has been reduced to self-seeking gains, party defections and the use of race and religion as a conduit to grab power.
Malaysia Day should be an opportune time for Malaysian politicians to take a deep look at their intentions and conscience in politics.
Can they follow the steps of Tunku, the Father of Independence, who saw the value and strength of diversity by reaching out to the Borneo states to ensure the nation was capable of facing threats from external forces?
Can Malaysian politicians stop playing the race-and-religion card so they can mobilise Malaysians to face the current external threats to Malaysian sovereignty?
Can we learn from the richness of multi-ethnic diversity that has its own cultural strengths?
To achieve this end, the nation needs to evolve from unity to solidarity, where our common humanity transcends the limitations on realising unity. There is a need for egalitarian social bonds with less emphasis on ethnic identity.
Are Malaysian politicians prepared for this challenge? To meet this end, Malaysian politicians should reflect on their real intentions in politics, with the youth being in the forefront of creating a society rooted in solidarity.
Malaysia Day should be a time to build national solidarity.