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Merdeka: are we doing enough?

  • As Merdeka day approaches, perhaps we should reflect on whether we have done enough for this nation, or are still weighing out the differences among us.

By Ravindran Raman Kutty

As Independence Day approaches once more, we reflect on past and current events and question the level of unity that we have so far achieved, and whether we have done and are doing enough for our nation. Are we still weighing out the differences among us or summing up the similarities that we share as one community?

Looking at other countries, we observe their understanding of independence and unity - the French are very patriotic; the Germans have forgotten the ill-presence of the Berlin Wall, and today are exuding in confidence as one; communist state China has become the biggest power economic house of the world. The latest McKinsey report states that in Asia, China, India, Indonesia, Singapore and Korea have achieved their economic lead. Malaysia is not mentioned in this report – where have we gone wrong?

This month being Merdeka month, I tend to remember the late Tan Sri Mohamed Rahmat, also known as Tok Mat, Mat Setia or even Mr Mat Propaganda who did a fabulous job by bringing Setia Bersama Rakyat (Semarak) program to the nooks and corners of our nation. He was instrumental in bringing Malaysians together despite being under much criticism by the opposition. What about our Malaysia today and our level of patriotism? How many of us fly the Jalur Gemilang at our homes, offices or community halls? As a month of celebration what are the programs that Malaysians are required to join and partake in to further boost our sense of unity and love of our nation?

Malaysia’s uniqueness lies in the fact that the nation comprises of several ethnicities and cultures living together in harmony. However, it is sad to note that the level of tolerance and understanding for one another’s culture and religion is slowly depleting, and the issue of racism and disrespect of one’s religion and culture has resurfaced. As a communications practitioner I am in several WhatsApp chat groups comprising of multiracial groups. In almost every group, when issues like Zakir Naik are raised, the Malays automatically support him irrespective of the matter. The Chinese and Indians are on a different viewpoint. If a foreigner can be a dividing 32 million people, it’s something worth looking into seriously! I expressed my dismay that integrity and fairness are now ignored, and that intolerance of one another’s religion and faith have become the base of all our arguments, clouding what is civil and what is not. Upon keying in my comment, I then left the chat group.

In the WhatsApp group there are also those who say that the vernacular schools must be closed and have only one type of school. They strongly feel that these vernacular schools are the cause of the divide among Malaysians. I am not from vernacular school, but I think it is not the school, but instead the teachings and practices that divide us. One in five students in Chinese school is a non-Chinese, with over 20% studying in Chinese schools. Most parents interviewed stated that they opted to enroll their children in Chinese schools to experience a different culture, and to have the discipline and education level in Chinese schools that are far better. The curriculums used in the Chinese schools especially the SJK (C) are based on national curriculum.

The recent Khat issue is another thorny tale with which the Minister of Education struggled in convincing Malaysians on the importance of this calligraphic exercise. The general argument most learned Malaysians have is that while the world is moving towards Artificial Intelligence (AI), here in Malaysia we are into petroglyphs. This issue has further divided the Malaysians where the Chinese and Indians are extremely vociferous in voicing out their concerns in not wanting the subject added to the current school curriculum.

Malaysians are all loving and caring. It is issues like these that check on our inert strength of our society. We have had a few skirmishes among races but I feel that there is bigger divide between us.

Our home is the most important ground for developing our children’s mindset. The formative years of a child between the ages of one to five are so critical. A child must be taught that we are living in a multi-religious, multi-cultural, multi-racial, multi-ethnic society and hence adapt to the lifestyle of this country called Malaysia. In fact, I believe it is not a question of race, but rather we should reduce religion and add more national unity and amalgamation programs in the schools to create a truly Malaysian society.

We cannot allow politicians to divide us. We must stand united to measure up to our social, religious, economic and political threats. As Malaysians we should look beyond race and religion to foster a national identity. Our identity must be based on our performance and not merely by our race, though we are fully conscientious and aware of our economic policies. Malaysians must celebrate and address the issues that are affecting us in an open and diplomatic manner. We should not succumb to threats in any arena that may tarnish our unity. We must unite to show that we are a force to reckon in Asia. The recent McKinsey report is one of the best benchmark for us all to work towards achieving the bigger goals of our nation.

Our independence is our pride. It was earned through the efforts of our great leaders. Our neighbors are all enjoying double-digit growth and making big impacts on their economic front. Even Bangladesh is now showing significant progress in the textile business making them a growing economy. In Malaysia we must bring back the boost we once had. Irrespective of our color, faith or beliefs, we must come together and work together to build a strong nation. Ignore the 1% of politicians’ ruling us in the wrong way, and instead stand as the 99% people of the nation and work within our abilities to do something good for our nation.

A parent must raise their children in a caring, loving and disciplined way, a farmer must avoid the use of pesticides on their produce; a hawker should sell hygienic and healthy food; a trader should make an honest living and not stand behind a get-rich-quick scheme; an engineer must ensure safe roads, rails and buildings; a student must devote all energy and effort to do and be the best; a teacher must help shape the path for the future generation; a doctor must treat patients honestly and not charge more just because insurance companies cover the medical expenses; a religious man must instill the teachings of equality and respect of all religions among his disciples; a civil servant must reject bribes or offers from unscrupulous contractors; and finally, if you are politician, stop using the race and religious cards to divide and rule Malaysians. If each of us works towards our national agenda to be a powerhouse of the future, we should all adopt best practices so as to ensure we are a society resilient with the highest integrity and morale.

Our Merdeka celebration for this year must be beyond clichés. It has to instill upon every Malaysian that we are all vital component of a great nation. Let’s all work towards it.

(Ravindran Raman Kutty is an active social worker.)

 

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