On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Forge ahead as one people

We would like to celebrate Malaysia's 50th anniversary as one people and one nation – simply because we share one common destiny and future regardless of race, religion and culture. 

2007 should be the year when we shut out the voices of politicians who attempt to use racial undertones to gain popularity. 

The mass media could cooperate to keep out the extremist views of such people who proclaim themselves as leaders when narrow personal interest is their only objective. 

Last year, and certainly 2006, would have been better for Malaysian race relations if not for the ignorant utterances of such people. 

The rhetoric, the fireworks, the parades, the slogans and the media hype will count for nothing if Malaysians are not made to feel they are one people.  

There is no need to debate over whether we should call ourselves Bangsa Malaysia, Rakyat Malaysia or Anak Malaysia

As Najib said, these terms are merely a state of the mind. What is important is that we are all citizens of Malaysia. 

Are we ready to discard the need to state our race when filling up forms as we wax eloquent about racial unity or will we continue to kid ourselves that this is a requirement for statistical reasons? 

Incredible as this may seem, it is only in recent years that younger television interviewers use the term orang kita to mean one particular community and not Malaysians when on air.  

They seem unaware, ignorant or indifferent to the fact that other Malaysians of various races are watching them. 

Malaysia will be half a century old by August. We are no longer a young nation, yet many of us sometimes behave like spoilt brats who are unable to control their tantrums. 

Elderly Malaysians who have experienced the growth of Malaysia better understand the concept of nation building. They value the fact that Malaysia was built with the sweat and strength of all races. 

Malaysia cannot move further ahead, in the face of global competition, if we do not pool our resources.  

We should not impose more rules and conditions on ourselves when other countries are pushing hard to open up their economies. We can no longer blame our colonial masters, after 50 years of independence, if we fail to uplift ourselves. 

It is not just about harnessing the best brains but keeping them.  

We cannot pretend we have managed to stop the brain drain, neither have we managed to convince the best to return because we have not offered an attractive wholesome package. 

The only country which has been able to do that is Singapore. Instead of sneering at our neighbour because of age-old rivalry and envy, we should take an honest look at ourselves. 

As we turn 50, most Malaysians are able to talk about strengths and weaknesses in a mature way.  

We should speak out rationally if we truly love Malaysia, and not because of the need to win some votes from party delegates. 

Certainly, we have our strengths. While American and European businessmen who are eyeing the Chinese and Indian markets are signing up cultural diversity courses to equip themselves, we already have links with these two nations – as well as the huge Indonesian market. 

We can bake a larger cake together if we stop spending so much time talking about the size of each other's share. If we harp too much on that, the cake could end up being baked elsewhere. 

Talk of company listing in foreign bourses by Malaysian companies, an increase in migration enquiries and outflow of money from businessmen is surely disturbing.  

For 2007, let's hear more comfortable news. For once, let us all keep the religious and racial bigots in the closet if we wish to make Visit Malaysia Year a success. 

The majority of hard-working Malaysians realise we are all in the same boat regardless of race and religion. 

In the words of Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, all Malaysians should bridge the divides that separate them and build on the similarities that connect them. Sadly, there are some who are bent on building walls instead of bridges. 

In his Christmas message, the Prime Minister rightly reminded Malaysians that they share the same future and destiny.  

Let us respect our differences while we strengthen and celebrate our unity in diversity, he said, adding that he would dedicate himself to creating a thriving and progressive multi-racial society. 

Pak Lah's pledge to commit himself to a progressive Malaysia is reassuring. On our part, we should emphasise to the world that we are truly a plural society. 

Malaysia is not a Middle East country and there should be no attempt of Arabisation of our culture.  

We love Malaysia for what it is and we want to keep it that way. 

Goodbye 2006, welcome 2007! Let's make the year ahead a special one so we can have fond memories of our celebrations. 



  • Wong Chun Wai can be reached at onthebeat@thestar.com.my