On the Beat | By Wong Chun Wai

Leave the baggage behind

Malaysia must really grow up and not let the divisive and emotive issues long resolved to fester in the present environment.

WE are about two months away from National Day. We will be turning 56 years old, which is still relatively young in terms of nationhood. But we are not really that young any more.

The country will once again put on a flag-waving exercise as our leaders wax eloquent on patriotism and nationalism.

Malaysians can expect those inspiring TV commercials extolling how the people of this plural socie­ty have come together and proven the critics wrong that Malaysia would collapse as a country upon independence.

It is now more than five decades and we have remained strong. But wait a minute.

Just glance through the newspapers or read the online postings, and we get another picture – one that gives the impression that we are a country that is terribly torn apart.

Any investor wanting to put money in this country would look for another option because we have been sending messages to the world that we are at each other’s throats and the country is waiting to explode, politically. Many of us, including those in the media, are still talking about issues that were emotionally debated in the 1950s, before the nation was born.

We are still talking about race and religion in a terribly shameless and sad way. These contentious issues were settled and resolved by our founding fathers. We should be moving on but instead we seem to be heading in the other direction.

Some of our politicians are even fuelling the political temperature by bringing up, or allowing, these issues to fester, even if it affects the unity of the people.

The Malays, Chinese, Indians and the other Malaysians have made the country what it is today. There would be no Malaysia without the contributions of all these ethnic groups. Go and read the history books.

Blame the British for the divide-and-rule system but the fact remains that the labour of the Chinese and Indian immigrants helped to build the economy.

The Malay farmers and fishermen fed the nation; the Malay policemen and soldiers kept the country safe to allow the Chinese traders to expand the economy; and the Malay-dominated civil service enabled the country to be efficiently administered.

In fact, many non-Malays joined the police force to fight against the communists because they believed in safeguarding their country – Malaysia. Each and every one of our forefathers has made Malaysia to be truly outstanding in the eyes of the world.

Many of the present Chinese and Indians are third or fourth generation Malaysians. We were born, raised and will die here in Malaysia. There is nowhere else and we will not choose anywhere else, because we are proud to be Malaysians.

Many of us, especially those who were educated in English-medium schools, cannot even speak and write in Chinese.

If there are employers who refuse to hire non-Chinese speaking employees, certainly it is not just the Malays and Indians. Many Chinese also fall in this category.

Let no Jurassic racist politician tell us that only certain ethnic groups are immigrants because most of us, if we trace our roots hard enough and are honest, would find that we have ancestors from another part of this world. That is history.

Similarly, the general election is over. We have lost enough productive time on the campaigning, which seems to have clouded the judgment and sanity of many Malaysians, turning them into petty political tyrants.

Malaysians have made their choices. The victors have plenty of work to do and the least of their concern should be to talk about punishing those who did not vote for them. It is the people’s right to vote for anyone or any party. A general election in any democracy is about the right to choose.

No one should be made to feel pressured or threatened, in any way, simply because they did not vote for the winning ruling party.

And for the losers, please stop blaming the system and just move on. Come back in five years’ time. Surely, both sides have to administer the states they won. For Pakatan, just accept the fact that you did not win enough seats to form the federal government.

While every National Day celebration is about remembering what our founding fathers have done, it should also be a time to review what we of this generation have done or not done. It is now mid-2013 and we have just over six months to another year. Surely, we should be worried about how much we need to catch up.

Young Malaysians, without the baggage of the past, have spoken out loudly during the elections. From the mainstream media to our ministers, surely we must acknowledge that it cannot be business as usual again.

The destiny of this country is in our hands. We need to make Malaysia a liberal, progressive and democratically open country.

Don’t let our neighbours, which are starting to open up, catch up with us. Malaysia has to move forward faster and there is no time to waste. We are not young any more. We need to grow up.