We celebrate Merdeka tomorrow. And what do we have to show for it? Racist educators, intolerant politicians, bigoted pressure groups, xenophobic newspapers, crimes of vandalism against places of worship and other weird and not-so-wonderful things that can only happen in this nation. What a meaningful way to usher in Malaysia’s 53rd birthday!
If only our Bapa Malaysia, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, were alive to see the state of things today. To witness how the fruits of his labour have been utilised, and to observe how the unified Malaysia he dreamt of, still remain for the most part, a dream. To watch how we’ve spent the better part of the last half-century diligently dismantling piece by piece, the Malaysian unification he strived to hard to establish. To view the rapid extinction of the tolerant, empowered Malaysian, only to be replaced by one so blinded by prejudice that he is incapable of rational discourse towards his fellow countrymen. To hear words such as ‘pendatang’ and ‘penumpang’, to see protestors stamping on cow heads, to taste tear-gas and to smell the acrid odour of corruption, discrimination, oppression, and deception permeating Malaysian air.
I cannot help but wonder, what would the great man himself think? Have we truly done justice to Tunku’s inspirational and rousing declaration of “Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka”?
The British colonialists may be long gone but in their place appears to have sprouted various factions that have adopted the same divide and conquer strategy synonymous with the former. Groups that play on the insecurities of various Malaysian ethnicities for political mileage and popularity, without much consideration for the turmoil and carnage they willingly invite in doing so.
My beloved country appears to have been hijacked by certain quarters determined to see it crumble under the pressure of division and discord; the sensible, level-headed say of the average Malaysian repeatedly silenced by the violent rumble of dissonance. Yet, the voice of reason must prevail or we risk sacrificing everything we have achieved to a bunch of foolish thugs who dominate by flexing their insular, parochial muscles. If we truly love this blessed, extraordinary nation of ours, we must save it from being seized by brutes who shamelessly capitalise on primal instincts and insecurities.
Our forefathers, from a diverse range of race and religion, worked together as one tirelessly for us to enjoy the level of peace and harmony we have today. Yet, I fear that this concord which so many of us take for granted, is slowly being battered and eroded right in front of our very eyes.
We have allowed for far too long, those with detrimental, destructive agendas, to dictate how we live our lives; to instruct us how to detest and mistrust our fellow Malaysians by virtue of differing physical attributes, cultures and religious beliefs; to try and inculcate in us unfounded stereotypes and misconceptions; to attempt to instil in us a superiority complex that has neither place nor reason in tolerant, multi-cultural, democratic society.
We must stand up now and say No loud and clear, for nobody has the right to decide for you or me, the type of Malaysian we ought to be.
If we truly love this country, then we cannot allow for it to be reduced to a nation characterised by racist rhetoric and extremist diatribe. We cannot idly sit by and watch everything which our founding fathers struggled so hard to construct, washed away by caustic words and corrosive actions. We must disregard and delegitimise such abysmal deeds by uniting as a community, as a country, as a people. We must match unreasonable, excessive tirades, with eloquence, patience and composure, accepting that we know better. We are obliged to contest displays of unfounded ire with our own standards of rational conduct.
I love Malaysia for I am a daughter of this soil. This is my one and only home. My ancestors may have come from a different place but this is the country I proudly call my native land. I live in Malaysia because there is nowhere else I’d rather be despite having the opportunity to do so. Because I was born here and because till this day, when I hear the Negaraku my heart swells with pride and patriotism. And mostly because no matter what anyone may say, do, or think, I know that nothing can change the fact that I am Malaysian.
And so I call upon my fellow Malaysians to once and for all join hands and strive towards a truly genuine and united 1 Malaysia. Let us sincerely declare and demonstrate that we are wholly united and committed towards jointly making this nation of ours the best that it can be.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools” and in memory of the great Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, who nurtured Malaysia into existence, let us once again remember and relive the true spirit of “Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka.”
Happy 53rd Independence Day to all.
* Gayatri Unsworth is a 29-year-old writer, corporate trainer and academic who thinks it’s about time she voiced her opinions eloquently rather than just rant about them in her Facebook status column. She can be reached at gayatri[dot]unsworth[at]gmail[dot]com