We celebrate yet another year older as a nation.
Are there reasons for celebration?
Yes - I find it astonishing that we have made it through another 12 months, albeit scathed and in limp mode.
Let’s be realistic for a moment. We cannot continue living in our bubble and boast of the nation’s successes and accomplishments of 58 years, without acknowledging our failures and unfortunate impotence as a nation that should be more. Of late, it appears that Malaysia is heading downhill. In reverse. And the brakes, fast wearing out. The velocity of our regression is sadly exceeding our progression.
So September 16th is around the corner. The right thing to do, it seems, would be to act and behave all nationalistic, paint our faces and wave the flag, cheer for independence, and be grateful for whatever bounty we have in our lives. But that’s not right. Being a patriot, a responsible one, also means that we have to be honest and recognize where we have failed. We need to do what is needed and what is right to fix those failures. Sometimes what is right may hurt us, but we need the maturity to realize that not doing what is right will hurt us even more, if not now, then in time to come.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Our failures – these reactions - are resultant from our actions, and inactions, that we have blindly accepted as sheep wholeheartedly as given and way of life in Malaysia. These failures are consequential of so many policies designed to address the needs of a nation in diapers, and relevant only at a time for a population freshly hatched from colonial rule. We were then a people coming together for the first time in different numbers from different racial and geographical demographies serving the interests of a Queen sipping her camomile some 7,000 miles away, oblivious to our plight in the mines, on the tracks, and in the fields.
It’s been 58 years of independence from rule, but the current reality is that we are not much different than we were before. In our minds and attitudes, we are still a segregated and suspicious lot, insecure and clutching on to racial and religious rhetoric that we believe to be our core identities, easily incited and riled over perceived threats against this identity misnomer. Our fear that our neighbours steal and erase our customs and traditions as a certain race is unfounded, and our fear that our neighbours poach our religious ideals and intervene in our personal relationship with God is downright asinine. We pitch and react to derogatory labels like Cina Pendatang, Cina Babi (which by the way is not such a bad thing considering the love for such cuisine), Melayu Pemalas, Melayu Bodoh (or Melayu KFC – that one deserves applause), and India Busuk, India Keling (which again, is not so bad, as there is nothing hurtful in being reminded of a town of possible origin).
All this to feel powerful as a group within a group.
But for what? Where is all this coming from?
Let’s face it. We keep on condemning ourselves to our past. Our biggest failure as a nation, the one root cause that has resulted in the chronic and systemic degeneration of who we are as a people and our ability to progress and accomplish, is simply that our development policies are no longer relevant. They may have been half a century ago, but they are far from it today.
There is no need for our governing systems to remain coal-fired. They cannot continue to be seamed together with racial and religious thread. We cannot stay suspended in space when the environment around us is evolving. We need to adapt and reconfigure our systems of government to achieve the original desired outcome of national integration.
If wealth parity and bridging the income gap is the intent, then let policies be designed strictly on achieving this objective. Poverty is a vicious cycle and does not discriminate - there are poor Malays, Chinese and Indians living in conditions that will never see this group being able to effectively contribute to nation building. Let lobby groups and associations or societies be formed to address opportunities and aid for this segment of society. The activities of race based organizations such as UMNO, MCA and MIC are to be restricted to only the celebration and preservation of traditional customs, and any activities canvassing selfish economic agenda must be outlawed. Instead, economic lobbying should only be the domain of racially neutral associations made up of affected individuals from all the races, supported by the government elect. Let there be The Association of United Malaysians For The Poor, or the like. Policies need to be designed for development opportunities to be made available to the truly deserving, and laws need to be formulated in justice and moral conscience to ensure that there are no abuses to the established system.
As how corporations are subject to mandatory standards of governance, race based organizations should be subjected to standards of accountability towards national unity. The national objective of racial harmony will need to be incorporated into the mission goals of such organizations. Leaders within need to actively promote and encourage the fostering of close ties with other races. Individuals that suggest or incite racial hatred are to be admonished or simply cast out.
It’s been over half a century of manipulating policy for power and dominion. We need to change. Let the only rent on this land be the taxes fairly charged on wealth earned and resources reaped, and not in respect of a man-made claim as landlord over God’s earth. This land belongs to its citizens, no one more than the other.
We need to do what is right to get out of this quagmire to progress once and for all, however unpopular to some it may appear to be. To set things right, we need the courage to swallow the right medicine, for just one instant in this nation’s hobbling history.
The government of today should be elected for its ability to transform and prosper its people, and not on promises and deeds that keep things in the status quo. In life, nothing is permanent - the elects need to embrace this phenomenon, and perform their national duties within the agreed frameworks without expectation of power and riches, their purpose unsullied by any self-interest but focused on the people whose lives they are entrusted with. True leaders need to make the right decisions, implement the right strategies, and most of all have the desire to serve and not be served.
We need leaders with keen vision, golden hearts and balls of steel for a better Malaysia to emerge. There is no place for would be divas and demigods, only good men and women with love in their hearts and an unwavering will to fight the good fight come what may.
It’s starting to get crowded on the world stage, and the sands of time are draining. We have but a small window to pick up the pieces, reset our coordinates and navigate back on course.
We do not have the luxury of another 58 years to waste.
I believe we will get there one day, and I pray for it to be soon. In my capacity as a son to this land, I will do my part and what I can to make this happen.
I just hope that I am not alone.