Today is Merdeka day. 52 years on since that fateful day in 1957, Malaysia has grown from an undeveloped backwater to a vibrant modern country. I say this with no disrespect to our New Zealand hosts, but Malaysia has surpassed NZ in terms of economic, physical and infrastructural development. This development has come with environmental degradation but I think people are starting to realise that a pragmatic balance between human needs and environmental conservation must be struck if we want our country to continue to prosper. We still lack behind NZ in terms of social development and mindset, but we are getting there.
Malaysia is a unique country. 52 years ago, our founding fathers of all races were bonded together in a marriage of convenience in order to gain freedom from our colonial masters. I would go so far as to say that it was a shotgun wedding. Naturally, there had been, and will continue to be disagreements, arguments and pain. Think about it. When we were younger, I am sure that we have had fights with our siblings. I never failed to get into fistfights everyday with my younger brother. This was between our own flesh and blood, not even other people from different races and cultures. Yet, at the end of the day, we are brothers, sailors of the same ship.
Having said that, we must also remember the fragile nature of our country’s socio-political climate. Our continued economic development depends on a stable environment and this must be preserved with utmost effort. I do not subscribe to the principle of “absolute freedom of speech” that many Western countries like to claim they practice. From what I have seen, the West, like on many other issues are “cakap tak bikin serupa” when it comes to this. There are many irresponsible Malaysians who are stoking the fires of hatred, conveniently ignoring the Social Contract that our founding fathers agreed to. Sensitive issues like religion and race must be approached with caution and tact. Malaysia is not Britain or America or Europe. We have our own historical, cultural and political mold and should not mindlessly ape whatever the West purportedly claim to be. I am also dismayed that some who are my fellow Muslims, have taken to insulting the Prophet Muhammad and Islam in general, just to advance their political views. One high-profile person of somewhat royal-lineage, whom I shall not name, has taken this route and thus, in my opinion, Muslims should view him with extreme suspicion.
We must always be mindful of what we say in public. It is one thing to have personal views on something; it is another to say it out loud. We must weigh the consequences of our actions before acting. There is a Malay proverb that goes: terlajak perahu boleh diundur, terlajak kata badan binasa. The last phrase refers to “badan”, meaning human body. I would extend this concept of body to the social body, the people of Malaysia too. I apologize for the political nature of this post. Yet, when dealing with Merdeka, I can not help but to be political.