I JOIN the many writers in your column who call for all Malaysians to show their loyalty to the nation by flying the Jalur Gemilang to mark the celebration of our independence day on Aug 31 and to show our pride as a country which has changed so much over a relatively short period since we became masters of our own destiny in 1957.
Malaysia has developed so fast thanks to its rich natural resources and the progressive character of its multi-racial population. Our cultural diversity makes this one of the most colourful countries in the world. Diversity is also a source of strength to drive the economic and social changes, with each race bringing its own special talent into the public and private sectors.
We have always been an economy where trade, investment and production of goods and services are primarily done in the private sector.
That’s the way it should be for the country to become successful in development.
Malaysia has seen a healthy mix of various races represented in the economic and social life of the country, indicating the remarkable progress made through government policies to reduce the racial disparities as our leaders push the economy forward with massive investments on developing the country’s human resources and infrastructure and diversifying the economy.
We now have a high level of industrialisation and urbanisation and a strong middle class, all of which are important factors drawing the different races closer together into a melting pot.
While Malaysians enjoy the good life that comes with a thriving economy and a caring government, they also share one common passion – complaining. They complain non stop about the daily problems of city life: urban congestion, security, housing, taxi service, and rising cost of living.
But they also share the same aspirations for a better Malaysia, all wishing for an end to the politics of race and religion as this gutter politics is a big hindrance to national unity.
Along with rising standards of living and the wide access to smart communications, Malaysians are getting more exposed to the workings of modern democracy. The youths and the silent majority are conscious about their social and political rights under the Federal Constitution, such as freedom of expression; government integrity, transparency and accountability; respect for rule of law; and justice in the administration of Islam. These democratic aspirations are particularly strong among the highly educated young generation and must be accepted by the authorities as a natural process of human development.
Labelling those who speak up for the changes as liberals who are anti-Islam does not reflect well on the maturity of their accusers.
There are also growing demands for more state autonomy especially in Sabah and Sarawak, which is an indication that the states want to have a greater share of the national resources to become self sufficient in their administration. The traditional view that all power should be centralised at the Federal capital to drive the development effort is now becoming obsolete with the changes in the political landscape.
Decentralisation should be the new way of governing the country, as the empowerment of states and local authorities helps to give meaning to the concept of Malaysia as a federation of states with a multi-level democracy serving the needs of the people more efficiently.
All these demands for change are healthy signs that we are fast maturing into a developed country in every sense of the word.
There should be free and open discussion on what Malaysians want for their country, with tolerance for differences in views.
As we rejoice with Merdeka Day, let us pray for peace and stability so that our hopes for change and reforms for a better Malaysia will be realised sooner rather than later.
TAN SRI MOHD SHERIFF MOHD KASSIM