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A special Merdeka

  • Flying the Jalur Gemilang shouldn't be contingent on what we feel about our country's current political scenario or its leaders. What is most important is the flag that we fly in our hearts and minds.

By Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad

31 August 2018 will be our 61st Merdeka Day, which commemorates Malaya's Independence. 16 September will also be our 55th Malaysia Day, when we celebrate the birth of our country.

These two days are and always should be special to all Malaysians—whatever our backgrounds or political alignments.

Genuine patriotism comes from the ground-up.

Flying the Jalur Gemilang shouldn't be contingent on what we feel about our country's current political scenario or its leaders. What is most important is the flag that we fly in our hearts and minds.

Still, the celebration of our national days in 2018 will be extra memorable given that it will be under a new government.

We can be proud of how far we have come since 9 May 2018, to say nothing of 31 August 1957 and 16 September 1963. All Malaysians should certainly be grateful, too.

But we still have a long, long way to go.

The process of political and institutional reform in the New Malaysia must continue unimpeded, even if certain quarters tell us otherwise.

Repressive laws must be done away with. The independence of our public institutions—including the media—must be strengthened. We must restore checks-and-balances between the different branches of our government:

the executive, legislature and judiciary. The country is not going to become a backwater simply because one branch doesn't have absolute power over the others.

Let us not forget the lessons of history: economic reform in Malaysia will fail without greater democracy, transparency and civil liberties.

We certainly need a new growth story, one right for this century and a rapidly-globalising, digitising world. Whatever model we adopt must ensure opportunities for all our citizens.

As such, political reform is the key to developing Malaysia—not an obstacle.

There is also a need to perfect our union.

The developmental inequities between the different regions of our country: between the Peninsula and Sabah and Sarawak, between the West Coast of the Peninsula and the East Coast, between the Orang Asal communities and the rest of the country, certainly need to be addressed.

But it is equally important to bridge the "gaps" between and within the different races and religions.

The difficult questions and controversies over ethnicity, faith, gender, sexuality, language and culture we have faced will continue.
Perhaps these will always be with us.

I do know that Malaysia will never be at peace with itself if we run away from these questions or refuse to debate them.

Clearly there is a lot to do.

But Malaysians have always been thinkers, hard workers and doers.

They must hold those in power accountable. Maintaining our constitutional monarchy and parliamentary democracy requires constant vigilance.
Freedom and diversity are not aberrations, but Malaysia's heritage.

That is the only way we can live up to Tunku Abdul Rahman's dream that our nation "…shall be for ever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations."

That is the destiny we must fulfil for our nation founded on the principles of parliamentary democracy and constitutional monarchy.

(Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad is the MP for Setiawangsa, Pakatan Harapan Youth Leader and KEADILAN Youth Leader. He has written a few books in Malay and English.)

 

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