I would like to wish all Malaysians a Happy Malaysia Day.
Today, we celebrate the birth of our nation.
54 years ago, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya came together to form a new country. While Singapore did not stay, the Federation that was built all those years ago, on 16 September 1963 endures.
Our diversity is not only what sets Malaysia apart from other nations, but is what defines us as a people.
Nation-building is always a work in progress and in this respect, our country still has a long way to go in fulfilling its promise, set out in the Proclamation of Malaysia, that we should be a “…independent and sovereign democratic State founded upon liberty and justice, ever seeking to defend and uphold peace and harmony among its people and to perpetuate peace among nations.”
For one thing, there is still massive imbalances in terms of infrastructure and economic development, especially in respect to Sabah and Sarawak.
There is also a gulf in terms of respect, understanding and knowledge between Peninsular and East Malaysia that urgently needs to be bridged.
At the same time, the principles of federalism still have not taken root, if the confrontational attitude that the Federal Government has adopted in regards to certain states is anything to go by.
Moreover, forging as well as defending Malaysia’s ethnic and religious diversity is a constant struggle that transcends generations.
Malaysia will succeed and prevail through genuine and courageous leadership that puts the nation first—rather than seeking political expedience and pandering to vested interests.
While the efforts of the Sabah and Sarawak governments to seek greater autonomy are welcome, it is unlikely that their efforts will result in concrete benefits to the people of these states without a sea change at the federal level.
When all is said and done, the status quo has more or less prevailed in these states for decades—and it is arguable whether it has made its people happier or more prosperous.
It is important that we use this time to honestly reflect on where we are going as a country and how our Federation can be strengthened.
We cannot take our nationhood for granted. Neither can we dismiss the importance of elevating the tone of our politics even as we seek to meet the challenges of today’s world.
Pakatan Harapan Youth has released a series of policy proposals on how we can strengthen federalism in Malaysia.
This includes making Sabah and Sarawak equal partners with Peninsular Malaysia, not mere states; the return of autonomy that goes beyond the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and creating more jobs and opportunities for young Sabahans and Sarawakians in their respective states.
Let us build a truly free and fair Malaysia where all our children have a place in the sun.