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50 Years After 13 May: The Lessons For Malaysia

50 years have now passed since the tragic events of 13 May 1969. It is, naturally, a solemn, sombre day for Malaysians.

We should all reflect on its lessons. The chief among them is that we should never take our country’s peace and stability for granted.

These are things that we all must contribute to and defend. It is a duty and responsibility for all Malaysian men and women—whatever their station in life.

It is a cause for which we must dedicate our time on this earth to.

National unity and harmony, after all, are always works in progress. Different generations must—in their own way—contribute to the building of our nation and the unification of our people.

There are, regrettably, nefarious elements that are still trying to use race and religion for their own ends, seemingly oblivious to the damage their irresponsible actions and rhetoric are causing to our national fabric.

They are leading the country, as well as the races and religions they pretend to champion to disaster.

Such people and those who back them must be rejected firmly by all Malaysians who love their country.

But we must also realise that our national unity, as well as our capacity for racial and religious coexistence, are intricately linked to the extent of our political freedoms and civil liberties.

Reducing any one of these will diminish the other. Indeed, Malaysia will not be peaceful or secure if its people are not free.

What is needed is maturity—among both Malaysia’s leaders and led—to exercise such freedoms responsibly, for the common, ultimate good of individuals, society and the nation.

By that same gesture, reform will be futile without the creation of better education, jobs, healthcare, housing and opportunities for everyone who lives and works in our land.

Genuine liberty and “shared prosperity”, or more accurately, economic justice—are inseparable: they are dependent on each other; one and the same.

We will have neither if we close our hearts and minds to each other.

Malaysia’s strength lies in its diversity.

It not only gives our country character and variety—but also allows us to be a dynamic force in international affairs and commerce, as well as act as bridge between the different civilisations of the world.

We must realise—and teach our children—to respect, accept and celebrate Malaysia’s multiculturalism and traditions of pluralism.

Difference is not something to be feared, but a means for us to get the best possible outcomes for our country.