Celebrating Merdeka with gratitude

WE thank God, our founding fathers and our leaders and all our Malaysian brothers and sisters of all races and religions, for their great sense of unity and purpose, in bringing us all so far ahead, in terms of our unity and national progress and resilience.

But we cannot take our successes for granted. We have to continue to strive to achieve greater progress, unity, harmony and sustainability, as a developed nation for all Malaysians, regardless of race and religion.

Some concerns and solutions:

>> National unity is not as strong as it used to be and must be raised. The basis for increasing polarisation are the growing economic problems. They are income inequality, some distorted New Economic Policies, rising inflation, unemployment especially among graduates, low wages and corruption. 

The solution is to have a planned phase out of the NEP which could be replaced with the New Economic Model that was seriously considered by government and then withdrawn. The reasons for this rejection have to be explained to the public and modified where necessary in a realistic manner but not discarded.

>> "Bumiputraism" is a divisive title. It provides undue protection and curbs competition and the competitive spirit of the bumis. It even inhibits their long-term growth and the healthy development of their talents and heightens their future tribulations.

The solution is to treat all low-income Malaysians equally. The underprivileged of all races and religions can be categorised under income groups.

Priority could then be given for the accelerated development of the low-income groups like the bottom 40%. Race considerations should be removed.

Then fairness and justice and righteousness, will strengthen and national cohesion will rise and divisiveness will decline.

>> Religious intolerance is a new and dangerous phenomenon, which needs our urgent attention.

The solution to this worldwide problem is to follow the principle and policy of wasatiyah or moderation in religion.

This policy should be more actively promoted by federal and state governments. In recent times, there has been grave anxiety felt by most Malaysians over what appears to be the erosion of religious understanding and tolerance in our country.

There is growing evidence of the rise in Islamisation in schools, universities, government agencies and policies, especially in the implementation of some policies.

These trends are divisive. They don't promote a greater sense of belonging or cohesion and national unity.

The solution is to follow the Federal Constitution and Rukun Negara closely and regard Malaysia as a Muslim-majority country.

As I have been told by my Muslim brothers and sisters and non-Muslims as well, all our religions promote religious understanding and tolerance and mutual respect for each other's beliefs.

So why can't the government and we all just faithfully follow our religions teachings. We should actively discourage extremism, ultra-conservatism and bigotry.

On our 60th Merdeka Anniversary, we thank God for all His Blessings these last 60 years.

We have to summon our courage and sincerity, to address our concerns for the progress, unity and harmony of all Malaysians.

We need to apply our proposed solutions to our serious concerns mentioned above, in our considerations for new policies leading up to TN50, even now. We don't have to wait and delay decision making, as time may not be on our side.

Selamat Hari Merdeka to All Malaysians.

Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
Asli Centre of Public Policy Studies