Our uniqueness is our identity

AS we celebrate our 60th National Day, there is a sense of pride and euphoria sweeping over us like a waft of fresh air in the midst of a cyclone. It is by design perhaps that we had a triple celebration this time around with the 29th SEA Games (a.k.a Kuala Lumpur 2017) concluding with us as the host just a day before National Day. Aidiladha celebrations came in a day later and typical of Malaysians, the holiday exodus started.

I am no athlete and sports is far from my mind but I share the nation's joy as we wrapped up the games with a record 145 gold, 92 silver and 86 bronze medals. Thailand ended second in the overall medal haul with 72 gold, 86 silver and 88 bronze, while Singapore was fourth overall with 57 gold, 58 silver and 73 bronze

The baton has been passed to the Philippines, which will be hosting the 30th SEA Games two years from now.

The long weekend became even longer with the prime minister gifting us with another holiday on Monday and despite complaints from all and sundry that we have far too many holidays in Malaysia, everyone enjoyed the break. There is just too much to do with good food and lovely people around.

In the midst of all this, just days before, we saw an ugly protest take place in the city centre where hundreds of Rohingyas took to the street to voice their anger and frustration at the genocide that was sweeping their country.

The much abhorred spate of merciless killing, which is both shameful and unjustified, has to be stopped for sure but I was angry with the protesters for causing chaos in a country where they are seeking asylum.

Apparently, fresh fighting broke out in Rakhine state last week between security forces and Rohingya militants after the militants staged raids on police posts. The over 1,000 ethnic Rohingyas who gathered in Kuala Lumpur since morning to march to the Myanmar embassy in Jalan Ampang Hilir had wanted to hand over a memorandum protesting against the atrocities and killing of Rohingyas. One protester was reported to have doused himself with petrol and had attempted to set himself on fire before he was stopped by the police.

The police arrested dozens of them for illegal assembly as well as for aggressive behaviour. We later learned that the The Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 does not allow foreigners to hold any protest, demonstration or gathering in this country.

While my heart went out to them, I pondered if there was something the bigger powers could do to stop the atrocity. It is annoying that our peace should be marred by such an event and in so doing stretching our resources needlessly.

My apologies for diverging a little too much and now coming back to our country; I read an interesting post headlined "At 60, does Malaysia need to re-examine identity?" posted on CNN's homepage. And the ensuing opening statement read, "Sixty years after winning independence from the British, and with an election looming on the horizon, two questions still bedevil Malaysia: Does this multi-ethnic country of 32 million people have a singular national identity? And did it ever have one in the first place?"

The answer would always be a resounding "yes"; we do have a singular identity and we are proudly Malaysians. The vitriolic propaganda we hear and see are malicious in intent. Personal attacks, racial slurs and ethnic disgruntlement are all but part of life and those spreading them have their own agendas.

When it comes to politics, we often perceive our own beliefs as fair and socially beneficial, while seeing opposing views as merely self-serving. But in fact most political views are governed by self-interest, even if we usually don't realise it.

Self-interest divides the public on a host of hot-button issues and in a country like Malaysia, which is multi-coloured, issues are seemingly endless.

We have squabbles, we have fights, we can even have violent bouts in a family, but we learn to deal with them, we spread our wisdom as human beings, to have compassion and humanity lead us in the right path.

Malaysia is indeed different, as is every country. But we are uniquely different, which is so difficult to classify and define. We cannot catalogue our uniqueness and hence only we who have grown up to be Malaysians will know and feel what it is like to want to be here, just here and nowhere else on Earth.

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