Letters - Enduring peace tops our wish list

WE are entering 2017 and the one wish that ranks higher than anything else in our hearts and souls for the New Year is that Malaysia will remain a peaceful country with all races living in harmony and respecting our diversity in culture and religion, confident that the rule of law will prevail to protect the rights of all citizens, in accordance with the guarantees under the Federal Constitution.

We hope that 2017 will bring more cheerful news about economic recovery to lift the people's mood and give them a good feeling about the future. With the various restructuring and transformation programmes which have been introduced in the government, as well as in the corporate and financial sectors, the economy is on a strong footing for recovery as and when the global uncertainties fade away to revive business confidence around the world.

Malaysia is well aware why a strong economy is important. A weak economy that is not able to generate sufficient income and employment opportunities is dangerous to our society. It will attract the hate politics that use race and religion to destabilise the country, leading to extremists exploiting the situation for their own agenda. That is how one country after another in the Muslim world became failed states. The root cause is their failures to implement the right policies to generate growth, provide for the basic needs of their people and promote tolerance for religious and cultural diversity. Frustrated by the uncaring attitudes of their governments, which prefer to spend more time on religious politicking than on the economy, their educated youth turn to extremism to express their anger. This must not be allowed to happen in our country.

Our founding fathers created the constitution, introduced the Rukunegara and implemented the New Economic Policy to ensure Malaysia achieve rapid economic growth as this is fundamental for social progress and national unity. In every five-year development plan document, since the introduction of the NEP in 1971, there is a very strong emphasis on the link between economic growth and national unity. Thanks to our capable leaders, the country has developed so fast that we have graduated from a low-income country to becoming a high-income country soon, a remarkable achievement by any standards. Economic development has brought stability to the country. Although much remains to be done in achieving the aspirations in the Rukunegara, we can be proud that we have built the economic foundation to strengthen our prospects for achieving national unity.

The challenge for the country is to sustain the economic progress that has been achieved and make it more inclusive so as to win public confidence and support for the government's development efforts. Inclusivity means recognising the rights of the lower-income groups for a bigger share of the national wealth and providing economic justice for all races. It also means tolerance for an open society with rights and freedoms for citizens to voice their disagreements with the government and to hold it accountable for its actions.

The government has adopted inclusive development strategies in its economic planning and in the annual budget. It is spending huge amounts of money and borrowing heavily to finance its development programmes for growth and equitable distribution among all segments of society. In doing so, it should be transparent in the management of the country's finances so as not to repeat the recent scandals that have rocked business sentiments in the country and damaged its reputation as a well governed country. In this regard, it is essential that Parliament, the judiciary and the institutions of law and order be empowered to provide the checks and balance in ensuring that good governance is restored at all levels of government and that those found guilty of corruption and unethical behaviour be brought to justice without fear or favour.

The government should move with the times to embrace civil society and a free media as partners in development. This will put our country as the best model in the Muslim world for making constitutional democracy meaningful to the people, transcending race, culture and religion to create a united nation. With all races sharing a common destiny of economy development and social justice under a vibrant democracy, Malaysia can look forward to a bright future.

With these words, we wish all Malaysians a Happy and Prosperous New Year.

G25 Secretariat