ON April 26, five days after Queen Elizabeth’s birthday, one of the world’s oldest political association of states, the Commonwealth of Nations, celebrated its 70th birthday.
The Commonwealth was transformed through the signing of the London Declaration in 1949 by dropping its “British” prefix and becoming an international institution that emphasises equality and freedom of members.
Since its inception, other than its Commonwealth Games, the modern Commonwealth has played an influential role in global affairs, such as bringing an end to apartheid in South Africa.
Malaysia has been a member of the Commonwealth. The then Federation of Malaya joined the Commonwealth upon achieving independence on Aug 31, 1957.
The Commonwealth had played an instrumental role in helping Malaysia defend itself against communist insurgents and to end Konfrontasi with the assistance of Australian, New Zealand and Fijian troops.
Economically, it has helped Malaysia to secure trading links with Europe and the US.
Now, Malaysia’s 62 years with the Commonwealth has allowed it to thrive in many areas through activities, including education exchanges, the Chevening Scholarship, Commonwealth Youth Programme and Commonwealth Parliament Association Programme.
Today’s Commonwealth consists of 53 members.
It encompasses almost a third of the world population, a fifth of the world’s land mass and a third of its water territories.
With 31 small or island nation states as members, it provides a rare international platform that pays attention to climate change or water pollution since these issues threaten their survival.
If the Commonwealth’s strengths are harnessed sophisticatedly, it can be a force to be reckoned with in fighting global challenges.
As the Commonwealth turns 70, it is important for today’s generation to understand the legacy of the Commonwealth and the values it promotes.
I hope the Commonwealth will continue to stay strong and remain fit for its purpose for the next 70 years and beyond, for the betterment of its members and the world.
TAN CHEE YONG