LETTERS: FEB 8 this year would have been the 117th birthday of Malaysia’s Bapa Kemerdekaan (Father of Independence) Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.
Yet, the day passed by without any mention of it, nor was there a significant event to mark it.
Malaysians should have commemorated the occasion and paid tribute to Tunku, who left a legacy of moderation, harmony and unity for all to emulate.
Tunku’s legacy has touched the hearts of many, young and old.
He was a great statesman and is remembered for his pearls of wisdom on unity.
I still remember some of his outstanding quotes. One was: “Every one of us must respect each other’s right and feelings, be tolerant of each other’s religion, customs and habits for in diversity can we find real unity.”
Another was: “We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”
Tunku should also be remembered for his simplicity, sincerity, integrity, strong sense of patriotism and his unwavering stand on harmony and unity in a multi-racial nation.
The values he stood for were exemplary and his ways were an inspiration for all Malaysians.
In recognition of Tunku’s legacy of unity, all Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, should rededicate themselves to work towards national unity through “mutual respect of each other’s rights and feelings, religions, customs and habits”.
If Malaysians, and in particular politicians, are able to put into practice Tunku’s words of wisdom, Malaysia would be more harmonious and peaceful.
Despite our six decades of independence, there are still instances of dissonance and division.
Between the 70s and late 90s, the spirit of friendship and neighbourliness was based on sharing and respecting each other regardless of social, economic and religious backgrounds.
It was the way of life. We played, studied, camped and visited each other with no worries and qualms of hurting each other with our actions. Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali and other festivities were celebrations for all. Truly Malaysian in every sense.
But this is rare today. We have become polarised along the lines of race and religion. All religions encourage followers to do good, be courteous, humble, honest, respectful and, above all, not to hurt one another. Unfortunately, we have deviated from such virtues.
Malaysia is going through a critical phase of its existence in view of the continuous articulation of extreme views by several quarters. Casting aspersions and making hate speeches against fellow Malaysians are uncalled for and will not help forge inter-racial harmony and unity.
Malaysians should reject all forms of racial or religious extremism. It is improper for anyone to make provocative or incendiary statements against another which can lead to conflict or racial tension.
We need to revisit the 1957 Merdeka spirit and work towards a reconciliation.
The immediate task of all political leaders and all strata of society is to stop this drift towards racial polarisation. Stop the politicising. Stop playing the race card.
Remember Tunku’s words of wisdom.
TAN SRI LEE LAM THYE
Trustee, Malaysia Unity Foundation