As we mark 60 years of Malaysian independence, we have to ask ourselves – is this really what we fought for?

Malaysia did not arrive at this point by accident: we Malaysians have allowed it to happen. We have allowed it through collusion and silence, and by our refusal to venture outside of our comfort zone

Today Malaysia celebrates its independence day. In 1957 the Union Jack was lowered for the last time and the Malayan flag – the country was then Malaya – was raised for the first time. I was born in the years afterwards, into a young country with a burgeoning sense of pride. We had freed ourselves of colonialism.

The man who led that fight was Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister. A historic video shows him shouting out the word “Merdeka” – Independent – seven times at Independence Square in Kuala Lumpur. Whenever I watch that video, emotions well up inside me. The sense of hope is palpable. For good reason: the country that was born was a beacon. It would unite races, celebrate diversity and show how people of different faiths and cultures could thrive together.

Because of its strategic location, Malaysia had long welcomed peoples from distant lands. It was a hospitable place where strangers could make a home. I remember this cultural melting pot from my childhood. It made the country distinctive and wonderful.


Categories: Asia, Malaysia

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