“We are told to be patriotic, inculcate a nationalist spirit, and show undivided love for our nation to ensure continuous peace and harmony. And we should proudly declare ourselves ‘Malaysians’,” said Empaling, putting down the newspaper he was reading from.
“I am an Iban,” he continued, “Ibans are the proud indigenous people of this beautiful state, Sarawak, and we have been here since time immemorial. Of course we love our homeland. We have learnt to share it and live harmoniously with other races. Our forefathers have sacrificed their lives defending this fair land, and many perished serving and defending far away Malaya. If that is not love for the nation or being patriotic, I don’t know what is! Like our forefathers, we love this country and are ready to serve and defend it. We should all uphold the victory our forefathers achieved, the meaning of independence (merdeka) as well as the peace and harmony that entail it, and to be grateful for their struggle.
“Be patriotic and love Malaysia? Of course I am, and I totally agree,” remarked Chiew, “My family has made Sarawak our home since our ancestors sailed here across the great sea five generations ago, to look for a new life by working in gold mines or setting up businesses. We have been living harmoniously with the locals, and have always shown our appreciation and love for this state and nation. I am proud that a number of our people, the Chinese, have done well in what they do, especially in the field of sports, and brought honour and pride to our country, Malaysia.”
“The same goes with my family,” piped Kumar. “We have been here since workers were brought here from India to work in the tea plantations several generations ago. Some were shipped to Malaya to work in the rubber estates. We love this state and country, and know of no other home than here. We dedicate our service, loyalty and lives for Malaysia, our home, but it saddens me to hear that in West Malaysia, as much as we proudly wish to call ourselves Malaysians, we still face discrimination and are still labelled as ‘pendatang’ (foreigners) by racist groups and unscrupulous politicians.”
Indeed, despite having settled here for generations, discrimination and incidents of racial hatred, where minorities are sidelined and mistreated, still occur in this beloved nation of ours. People are still treated unfairly because of their race, ethnicity or religion. Some are even denied equal opportunities in education and employment.
For Malaysia, a multiracial, multicultural and multi-religious country, discrimination can have harmful effects on its peoples, and can disrupt unity and harmonious living. Thus we should value and respect our diversity by practicing moderation, tolerance and inclusion. Our diversity is a treasure that enriches and brings us together. We should safeguard the importance of our Malaysian identity for the well-being of our nation, so that we continue to progress unhindered by racial or religious strife.
Coming from various races, cultures and religions, we owe the peace and harmony we live in now to the struggles of our ancestors. If we truly “Sayangi Malaysia Kita” (Love Our Malaysia), we should not discriminate against one another, we should respect each other, and work to maintain peace and harmony. We should end any form of racial, cultural or religious conflicts. We should bring under the law and punish those who fan the flames of hatred and divisiveness that hinder the formation of a one-people – Malaysian – nation.
As parents, we should instil into our children at an early age the spirit of mutual respect and tolerance, of unity in diversity, and to reject matters that would destroy our nation’s outlook of acceptance for all.