Celebrating together

FEB 12 — Hopefully it is still not too late for me to wish a Happy Chinese New Year to all those celebrating the festival.

Surely, being a Malaysian, apart from the McDonald’s prosperity burger, there is something else to look forward to on this joyous occasion. It is the celebration itself, which is not only celebrated by the Chinese, but also by all Malaysians across race, language, culture and religion.

Perhaps this is evidence of the uniqueness of our multi-racial nationhood. We do not simply celebrate our own customs among our own kind, but we gather together as one, and staying true to our open house tradition.

It is worth to note that the celebration this year comes in the midst of the rising political temperature. Hence, every move taken by political parties may be interpreted as being politically motivated — be it Najib Razak’s special appearance in a Chinese New Year video or Anwar Ibrahim’s call for change in his Chinese New Year address.

Interestingly, several predictions have been made for the Year of the Snake. Taiwanese astrologer Tsai Sang-chi notes that since snakes can be associated with monsters, we can expect some political turbulence. Meanwhile, feng shui expert Master Koh predicts that blue and green will be the lucky colours this year, which is interesting if we were to put it into the context of Malaysian politics.

Of course, we can make our own prediction for the coming general election. What is more important is that we stay together and accept whatever that may be the outcome of the election.

Indeed, this is the strength of nationhood. It is not merely about being able to celebrate different festive seasons together. Rather, it is our ability to move forward as a nation and rise beyond the political differences.

Malaysia was built on the dreams of people looking for a better future; from the travels of Parameswara which gave birth to our Malacca sultanate, to the migration of Indians and Chinese facilitated by the British. Not to forget, the faithful journey that was made by Tunku Abdul Rahman and his delegation to London in their efforts to claim our independence. We, the younger generations, are the inheritors of those beautiful dreams.

Our forefathers had made the important decision to come together because they saw something in Malaya. They agreed to co-exist at that point of time because they believed that they were making the right choice for the future of their children and grandchildren. Despite all the pessimism about unity and our polarised situation, the truth is that all of us can work well together.

For all this while, we have gone our own ways without interfering with the customs of the other, but that does not mean that we are being ignorant or we stand apart from each other. Instead, it is simply testament of the high level of mutual respect and understanding among us, which echoes Tunku’s famous maxim: “Live and let live”.

And it was this principle which eventually led to this experiment of our nation.

We are the products of this liberal ideology, which revolves around acceptance and tolerance. This belief that people, regardless of colour or creed, can do much more than just co-exist under one banner. It was premised on the fundamental notion of unity, guided by democratic principles and ultimately governed by moderation.

Elements of religious extremism are creeping into our country. We are currently facing challenges that could disrupt and destabilise racial unity it they are not dealt with properly. Issues such as the furore over use of the word “Allah” which subsequently led to a Bible-burning threat could easily undermine our national harmony that we have long defended. Therefore, it is more important than ever for us to stay together and back each other in these turbulent times.

The choice now lies on our shoulders: either to break that dream envisaged by our forefathers or to believe in what they have fought for us.

Malaysians, let us just put aside our political differences for a while and celebrate this occasion together, for this is the calm before the storm.

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.



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