So, let us not be blind to our differences – - but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal. – John F Kennedy, 10 June 1963.
The above paragraph was part of a speech by the late American president at a university, exhorting the Soviet Union then to join the US in a nuclear test treaty ban.
Tomorrow is Malaysia Day. For the first time since the coming together of the Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak under the name Malaysia on 16 Sept 1963, this historic day is given its proper recognition.
Long overdue, but better than nothing.
We Malaysians come from different walks of life, different faiths and ethnicity and a variety of socio-economic backgrounds. Yet we would do well to examine Kennedy’s words above, for it is relevant to us.
He used the words in the context of global peace and order. We can apply it in the Malaysian context too, with the aim of ensuring the harmony of the nation. That is for our collective good, isn’t it?
After all, we all live, love, work, make a living and one day will die, on this same piece of earth we call Malaysia.
We differ in many ways. We may even look different. I am dark brown, my housemate is a fair-skinned girl, my neighbour is what you would call “sawo matang”, yet under these skin runs the same red blood.
At the end of the day, we have similar hopes and dreams too, if you think about it. We’re not that different.
Malaysia is on the cusp of major change. The change in the path the country is taking began a few years ago. You may have noticed it in the shocking election results of 2008.
Malaysians are more aware now, and some I suspect, have woken up to fact that in a democracy, one man’s vote still matters. That is a good thing.
It means the makcik selling karipap at the street corner, the estate-dwelling plantation worker, the 9 to 5 civil servant as well as the mechanic who repairs my car now knowthat they can have a hand in shaping the destiny of this nation.
This we arrived at because of the past decade’s democratisation of information. Because of the Internet. Because the people are hearing news and views they were hitherto unexposed to.
Information can make you think, and the more info you have, the better able you are to make decisions that benefit you, or your cause. And that is a wonderful thing. Cos it empowers you, the common man.
There are fears that increased discourse on things formerly considered taboo, like rights, privileges, race relations and religious intolerance, could give rise to anarchy.
But let me tell you this. I think the Malaysian society at large is growing up. If not, the Ibrahim Alis, the Siti Inshah’s, the Namewees and the Nasir Safars of this world could have provoked you into attacking your neighbour.
We don’t do that. Because at heart, we are sane, decent people who subscribe to the basic tenets of justice, fairness and equity. And thank God for this.
In the last week, our country has been rocked by a particularly vicious quadruple murder that brings back sordid reminders of gruesome crimes such as Bakaruddin Busu, Canny Ong and Altantuya Shariibuu.
The brutal killing of cosmetics magnate Sosilawati Lawiya, her driver Kamaruddin Shamsuddin, her lawyer Ahmad Kamil Abdul Karim and CIMB Bank officer Noorhisham Mohammad is not something likely to forgotten for a while.
The suspects are in custody now as police continue to gather more and more incriminating evidence against the alleged killers. I say alleged because the two lawyers are yet to be tried and convicted.
The horror, disgust, furious anger and sadness of the public is understandable. Even I found myself unable to sleep after reading of the grisly murder.
But what disturbs me is the increasing racial-slurs leveled just because the suspects happen to be Indian. “Bangsa bangsat” and “keling pembunuh” are just some of the epithets I’ve seen so far.
Never mind that the alleged killers are also suspected of killing other Indian victims. It is quite obvious that in the case of Sosilawati, the motive was money.
So why this racial profiling? Murderers are murderers. They exist in all shapes and sizes, races and religion and from all kinds of backgrounds.
For those who are quick to bring up the racial card, let me remind you of the Canny Ong kidnap/murder, the C4 killing of Altantuya Shariibuu and way back in the 90s, the slaughter of Batu Talam assemblyman Datuk Mazlan Idris. Who were convicted?
I think at this point we should let the law deal with the suspects and let this be a lesson to the police not to take any missing persons report lightly.
Let justice not only be done, but be seen to be done. Only that will bring a measure of solace to the grief-stricken families of the 4 victims.
Let the rest of us Malaysians pray that justice prevails. Let us close our eyes to narrow parochial ideas, and open them to more inclusive fair ideas.
Let us throw our mutual suspicion and distrust away, because we cannot afford to live like this anymore. Those tired cliches have no place in the future Malaysia, and its time we all recognise that.
Happy Malaysia Day!