01 September, 2007

Hmmmm....painting a dark picture.


From NST


IN his speech at the launch of the Merdeka Award on Monday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi took to task the many foreign and domestic "naysayers and detractors" who sought to "paint a dark and bleak picture of Malaysia".

The prime minister cannot be accused of exaggeration. Throughout our history as an independent nation, there has been many a faultfinder who never grew tired of carping about our shortcomings. Neither has there been a shortage of prophets of doom seeking and finding omens of impending ethnic and sectarian strife. So what better occasion to once again raise these concerns and caveats than the 50th anniversary of Merdeka?

Indeed, the festivities marking 50 years of independence have been accompanied by a chorus of critical voices who seem determined to rain on the country’s golden anniversary parade. While conceding that there has been sterling economic growth and remarkable social development, they insist that all this is just a thin veneer which cannot paper over the cracks in national unity and bridge the racial and religious divisions. In short, many have been quite ready yet again to write Malaysia off as a failure and to warn that all the signs point to the nation falling apart at the seams. But as the prime minister has pointed out, time and again we have prevailed, the predictions have come to naught, and we have proven the critics wrong.

Certainly, as the prime minister acknowledged, Malaysia is not "perfect" and "like any nation, we are subject to stress and strain". While we have come a long way, there is still much to be done. Certainly, we should never be blind to our defects and divides. We have to come to terms with the fears and anxieties, the flaws and the failings. Whatever the difficulties in attempting to fashion a nation out of the mix of contrary cultural, communal and sectarian impulses, these are problems that have to be worked out over the long run. The issues will continue to tax our patience, resolve and goodwill to build a free, united, prosperous and peaceful nation.

As we celebrate how far we have come as a nation over the last 50 years, we should also look forward to continuing to confound the doubters over the next 50 years. There is no better day than Aug 31 to reflect on the past and to stop and think on the distance we have still to go to celebrate our centennial, and what we have to do to get there.










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