I was just reflecting on the speech of Singapore’s Leader of the House Indranee Rajah today. She stated, “Experience elsewhere shows that unity in diversity is not an assured outcome”. As much diversity itself is hard work, so is unity. For long, and even until today, it has been our pride as Malaysians to brand our nation’s narrative around the idea of diversity. But in recent times, there is no denying concerns of growing schisms and many people are worried that our society is becoming increasingly polarised.
It is poignant to reflect on such a speech by such a figure across the Causeway. That once, many years ago, such a date of August 31 meant so much more to her and others residing in the island at the tip our Peninsular Malaysia. It had meant independence, one that was shared with us. A fight that had once unified all of us. We had put on a diverse front. That itself was a lot of hard work. And then the unity that came with it – hard work as well as back in the day, the colonial regime had engineered society in a way where each ethnic group had its different standing in government, commerce and geography. But we did it anyway and had come all the way to finally break centuries of being under foreign rule to be a newly independent nation of Malaya.
The idea of unity and diversity was insatiable and a few years later on September 16, 1963, we were joined by Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak. But today Indranee is not with us as two years into federal union, deep polarities destroyed the political bond between nation and state. At that point, Singapore was in distraught – unsure of its future, with very little to count on for its development. Today, we wonder what if the divisive polarities were not there in the first place.
But we are here nonetheless and yes, while we remain friends with our little neighbour down south, we are reminded that the fruit of independence was the result of unity and we have to do whatever it takes to defend, keep and strengthen it. There are dark forces in play trying to overcome the Malaysian narrative but let us fortify our spirits and get on the side of unity so when we battle with our polarities, we fight on the side of unity so that our strength can truly be seen in our diversity.
Selamat Hari Merdeka.