Malaysia – a promise of fraternity through freedom

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To mark Malaysia Day on 16 September, civil society groups have come up with a joint statement urging Malaysians to reclaim their independence.

Civil Society Joint Statement on Malaysia Day 2010

Malaysia – A promise of fraternity through freedom

When the peoples of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore came together in 1963, Malaysia was a promise of freedom and fraternity, that all the children of this land would love and support each other to develop and progress.

A promise of fraternity through freedom

Malaysia was a promise of fraternity. For none of Malaysia’s children were meant to be asked to leave their country for some foreign land. And no one was meant to be insulted and marginalised because of his or her ethnicity, faith, birthplace, lifestyle or any other group attributes.

Malaysia was a promise of freedom. Like every other nation on Earth, we would inevitably have differences on how the country was to be run and how resources and opportunities shared. We were meant to listen and understand each other, and seek solutions acceptable to all. We were not meant to silence each other by resorting to threats of riot or imprisonment.

Malaysia cannot be an independent nation if Malaysians are not free.

Malaysia was indeed such a promise, not only of fraternity and freedom, but specifically of fraternity through freedom. We were not meant to be a fraternity of slaves, living in peace merely out of fear of draconian laws or ethnic riots. Neither were we meant to exercise our freedom irresponsibly and heartlessly to cause or ignore the misery of our brothers and sisters.

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We were meant to use our freedom – uncompromised by our diversity – to chart a common future and a better tomorrow for all. It’s the desire for freedom and the confidence that we can collectively use freedom wisely that confirm our independence from colonisation. And that’s why Malaysia as a whole is – or should be – greater than the sum of Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak.

What has gone wrong?

What has happened to this great promise of fraternity and freedom? Where are our civil and political liberties after 47 years of independence? How is our social harmony after 47 years of co-existence?

We have educationists openly calling for ethnic minorities to leave the country. We have politicians demonising gestures of goodwill between different religious communities. We have self-appointed communal heroes mongering fear and hatred, lodging police reports against opinions disapproved by them. Subsequently, we have vulgar expressions of counter-attacks.

Every society has fringe individuals and groups going all out to offend others. The only way to stop them is to expose their slurs shunned by the mainstream opinion, the very people they claim to champion, not by imprisoning them and making them martyrs. However, for common sense to prevail, we need freedom of expression and freedom of information.

By no accident at all, the perceived escalation of communal tensions happens concurrently with selective crackdown on mainstream and alternative media. Critical journalists – from television, radio and print media – are either removed or marginalised. Books and cartoons are banned while bloggers are harassed and intimidated.

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Rational discussion and legitimate dissent are simply muted while certain media organisations are allowed maximum freedom to spread bigotry and ill-will. These media operators want to terrify us Malaysians into denouncing freedom – what Independence is really about – by manipulating our love for peace. They want us to cling on to authoritarianism. They even openly call for ISA arrests to silence dissent.

Why are the bigoted politicians and their media collaborators so bold in challenging the common sense of Malaysians? They call us the silent majority. Do they know silence can be powerful, too? When the silent majority act together, then silence can be more deafening than any noise.

Let us reclaim our Independence

This Malaysia Day, let us all work to reclaim our country, not only for ourselves, but also for future generations to come. It has to begin with ourselves, not anybody else.

As Native American wisdom aptly puts it, “We do not inherit this land from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”

Let us guard this land from the fire of hatred, ignorance and fear, and return it intact to our descendants.

Let us take some time to reflect in silence on the part we have played in letting this country stoop so low, either by commission or omission.

Let us reach out to other Malaysians, out of love, not out of fear or tolerance.

Let us listen to each other and seek understanding even if we disagree.

Let us reaffirm our Independence and defeat any attempt of mental colonisation.

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Let us live the promise of fraternity through freedom that Malaysia was born for 47 years ago.

Endorsed by 53 civil society groups and one political party.

Thanks for dropping by! The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.

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