On 31st august 1957, Tunku Abdul Rahman announced the official independence of Malaysia. At that time, it was a historical moment for the Malaya as a new page has turned. This year, Malaysians went through almost the same historical moment. With blood, sweat and tears, a new Malaysia is born.
While everyone anxiously get themselves updated with what’s happening and the scandals that are all revealing itself, we still have so much to do in making sure that the whole nation is all well and safe. Also not forgetting how our nation needs to practise love, peace and justice every single day.
So, during this national day, we asked the team this question, “Can Malaysians Truly Celebrate an Inclusive Merdeka?” And here’s what they have to say:
Perhaps one day the dreams of a truly inclusive Malaysia will be true. I realise that even though the ones in my immediate circle are inclusive in most ways, this isn’t true for the general rakyat.
Discrimination is rife in our communities, and it goes beyond the color of our skin. Anyone not conforming to the stereotypical male/female gender are cast aside at best. Homosexuality is condemned. Racial stereotypes are ingrained in kids as they grow up by adults around them. The older we grow as a nation, it seems harder to change our ways and mindsets.
Fortunately the urban youth is hungry for change and more open to different viewpoints or willing to engage in open discourse about topics the generation before us swept under the rug. To me, I think celebrating Merdeka with inclusion will only happen when we are willing to talk about our differences instead of discriminating or not acknowledging it. It can only happen when we find the strength in our diversity instead of the weaknesses. It can only happen if there is mutual respect for each other as human beings first beyond nationality, race or religion.
This can start with us, the urban youth being more vocal about current issues involving any form of discrimination and intolerance towards the minority and marginalised communities. However, nothing has been achieved by talk alone. Just setting the example is so much more powerful than words for those around you. By walking the talk, without realising, it gives permission to those around you to be more open, more accepting, more inclusive.
Realising that change can happen with just a single individual is pertinent to our future as a united Malaysia. Realising that human values and a hunger to forge forward as a nation is way more important than sexual orientation or religion is pertinent in ensuring our country will age gracefully. At the end of the day, true inclusion will be when we truly accept that we are great because of our diversity, not despite of our differences. Till then, let’s keep fighting for those that need us to speak for them.
I personally think that we still have a long way to go until we can truly celebrate Merdeka with total inclusion. In the urban area itself, we have so many communities that are still socially and economically marginalised. There are children with special needs who are not included in our public education system, ex-convicts who are struggling to integrate back to the society, stateless individuals who are denied access to workforce, and the list goes on.
In a country with such vast diversity, it takes a lot of effort and education to change mindsets, break stereotypes and build bridges among Malaysians. However, the good news is that many Malaysians are now becoming more aware of the social needs around us, and more people are starting to take actions to fight for what is right.
I believe that change can only happen when both the “top-down” and “bottom-up” voices meet in the middle - that’s when policies change, and we, the rakyat are ready for the change. Instead of just waiting for policies to change, we should also start doing what we can on the grassroots level to create change. We might still have a long way to go, but I believe that we are on our way towards building a more inclusive Malaysia.
In light of #MalaysiaBaru, I believe that everybody wants a change, I am more positive. But truly, what kind of change are we looking at?
When we are celebrating as one nation, think again. Those who we have failed them. The Orang Asli, the LGBT Group and the stateless people that has been in Malaysia. Think again. Suzanne & Logeetha have spoken my mind.
That’s where Picha comes in. We are living the dream. We are building the dream that many wished for - to see individuals of different cultures, religions, languages coming together - to love each other, to rebuild lives together and to work together. These are the values that we hold on till today, to see each other as one being.
We, as a nation, have a long way to go, but why wait? Enough with all these “I’m trying” bullshit. Start now. Make it happen. Never take NO as an answer.
“Beautiful things happen when you distance yourself from the negative.”
When I go overseas to pitch about what Picha is this year, my slides ends with 2 things. The team and the Picha family’s picture. In my team slide, 3 chinese girl with an Australian senior partner, a Malay CEO of a bank and a Sarawakian entrepreneur appears on it. This truly represent the power of all forces coming together despite our color, background or culture to make a change. To tell people that Malaysians here have something to tell to the world.
What do we want to tell the world?
This comes to the end of my slide, the Picha family’s slide - where people coming from VERY diverse background smiling and celebrating. People who come from war-torn countries, whose families are persecuted, who have fought through debts and personal struggles, all gathered together with one vision, to form WORLD PEACE.
This was part of Tunku Abdul Rahman’s speech when he declared “Merdeka! We in this country will do all in our power to promote its well-being in the interests of mankind in general and in the particular service of world peace.”
So, we want to tell to the world, that we did not choose a specific community to work with or assist because of where they come from or who they are. As long as everyone has the same vision of achieving world peace, we will go through the struggles together and strive together. However, to achieve that, it starts from inclusiveness, it starts from understanding each other and wanting to reach out for one another, and then building a solution together.
I truly believe Malaysians have this potential to show true inclusiveness. When I shared about what Picha is to the world, people were really amazed by how Malaysians are really trying to do something for this urgent humanitarian crisis. Picha is not the only one trying to make a change. There are many more unsung heroes doing much more amazing work, and we certainly need more people helping each other out with inclusiveness.
Think about how can we improve our public services for the individuals with special needs, how can we improve education for children who are stateless, how can we change policies together for the voiceless.
The truth is, WE MALAYSIANS have potential, isn’t it time for us to truly unleash it and shine more?