Without muhibbah, Merdeka is meaningless

There are reports that a vintage car - similar to the one Tunku Abdul Rahman used for the 1957 Merdeka celebrations - will be brought in from the US for the launch of our 50th Merdeka celebrations. Equally exciting are the various programmes that have been lined up throughout the month. It is indeed fitting and proper to mark the historic day with such elaborate celebrations as it occurs just once in a life time.

Great efforts are being made to bring back the various physical aspects of the past to remind the present generation of Malaysians what really happened at Merdeka in 1957. While these may be good and should be encouraged, it would be even more meaningful if we also bring back the real spirit of Merdeka that was prevalent among the leaders and people at that time.

Hoisting and waving the national flag, singing the national anthem, shouting 'Merdeka' at the top of their voices and hosting elaborate banquets, parties and other events were just symbolic gestures of the joy of attaining independence.

The real spirit of Merdeka that filled the air in 1957 was one of unity and goodwill among Malaysians of all races, what we used to call 'muhibbah', a word we rarely hear these days. Without this unity among the people, 'Merdeka' is meaningless.

In 1957, Malaysians of all races, led by the first prime minister and Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman, celebrated their hard-earned independence as one united nation. All of them at that time happily and proudly shared a common brotherhood in the new-born nation, Malaya.

It is sad that after 50 years, that spirit of brotherhood that existed among Malaysians appears to be dissipating. Each community seems to have become comfortably ensconced in their self-made cocoons. The cultures and beliefs of each have become alien to the other. Strains in inter-ethnic relationships are emerging are a main cause of worry in our multiracial and multi-religious country.

Much has to be done to arrest and reverse the deteriorating state of race relations in the country. There is an urgent need to remind our young of the important contributions all races to the development of our country. We must emphasise on the commonness that bind us as Malaysians rather than harping on the few differences among us.