Today we remember and celebrate our diversity. We are indeed a nation of diverse peoples — bumiputra Malays, bumiputra first peoples of Sabah and Sarawak, Chinese, Indians, the Orang Asli (the first peoples of Peninsular Malaysia), a small community of Portuguese even, and pockets of Bangladeshis, Filipinos, and Indonesians.
Our diversity is our strength for each people group has strengths that can be built on to uplift and unite the whole. Generally, we Malaysians are quite sensitive to each other — only when we come to politics then our differences become points of conflict.
Such conflicts are most evident between not the people groups but between two economic classes — the poorer rural Malaysians the majority of whom are bumiputras and who are the majority in the country and the richer urbanites, the majority of whom are Chinese. When these two groups are in conflict, it often takes on racial undertones when in fact the real issues are economic rather than racial.
Malaysians need to understand that our diversity is not only in the various people groups that form Malaysia but also in the distinct economic classes between the rural communities and urbanites which include the urban poor.
The political parties representing these groups often reflect the bias of their voters and when in a coalition tend to ignore the rights of the other groups in wanting to advance their own respective agendas.
This Malaysia Day, I would like to suggest that the urban rich who have access to the most resources in Malaysia demonstrate more tolerance in considering the rights of the rural and urban poor. The urbanites are richer, more educated and more developed than the rural and urban poor and want higher standards of living and performance by public servants. While these are good objectives to aspire to, urbanites need to understand that these can not be achieved at the expense of the poorer communities.
So, I hope urbanites will be more accommodating of the parties representing the rural communities and elect candidates who can form an effective team in marshalling our diverse strengths to build up the poorer among us and bring about reforms that will benefit all Malaysians.
That is my Malaysia Day wish!