P. S. Suryanarayana

Parade, cultural pageantry mark Malaysia’s 50th Independence Day

SINGAPORE: Malaysia on Friday showcased five “eras” of its contemporary history to celebrate its 50 years of independence and to reaffirm the relevance of the country’s multi-cultural “social contract.”

Highlights

Nation-wide festivities were heralded by a political pledge to uphold racial harmony among other attributes of Malaysia’s identity.

The day’s main highlight was a parade, complete with a military show and a cultural pageantry, at the Merdeka (Independence) Square in Kuala Lumpur.

The “eras” that were portrayed at this event were the struggle for independence, the development phase, the consolidation of national unity, the period of modernisation, and the present focus on excellence.

Each of these “eras” was also associated with the political initiatives of different leaders in a sequence — Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tun Abdul Razak, Tun Hussein Onn, Mahathir Mohamad, and the present Prime Minister, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

National unity

Even as several world leaders greeted Malaysia on the occasion, Mr. Abdullah Badawi called for a “steadfast” adherence to the spirit of national unity.

He said Malaysians should desist from being too preoccupied with their individual racial identities and with religious extremism.

He wanted his compatriots to rise above the reality that some among them were descendants of people who had come to the land of Malays from faraway places or were brought from outside to work as labourers.

Mr. Abdullah’s call was seen in the wider southeast Asian circles as a pledge to galvanise Malaysia across the racial spectrum — the majority Malays and the minority ethnic communities of Chinese and Indians — in the current context of new challenges to uphold a multi-cultural “social contract.”