By Ti Lian Ker
I believe Malaysia is a truly blessed country. The resilience and spirit of togetherness of its people in the face of a pandemic and the challenges as a result has made us a stronger nation. I hope we will never again be divided by which community we are from, but instead be united by what we can achieve as one people.
As we welcome the new dawn in 2021, I hope that Malaysians will soon be able to recover from the economic and financial impact of the COVID-19 outbreak and lives will return to normal as quickly as possible. As a responsible government, this administration will roll out assistance packages as announced by the Ministry of Finance early in the year to provide the necessary support to the most affected in the community and to inject new vitality into the economy.
I am also looking forward to working with my fellow members of the administration, and also with Malaysians from all walks of life to ensure that Malaysia is equipped and empowered to face the post-pandemic world. In my role as being part of the efforts to drive national unity, my 2021 wish list articulated below is coloured with vibrant idealism, shaped by the undeterred faith in humanity and is penned down with “cautious optimism” that Malaysians are all too familiar with now.
In fostering close-knitted communities regardless of ethnicity, understanding the importance of cultural exchange is crucial to bridging and advocating for community building. As an advocator of community builders, I would like to see more initiatives by both government and non-government agencies to provide avenues for the public to learn more about the cultures of all ethnicities in Malaysia. As one of the popular approaches to attract attention is to merge arts with culture, I am hopeful to see more of such combination in future initiatives for the promotion of unity. For example, through mural and graffiti artwork teaching by local artists organised by Johor International Youth Hub, or the recent Rural Experiential Art Tourism in Johor Bahru.
Sense Of Unity
I feel that we should put more emphasis on inculcating “sense of unity or community” in the government’s physical infrastructure and amenities planning. For example, integrating spatial design concepts which promotes unity and/or community development in the design and planning of public spaces, spatial and city structuring. I am looking forward to see public spaces that represents the society, public squares that encourages multi-ethnic assembly and streets for access – together creating spaces that support the psyche of communities.
Apart from that, I also feel that we are able to promote cross-cultural or cross-ethnic unity by preserving historical and cultural heritage of buildings or spaces, local originalities and spatial identities. Thus, I would like to see more emergence and promotion of cultural or ethnic identity in places and age-old cultural traditions akin to Batu Caves, Kota Bharu, and Kelabit Highlands.
NGOs As Community Builders
In tandem with this, I also strongly urge and would like to see more community builders in our society, championing for unity in our country. As we are aware that the role of NGOs has become more and more significant in our society, seeing the emergence of such entity with the purpose of advocating and promoting unity among fellow Malaysians will be very much welcomed. Incentives for the formation of such NGOs should be allocated by the government.
I also look forward to the day when Malaysians would not feel awkward to converse in languages we don’t necessarily call our own. My hope for Malaysians is that we become more culturally “woke”, knowledgeable and most importantly, sensitive to cultural differences. I long for a time when each citizen is able to appreciate different languages and dialects that exist in society and engage in fruitful discourse with peers.
Malaysia is an archipelago blessed with beautiful islands and beaches along with vibrant ecosystem. But mother earth is still suffering from environmental exploitation especially along the beaches of Sabah, reclaimed land in Pulau Pinang and developments near the hills in Pahang and Perak. I visualise environmental activism from Sabah and Sarawak to unite Malaysians in the hopes of creating a sustainable Malaysia by saving endangered animals and aged rainforest trees. By sharing the same goals of conserving Malaysia’s flora and fauna, Malaysians will be more prepared to embrace each other’s differences and aim to breathe the same unpolluted air in the future.
Children are the future of the nation. Stateless children in Malaysia are prevalent and they are the lost generation of the nation. I wish that Malaysians will stop discrimination against stateless children and that the government will engage in proactive and collaborative efforts to ensure a brighter future for the stateless children. For a nation to be united, we must ensure that no one is left behind, especially in terms of education opportunities and access to healthcare. Civil society organisations must play a more significant role in 2021 to make sure the issues of people will be communicated to the government effectively so as to ensure that #NoOneIsLeftBehind. – New Malaysia Herald