June 14, 2003

Racial Unity Should Not Be Taken For Granted

KUALA LUMPUR, June 13 (Bernama) -- The majority of the younger generation of Malaysians may not have experienced the bitter events of the May 13 racial riots but may have only read about them.
The fact is that the tragedy in 1969 has given the country its most valuable lesson on the importance of unity.
Unity and tolerance among the people of various races and religions have become the key to the country's success in development.
After 45 years of independence, has racial unity reached a level that is truly strong enough for realising the spirit of national integration? National Unity and Social Development Minister Datuk Dr Siti Zaharah Sulaiman said the level of unity among Malaysians should be improved.
"The level of unity in our country is still moderate and needs to be strengthened. If we do not make efforts to safeguard it, we can become weak again," she told a news conference on the Mega Unity 2003 celebrations recently.
It is with this realisation that the Mega Unity celebrations are being organised to replace the National Unity Day, which used to be held on Sept 16.
The Mega Unity celebrations will be launched by Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi at Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) on Sunday.
There has been a shift in the concept of the celebrations to drive home the "United We Stand" message, an idea not yet fully appreciated by the people.
The month-long celebrations involve the holding of various events to boost the spirit of unity among the people at various levels.
The events lined up include carnivals, seminars, lectures, community games, know-your-neighbour campaigns, unity gatherings, exhibitions, sports and "gotong royong" activities.
Three main events will be held at the national level -- "Kem Padu Anak Malaysia" (Malaysian Unity Camp), Mega Unity gathering at UPM and "Selera Perpaduan" (Taste of Unity) at Dataran Merdeka -- to foster unity and the spirit of love for the country.
The inaugural camp, which began on Wednesday, involves 1,200 "Jiran Muda" participants from throughout the country.
The Mega Unity event involving 15,000 people will include aerobics exercise, a netball competition, drawing and fishing contests and cultural presentations.
The Taste of Unity event is an occasion for the three major races -- Malays, Chinese and Indians -- to showcase their delicacies and rich heritage.
"We should tackle the issue of unity and problems on social values and not sweep them under the carpet," Dr Siti Zaharah said.