KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 28 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad published today a special video commemorating the National Day, with the prime minister drawing a warm smile as he recalled the country’s first Merdeka Day celebrations 62 years ago.
In the four-minute video. Dr Mahathir recounted the time when he was 37, relating the celebrations that took place back then as the nation celebrated its independence from the British and the challenges Malaysia faces next: tackling racism.
“That first Merdeka day, it was celebrated in the whole country,” he told a group of students in the video who was pictured as spotting him at a park in Presint 8 in Putrajaya, near his Perdana Leadership Foundation’s office.
Pressing him further, the students had asked why was it so important to celebrate August 31 every year since 1957.
“When we gained Independence, we can decide out own fate. We are our own administrators, and we can work towards developing the country.
“(The difference) is, we can choose our own government compared to before, during the British colonisation period, we had no say in the country’s governance.
“Everything was determined by them, for their own interest and not ours,” he said, referring to the British colonialists.
The students, who have not experienced Dr Mahathir’s tenure as the prime minister in 1981, had then asked, what was his greatest challenge as the prime minister this time around.
The nonagenarian replied with a chuckle: to prevent racism among the multi-ethnic society.
“What’s most challenging? We are a multiracial country. When we say something, we need to be sensitive with each and every race.
“What we do, we need to be sure that it does not incite racism,” he said.
When asked if the country is really independent, Dr Mahathir replied: “We are really independent. But these days, we are influenced by the information that we get. But we still have the character of a Malaysian, although there are presence of foreign influences,” he said.
He further described how the government is working towards making Malaysia a better country for youths, and that it was important that they too realise the current status of the country.
“They have to realise that, our country is a multiracial country and that they need to build ties between the different races.
“At the same, don’t provoke anger among any race,” he advised.
At the end of the conversation, Dr Mahathir, in a gesture all too familiar to those who have come in contact with him, obliged to a selfie request with the teenagers.
He then bid farewell to the giggling student and walked off as the video fades to black, seemingly symbolising the burden of responsibilities he has to bear as a prime minister and the future that has yet to be written by the next generation.
Malaysia will celebrate Malaya’s Independence this Saturday.