KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 16 — With over three-quarters of adults fully vaccinated and the number of new deaths and infections back on a downward trend, it feels like there is finally a light at the end of this very dark Covid-19 tunnel, as Malaysia turns 58 today.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri recently mooted the concept of Keluarga Malaysia, or Malaysian Family, to remind Malaysians that we need to work together to make sure we are safe and secure during this very difficult time.
But what does it really mean to be part of a Malaysian Family and what do Malaysians wish for in such a relationship?
This Malaysia Day, Malay Mail asked a few Malaysians just what it takes for them to feel like a family:
Abdul Azim Khor Abdullah, 50, draughtsman from Perak
I believe I am a part of Keluarga Malaysia as Malaysia is where my heart is. There is harmony here, the people respect each other despite the differences in religion and race.
I find that respect is the most important thing about maintaining harmony. We are free to mingle among different ethnic groups without discrimination.
My hope for Malaysia is for this harmony to continue and for everyone to always follow the rule of law. I also hope for more inclusivity and awareness for people of different abilities such as people like me.
I am hearing-impaired but my disability is not apparent and we are often sidelined and forgotten.
We still have a long way to go for all Malaysians to be more aware of the needs of people with different abilities and for people like us to be included in everything from development plans to simple matters such as proper means of communication at government offices.
Danny Danabalan, 36, director of sales who is currently in Singapore
To me the concept of Keluarga Malaysia brings back memories of growing up as a child in a diverse neighbourhood. One of my best memories are the evenings playing different games with kids from different background without any form of discrimination — just kids having fun.
The reintroduction of this concept is timely. If there’s anything we have learnt from this pandemic is that we are stronger together.
Let’s go back to the purity of a child — less judgement on ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. We owe it to the nation to put aside our differences and come together as one to realise the nation's full potential.
Megan Steven, 30, entrepreneur from Kota Kinabalu
As a transgender woman, all I want from a family is inclusivity. To be accepted for who we are. My gender does not define my capabilities or the person I am inside.
“Family” does not necessarily mean those that are related by blood. “Family” can be anyone who loves you, respects you, and accepts you for who you are regardless of gender.
My hope is that the Malaysian family is a community that cares for each other and helps each other despite differences in background and gender expression.
I’m happy that there’s been some positive changes in attitude the past 10 years towards the minority in Malaysian society, but we still have a long way to go.
Rachel Chin, 66, retiree from Kuala Lumpur
Whenever returning home to Malaysia by flight, it’s so nostalgic to hear the greetings from the cabin crew: “For Malaysians, welcome home... and selamat kembali ke tanah air.”
As in all families, the bond of love is so strong that no matter what happens all problems are easily solved with a hug or a hand shake. Peace and tolerance go hand in hand for everyone.
All members of a family are colour-blind. Meaning there is no race discrimination. When in trouble there’s always somebody we can turn to for assistance.
Tok Batin Anjang Alang, 54, school bus driver from Kampung Orang Asli Chadak, Ulu Kinta
When we first got our Independence in 1957, there was never any sort of division among the people. But over the years, people in the country were divided based on economy, ethnicity, culture, religion and politics.
I hope the Keluarga Malaysia concept will bring back the unity we forged together. Politicians and leaders, whether they’re from the government or Opposition, should do away with their political differences.
This Covid-19 pandemic has taught us so many things. I believe it has paved the way for unity. We can see people helping each other regardless of their race or religion during this pandemic.
This has to be maintained under Keluarga Malaysia. Only through such spirit can we bring back the unity and harmony in the country.
Fatin Nabihah Razali, 26, draughtsman from Kuala Lumpur
As a multi-ethnic country, Keluarga Malaysia shows that we are one despite being different in race and religion.
I wish to see that we can all embrace each other without having to identify one another based on colour or race. As a family, we must accept who our siblings are.
So if we want this concept to succeed we need to be as one. Let's hope we can kick out racism and smash bigotry.
Pheong Kar Yu, 41, farmer from Ipoh
For me the concept of Keluarga Malaysia is already in the hearts of all Malaysians. Despite our differences, we will always unite when it comes to sports, food and time of emergencies. Many times we have seen the entire nation come together to support and cheer our national athletes.
When it comes to food, we can see people from all backgrounds enjoy the variety of cuisine we have in the country. Also whenever there is an accident, we can see people helping each other regardless of their race and religion. The concept of “family” is already there.
What I hope from the government and politicians is to preserve this and not damage it for their own political interests. What I understand is that the Keluarga Malaysia is not only referring to the people, but also includes all leaders and politicians.
What I have seen through this pandemic is that the people have united, now we need the politicians to follow suit. I hope the new government will focus on tackling this Covid-19 pandemic under Keluarga Malaysia.
Siti Zubaidah Mohd Lani, 39, sign language interpreter from Kelantan
I believe I am part of Keluarga Malaysia because I hold strongly to the principles of patriotism with a strong love for our country. We need to always protect our country by maintaining our peace and harmony.
My hope for the country is to remain harmonious, to refine our laws to make sure our peace and harmony will not be destroyed and to ensure there is inclusivity for the disabled community with laws ensuring they get equal opportunities for employment and education.
Previously, there were laws compelling employers to hire a minimum percentage of disabled persons but there is no enforcement and now, many companies do not hire disabled persons.
Pavinya Ramachandran, 20, student and underwater hockey player at 2019 SEA Games
To me, living among Keluarga Malaysia would mean being unafraid to be ourselves. For example, I'd love to see more people not be ashamed of communicating in their mother tongues when surrounded by people of other races.
Like, I've seen people get stereotyped for speaking in their mother tongue, which shouldn't be happening.
Another thing that makes me feel like I'm part of a large Malaysian family is how my neighbourhood is filled with people from different backgrounds and cultures and during festive seasons I get to try their traditional food. It's these simple gestures that can break barriers and bring us closer.
I would also love to see an equal amount of support towards all races in the sports sector. I love how during athlete camps and international competitions we cheer for our athletes when we see the Malaysian flag on them, even when we don't know who that is. Sports is something that brings us all together.
Sadiq Asyraf Mohd Yusof, 29, photographer from Shah Alam
The concept of Keluarga Malaysia is very appropriate in this time of pandemic with many facing loss of income and increasing mental health cases. This concept can be applied by always strengthening ties with neighbours and looking out for each other.
In our respective communities, we should support the businesses of the small entrepreneurs who have been affected for over a year now.
As a Malaysian family, we will be more appreciative of all the efforts from all parties to fight Covid-19 in this country. Keluarga Malaysia should not merely be in name only and should be instilled in our hearts and together we can fight whatever that comes at us.
Rekan Ligong, 32, civil servant from Sarikei in Sarawak
My idea of Keluarga Malaysia is to see all Malaysians accept and respect each other irrespective of our ethnic, racial or even religious backgrounds.
As Malaysians, our strength lies in our diversity. However, it is sad that we are still bogged down by minor incidents created by certain individuals to divide us as Malaysians.
Being a native Iban and Sarawakian, we have long practised tolerance and progressiveness when it comes to such matters.
For Keluarga Malaysia to work, we need to learn to accept our diverse backgrounds and unite together for the sake of nation building.
* The responses have been edited for clarity and brevity. Malay Mail wishes all our readers a meaningful Malaysia Day.