Once upon a time, in Malaysia, the majority of us were poorer, but we were happier.
Loud music from a live band, men and women happily mingling in the crowd, lots of laughter, lots of hair on show, and the inevitable dancing. These were common scenes at Malay weddings, during my youth.
Along came two politicians who tried to be more islamic than PAS. Why? It was because they wanted to woo Malay voters.
Today, in many Malay weddings, female guests are separated from their menfolk. Wedding guests arrive, eat and then leave. There is hardly any social interaction, fun or gaiety.
At school, in my youth, we shared makan during break. Our friendships were cemented over one tupperware of fried rice, and six spoons. Someone else would bring nasi lemak, another rice hoppers, others would bring kueh or cakes. Malay. Chinese. Indian or Eurasian. What could be more Malaysian?
Later, at secondary school, the studies did not stop us from making friends with boys in the sixth form. We did not care if our boyfriends were of a different race. We were more afraid that our parents would catch us holding hands, or find out that we had gone to see a film.
We formed our own revision groups, with Chinese girls who were good at mathematics and Indian girls whose English was excellent.
The winning sports teams were multi-racial.
Then came the two politicians. The schools and our lives, became their battle ground, and the smile faded from our faces.
Today, Malay teachers scold Malay pupils for sharing food with their non-Malay friends, during break. Non-Malay students cannot eat in the canteen during Ramadhan. Swimming suits and shorts are frowned upon. Quotas, on races, for sports are imposed.
In my youth, we got on fine, until politicians used race and religion to divide us. It was not perfect but we were not enemies.
Today, the politicians have hijacked our happiness with the misuse of the 2Rs (race and religion). Race and religion will destroy us, unless the politicians put a stop to it.
Older politicians should show responsibility and young politicians should grow-up, discover Malaysia’s multicultural past, and learn about a time when Merdeka had meaning.
When we are treated as equals, Malaysia will reach its true economic and social potential, and we will outperform our neighbours
You must speak out and tell your politicians to act; but you must also lead by example. Unity is forever, not just for 31 August.
Let us learn to have harmless fun and enjoy, once again.
Happy Merdeka Day.