Malaysians must ensure that Malaysia does not end up like Sri Lanka, one of the most prosperous Asian nations more than half a century ago but which took a wrong turn in nation-building and is now virtually a failed state

During my schooldays in Batu Pahat in the fifties, Ceylon (which later changed its name to Sri Lanka in 1972 after becoming a republic) was one of the most prosperous countries in Asia, more developed than many Asian countries like Thailand, South Korea, India, Pakistan and Burma.

But it took a wrong turn in nation-building policies and today after more than half a century later, it is on the verge of becoming a failed state.

It has defaulted on its foreign debts for the first time since its independence, and the country’s 22 million people are facing crippling 12-hour power cuts and an extreme scarcity of food, fuel and other essential items, such as medicines.

Inflation is at an all-time high of 17.5 per cent, with prices of food items such as a kilogram of rice soaring more than six times and a 400g packet of milk powder increasing its price more than four times.

CNN reported: “Surgery by mobile phone light and reusing catheters: Sri Lanka's economic woes push hospitals to the brink of disaster”.

Malaysians must learn where Sri Lanka went wrong, for instead of peace, unity, prosperity and progress for all Sri Lankans, there was only strife, suffering, division and even civil war in Sri Lanka – and now, a failed state.

Malaysia was another country with great promise at the last mid-century. But in the past half-a-century, Malaysia lost out to Taiwan, South Korea, Singapore and Vietnam. Will we lose out to more countries, even to Indonesia and the Philippines, come 2,040 or 2,050?

Can we save Malaysia from the fate of another Sri Lanka?

This is the challenge and mission of the new generation of Malaysian youths.

When I became DAP Secretary-General in 1969, the average age of DAP Central Executive Committee (CEC) members was about 34 years old. We began as a very youthful party and why in our early days, there was no need for a youth wing for the whole DAP party was basically a youth movement.

Now, the average age of the new DAP CEC elected and co-opted members is 49 years old, still a comparatively youthful party.

But we have to be more conscious of the role of the young and the old in the struggle to make Malaysia a world-class great nation – and in particular to ensure space where Malaysians from 18 to 21 years can play their role in the making of the Malaysian nation.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri