Anwar’s two reassuring speeches yesterday that he will focus on the Malaysia returning to the basics where the people know what is right and wrong, how to unite Malaysians in a plural society, and what should be the Malaysian Dream of all Malaysians

I attended two Chinese New Year (CNY) events in Penang yesterday — one the CNY Open House of the Penang Chief Minister, Chow Kon Yeow at SPICE, and the other Kenduri Rakyat Bersama Perdana Menteri in Bukit Mertajam — where the Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim was the main speaker.

What Anwar said at both events were reassuring to Malaysians that the 10th Prime Minister would focus on Malaysia returning to the basics where the people knew what was right and wrong, how to unite as Malaysians in a plural society, and what should be the Malaysian Dream of all Malaysians.

At both the functions I attended, there was hope in the air — that Malaysia could have a better tomorrow, and may even fulfil the aspirations of the Bapa Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, to be “a beacon of light in a difficult and distracted world”.

The black despair of Malaysians that Malaysia will degenerate into a divided, failed, and kleptocratic state in the coming decades had given way to tentative hopes that Malaysia’s tomorrow will be better.

This national mood tallied with the study in 28 countries by global communications firm Edelman which was released during the World Economic Forum in Davos.

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2023 finds that four in 10 Malaysian respondents said that the country is “more divided today than in the past”.

The fieldwork for 2023 Edelman Trust Barometer was conducted between November 1 and 28 last year with an average of 1,150 respondents for the online survey from each of the 28 countries studied.

The Edelman Trust Barometer 2024 will be a verdict as to whether the Anwar unity government had succeeded in its mission to create greater unity among the multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious, and multi-cultural population and create a better Malaysia.

Just as it is too late for the Anwar unity government to do anything to influence the Transparency International (TI) Corruption Perception Index (CPI) 2022, as it will be be released worldwide in a week’s time on January 31, 2023, the TI CPI 2023 report will be a verdict on Anwar unity government’s anti-corruption efforts.

In his speech in Bukit Mertajam last night, Anwar spoke of his primary school days in Permatang Pauh when here was not a single graduate in the area but he was taught what was right and wrong, and what was proper conduct to be a useful and productive citizen.

I was reminded of my school days in Batu Pahat when we became Malayans and later Malaysians, not Chinese, Malays, Indians, Kadazans, or Ibans.

During my school days, there was no ethnic, linguistic, religious, or cultural separateness but the consciousness that we must build unity in diversity of our different identities to achieve a common national identity.

We celebrated all ethnic and religious festivities, whether Hari Raya, Chinese New Year, Deepavali, or Christmas, and in the class magazines which we started, we even tried to ensure that all the languages were represented.

I remember when I was in Form I in 1955, together with Tan Tik Seng and Goh Chay Foo, we cycled from Batu Pahat to Malacca (spending a night in Muar) in what was then regarded as an unusual school holiday expedition, and during the whole trip, what engrossed us was the first Asian-African Conference being held in Bandung, Indonesia.

The Afro-Asian conference in Bandung marked the rise of Asia and Africa from the hegemony of the West as it was the first time that the voices of Asia and Africa were being heard over the voices of the colonialists and the West in global affairs, and it was attended by leaders like Zhou En-Lai of China, Nehru of India, Nasser of United Arab Republic (UAR), U Nu of Burma, Kwame Nkrumah of then Gold Coast and later Ghana.

Among the things we should do for Malaysia to return to the basics is to reset the nation-building process to ensure that our schools teach the new generation of Malaysians to be Malaysians, and not just to be Malays, Chinese, Indians, Kadazans, Ibans or Muslims, Buddhists. Hindus, Christians.

As Anwar said at the CNY Open House: “We do not choose to be Malay, Chinese, Indian, Sabahan or Kadazan, so, we have to accept this as a strength to unite all of us.”

The country needs the commitment of all Malaysians to ensure that Malaysia return to basics, that we reset and return to the nation-building principles which the nation’s founding fathers have written into the Constitution and Rukun Negara — constitutional monarchy, parliamentary democracy, separation of powers, rule of law, an independent judiciary, Islam as the official religion of the country, good governance, public integrity with minimum corruption, a clean and honest government, meritocracy, respect for human rights, an end to the various injustices and inequalities in the country, a world-class economic, educational, health and social system, and national unity, understanding and harmony from our multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious, and multi-cultural diversity.

If the Anwar unity government can successfully return Malaysia to the basics, reset, and return to the original nation-building principles of the nation’s founding fathers, then there is an opportunity to restore Malaysia as a first-rate world-class nation on Malaysia’s Centennial in 2057.

Lim Kit Siang DAP Veteran