By Yuet Mee Ho-Nambiar
On the morning of Malaysia turning 65, my thoughts naturally turn to how we are doing after so many decades of living together, in the midst of so many complex issues this nation is facing. Which made me imagine about what President John F Kennedy might say to us Malaysians on this day along the lines of his famous ‘Strategy of Peace’ address of June 10, 1963. This is my take on it, generously paraphrased, of course.
“I have chosen this time and this place to discuss a topic on which ignorance too often abounds and the truth is too rarely perceived–yet it is the most important topic on earth: world peace.
What kind of peace do I mean? What kind of peace do we seek? … I am talking about genuine peace, the kind of peace that makes life on earth worth living, the kind that enables men and nations to grow and to hope and to build a better life for their children–not merely peace for Malaysians but peace for all men and women–not merely peace in our time but peace for all time.
I realize that the pursuit of peace is not as dramatic as the pursuit of differences –and frequently the words of the pursuer fall on deaf ears. But we have no more urgent task.
Some say that it is useless to speak of peace and that it will be useless until other leaders adopt a more enlightened attitude. I hope they do. I believe we can help them do it. But I also believe that we must re-examine our own attitude–as individuals and as a Nation–for our attitude is as essential as theirs.
First, let us examine our attitude toward peace itself. Too many of us think it is impossible. Too many think it unreal. But that is a dangerous, defeatist belief. It leads to the conclusion that mankind is doomed–that we are gripped by forces we cannot control.
We need not accept that view. Our problems are manmade–therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable–and we believe they can do it again.
Let us focus on a practical, attainable peace– based not on a sudden revolution in human nature but on a gradual evolution in human institutions–on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements which are in the interest of all concerned. There is no single, simple key to this peace–no grand or magic formula to be adopted by one or two powers. Genuine peace must be the product of many peoples, the sum of many acts. It must be dynamic, not static, changing to meet the challenge of each new generation. For peace is a process–a way of solving problems.
With such a peace, there will still be quarrels and conflicting interests, as there are within families and nations. Community peace does not require that each man love his neighbour–it requires only that they live together in mutual tolerance, submitting their disputes to a just and peaceful settlement.
So let us persevere. Peace need not be impracticable, and differences need not be inevitable. By defining our goal more clearly, by making it seem more manageable and less remote, we can help all peoples to see it, to draw hope from it, and to move irresistibly toward it.
So, let us not be blind to our differences–but let us also direct attention to our common interests and to the means by which those differences can be resolved. And if we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the country safe for diversity. For, in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.
Wherever we are, we must all, in our daily lives, live up to the age-old faith that peace and freedom walk together. When freedom is incomplete, the peace is not secure.
Is not peace, in the last analysis, basically a matter of human rights–the right to live out our lives without fear of devastation–the right to breathe air as nature provided it–the right of future generations to a healthy existence? While we proceed to safeguard our national interests, let us also safeguard human interests.
We shall also do our part to build a country of peace where the weak are safe and the strong are just. We are not helpless before that task or hopeless of its success. Confident and unafraid, we labour on– toward a strategy of peace.”
Salam Merdeka, dearest fellow Malaysians.
Guided by personal ethics of ‘do more good’, Yuet Mee Ho-Nambiar has a long involvement with sustainability and community building activities. Belief in the oneness of humanity and the nobility of man underpins her interest in matters relating to unity and social cohesion of communities, while her background in a finance-related profession focuses her interest to the area of inclusive economics and development.
The views expressed here are that solely of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect that of Weekly-Echo’s.