THE recent unfortunate developments arising from the KK Mart Kalimah Allah socks issue to the latest shoe logo seemingly resembling the word Allah and the damaging of temple deities have raised serious concerns about how much we have achieved or lost since independence.

Are we truly progressing towards a united nation based on the principle of mutual respect and trust among the diverse races or are we regressing? This is a question that the responsible political leadership of our country must seriously ponder over.

Malaysia was once well known for its rich diversity which we celebrated. We were a good example to other countries about living and progressing harmoniously.

Except for the May 13, 1969 tragedy and a few other occasions when there were misunderstandings among some sections of the population in a few areas, our country and its people generally celebrated our diversity.

We mixed freely, had similar experiences in schools, visited each other’s homes, celebrated all the different festivities and shared food in common eating areas. We were respectful of each other’s religions and exercised tolerance over differences in colour or creed.

Over the years, I have witnessed how national disasters have brought together Malaysians to help victims and families. We celebrated when our national sportsmen and sportswomen made us proud of their achievements. We had unity in diversity and we celebrated it in a spirit of give and take.

Left to themselves, the people are generally accommodative, tolerant and helpful. We see Malaysians, especially rescue workers, nurses and ordinary folk in multiracial neighbourhoods helping each other, especially during hard times and other humanitarian issues.

For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, the rakyat – regardless of race, colour, creed, location or vocation – were united in the face of common hardships.

Over time, however, we have seen an erosion of that unity, fuelled mainly by political expediency.

What we are now seeing is polarisation and segregation, and we seem to be more intolerant of our differences.

Our political leadership must halt that trend and create a truly multiracial nation based on mutual respect, justice and universal values.

We cannot bring back our old political environment but we can bring back our old multiracial spirit and compassion. For that, we need inclusive politics and responsible politicians to develop the economy and help advance common and universal values while downplaying our differences.

Together, let us embrace our diversity, celebrate our differences and work towards a Malaysia where every individual is valued and respected, regardless of race or religion.

We were jubilant when we received independence 66 years ago. We celebrated together and were united in our diversity.

We still have the same diversity. Let us continue to have the same spirit.