On this day, the 31st of August, Malaysians celebrate Hari Merdeka (Independence Day) to commemorate the nation’s independence from the United Kingdom 63 years ago. In many ways, Hari Merdeka also serves as a day for Malaysians to reflect upon how far we have progressed as a nation since then.
Our drive for independence and self-determination began humbly in the shop houses, the rubber plantations and the fishing villages throughout the country. Multiethnic Malayans came together in 1957 to realize our dream of self-governance and independence from the United Kingdom. We were so successful as an independent country that the British authority decided in 1963 for Malaya to also include other British territories in the region namely Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. Singapore became independent from Malaysia two years later in 1965.
This year’s Hari Merdeka would be celebrated in a moderate and sombre manner as we recognise the devastating effect of the COVID-19 pandemic. The COVID-19 lockdowns had overwhelmingly impacted our livelihoods. Not only have we lost our loved ones, the resulting economic devastation has caused untold hardships to the thousands who have lost their jobs and source of income.
Despite all the hardships due to COVID-19, we are slowly getting back on track and learning to cope with the pandemic. The ‘new normal’ has been slowly infused into our daily routine. The positive side of this of course is that we are getting more conscious of the need for good hygiene and to not take anything for granted.
Hopefully in time, we can also celebrate our independence from COVID-19 in the near future.
I am thankful to the government of Sri Lanka for assisting Malaysians who were stranded in this country due to the COVID-19 restrictions. The close and warm co-operation has enabled the High Commission to repatriate those Malaysians without any hindrance. We, on the other hand, have also extended our co-operation to Sri Lanka in its efforts to repatriate its citizens from Malaysia.
Both Malaysia and Sri Lanka have done considerably well in curtailing the spread of COVID-19 in our respective countries. The low rate of infections and high number of patients who have recovered are testaments of our effective measures and our continuous investment into healthcare institutions. We are most grateful to the sacrifices and dedication of our front line health care workers. Hence, moving forward, both countries can look into ways to re-open our borders safely and resume normal trade so as to assist our people in getting back their livelihood.
Bilateral ties between Malaysia and Sri Lanka go back a long way and I am excited over the vast potential in store for us, which remain largely untapped. More can be done to further stimulate and enhance people to people contact, bilateral co-operation in tourism, education and economy are just a few examples.
Malaysia and Sri Lanka have also been co-operating very closely in the multilateral arena, through various international organisations such as the United Nations (UN), South-South co-operation and many more. I am confident our ties will grow stronger in the years to come.
I am truly thankful for this opportunity to pen a few words in conjunction with Malaysia’s Independence Day. I believe that there is room for both Malaysians and Sri Lankans to gain more knowledge, foster greater understanding as well as promote further interaction with each other. On the same note, I also would like to wish the Government and people of Sri Lanka all the best for their future, with the sincere hope that Sri Lanka would continue to grow and prosper.
Last but not least, I wish all Malaysians in Sri Lanka Selamat Hari Merdeka.