Bring back the spirit of unity and respect for each other

After the May 13, 1969 incident, there had been a curfew but I cannot remember for how long. I recall going back to school and meeting my friends like nothing had happened.

The Rukun Negara was introduced soon after and the declaration of its five principles was made on Aug 31, 1970. It has been 50 years.

I was just over nine years old during the May 13 incident but I was well aware that something had gone wrong – that people were fighting and injuring and killing one another. I was living in the heart of George Town, Penang and had seen first-hand some scary incidents.

I also vaguely recall doing the marketing for the family on certain days when the curfew was relaxed for a few hours. Somehow, I had been entrusted that task at such a young age.

The market was just a couple of hundred metres away from our home. Everything seemed normal when I was out. But behind that “normal” scenario, unimaginable horrors were going on.

I also vaguely recall the siren from the nearby police station to alert people that they had to be back in their homes by a certain time.

When we returned to school, I was among the few (I cannot remember how many) chosen to represent Westlands Primary School at a gathering at a nearby school.

There were hundreds of children in that school hall and we had all been given the miniature Malaysian flag.

Some announcements were made and then we all stood to sing a patriotic song (I think it was Saiful Bahari’s Muhibbah) while waving our flags. It felt so good.

Life went on after that. My friends and I never spoke about what had gone wrong, why people had fought, etc. We just knew we were still friends and nothing had changed in that sense.

Many of us are still in touch today thanks to the wonders of technology. We call each other bro because that’s what we are – brothers (and sisters) in this beloved land.

As I’ve written above, I don’t recall much of a lot of things but one thing I will remember is unity and respect for each other will always be the way forward.

There’s talk of introducing Rukun Negara in schools – by setting up clubs or as a subject – to inculcate the spirit of patriotism which seems lost on many now.

This is not the first time such a proposal has been made over the years. Let’s hope it sees fruition this time.

The Rukun Negara:

Belief in God

Loyalty to King and Country

Supremacy of the Constitution

Rule of Law

Good Behaviour and Morality

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