Golden Merdeka gift

The Sun (Malaysia) - - FRONT PAGE - BY HAIKAL JALIL AND AIEZAT FADZELL

PETALING JAYA: It is a march of vic­tory and pride for high-spir­ited Malaysians to Dataran Merdeka today to cel­e­brate Na­tional Day. Na­tional fer­vour is at an all-time high a day af­ter Malaysia con­cluded its most suc­cess­ful SEA Games yes­ter­day.

What sets this year’s cel­e­bra­tion apart from the past is the ex­u­ber­ance and strong sense of pa­tri­o­tism sparked by the suc­cess­ful Malaysian con­tin­gent at the re­gional Games, which drew to a con­clu­sion just a day be­fore Merdeka Day.

Malaysia topped the medal tally, best­ing 10 na­tions by bag­ging 145 gold medals and leav­ing Thailand a dis­tant sec­ond by more than 70 medals.

What made the Games even more mem­o­rable was that the glo­ri­ous tri­umph was achieved on home ground, with 844 na­tional ath­letes haul­ing more than the tar­geted 111 gold medals.

The sport­ing event was without doubt a show of unity for Malaysians of var­i­ous back­grounds and be­liefs as they ral­lied to­gether in sup­port of na­tional he­roes such as Khairul Hafiz Jan­tan, N. Than­a­balan and Goh Jin Wei.

Malaysian foot­ball leg­end Datuk San­tokh Singh has al­ways re­garded sports as the best cat­a­lyst in boost­ing unity among Malaysians of di­verse back­grounds.

“Sports has al­ways been the medium to unite peo­ple, and the SEA Games has been suc­cess­ful in do­ing that,” he said.

“Many peo­ple from dif­fer­ent races and back­grounds have given their sup­port to the na­tion first be­fore think­ing about any­thing else,” San­tokh told theSun.

“Malaysia has reached its 111 gold medal tar­get, and we have ob­tained 145 gold medals. It is our best per­for­mance in the SEA Games, and the tremen­dous achieve­ment has helped a lot in hyp­ing up the Merdeka Day cel­e­bra­tions.”

San­tokh sug­gested that Malaysia con­tinue to bid for other in­ter­na­tional sport­ing events to re­in­force the na­tion­al­ism spirit.

“Events such as these should be con­tin­ued be­cause when we have some­thing to cheer, this is the time when your na­tion­al­ism spirit is height­ened.

“This is also the time we can see peo­ple from dif­fer­ent races sit­ting side by side in cheer­ing for their na­tion,” he said.

Min­is­ter in the Prime Min­is­ter’s Depart­ment Tan Sri Joseph Ku­rup agreed that the SEA Games had cre­ated “mo­ments of unity” for Na­tional Day.

He called for the mo­men­tum to be main­tained.

Ku­rup, who is in charge of na­tional unity, added that frac­tions or dis­unity would not oc­cur among Malaysians if they held true to the prin­ci­ples em­bed­ded in the Rukun Ne­gara.

High­light­ing sports as an im­por­tant mech­a­nism of unity, he said such games could elim­i­nate the dom­i­na­tion of one par­tic­u­lar eth­nic group, as well as con­tribut­ing to the “one na­tion, one vi­sion” spirit.

“Such in­stances was seen dur­ing the semi­fi­nal foot­ball match be­tween Malaysia and In­done­sia.

“I saw youths of var­i­ous races drink­ing to­gether in a ma­mak restau­rant to give their sup­port to the na­tional team,” he said.

“What’s even more pleas­ant was scenes of our younger gen­er­a­tion hug­ging each other at the vic­tory of our team.”

Ku­rup said such sport­ing events should be main­tained, es­pe­cially at the district and state level as it could in­cul­cate in­ter­ac­tion among the var­i­ous races.

Ger­akan vice-pres­i­dent Datuk Dr Asharud­din Ahmad said the tri­umphant sport­ing event serv­ing as a run-up to the Na­tional Day had in­deed cre­ated a “feel good fac­tor” in fos­ter­ing na­tional unity.

Asharud­din, who is also the party’s na­tional unity bureau chair­man, added that the SEA Games had brought Malaysians closer be­fore the Merdeka event.

“This is the time for us to con­tinue with the eu­pho­ria by say­ing no to racism, es­pe­cially with the vis­i­bly height­ened pa­tri­o­tism spirit among Malaysians af­ter the games,” he said.

It took 215 stu­dents two months to piece to­gether 8,000 co­conut shells to form this huge Jalur Gemi­lang for the Merdeka Day cel­e­bra­tions. The spe­cial flag will be pa­raded at Dataran Merdeka today.

... A spec­tac­u­lar dis­play of fire­works at the SEA Games clos­ing cer­e­mony last night at the Na­tional Sta­dium in Bukit Jalil. Prime Min­is­ter Datuk Seri Na­jib Ab­dul Razak along with ath­letes and of­fi­cials from 11 coun­tries who par­tic­i­pated in the Games were in at­ten­dance at the cer­e­mony. The next SEA Games will be held in the Philippines in 2019.

Speed skater (short track) Anja Chong lead­ing the pack in heat one of the women’s 1000m at MyNISS, Da­mansara yes­ter­day. She went on to win gold in the fi­nal.

San­tokh. Ku­rup. Asharud­din.

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