As a child educated in a Malaysian school, the Rukun Negara (National Principles), the timetables, and Jata Negara (coat of arms of Malaysia) were printed on our Buku Latihans (exercise book). When I was in school, I often thought to myself the only useful thing was timetables -“12 x 6” was hard for a 7-year-old without a lil’ cheat sheet. Since we celebrate Malaysia’s Independence in August, it got me thinking about our past, present, and future as a nation. Those who were in power in 1969 used the Rukun Negara as a tool to foster unity among the various races in Malaysia, in reaction to the race riot known as the 13 May Incident. Now that it’s 2021, with the current state of Malaysia and what’s going on around the world, we, as a country, should focus on our Rukun Negara to work towards a more unified and maturing Malaysia.
To uphold an idea is to know what it means. I begin asking myself how many of us Malaysians really know what the Rukun Negara means? Is it relevant in our daily lives? Do we uphold? In school, we were taught to recite and memorise. I would recite the Rukun Negara every Monday, during Perhimpunan (school assembly) - and still have no idea what it means. Heck, it was even in our Primary Four Kajian Tempatan syllabus. As I sat and pondered on my desk at work with my colleagues, I asked them these questions.
Though I was impressed with some of their abilities to recall the exact words of our Rukun Negara, none of them really knew what it meant. So I did some research. These were the five principles that were instituted by The Royal Proclamation on Merdeka Day in layman's terms.
- To believe in God
- To be loyal to the King and country
- To recognise the power of the constitution
- To recognise the supreme power of the law
- To be courteous and decent
I come from a household that taught the principle of chewing with my mouth closed and to be kind to everyone. As I analyse every line of our national principles, I can only try my best to explain it in an all-encompassing methodology that would fit in my day-to-day life. First, is to believe that there’s something bigger than us. When we believe in something greater than ourselves, and that we are part of that story - our life, our work, and our daily decisions become more meaningful. Second, is to be loyal, it is a moral responsibility as we promote and protect the interests of others. Being a loyal person is a great quality in general. It shows you can be counted on, dependable, and faithful to someone or something. For the third and fourth principle, is to respect boundaries whether it is within yourself or something bigger such as the law and constitution. This is to protect us and for mutual preservation. Lastly, although it is easier said than done, it is just to be a good person, plain and simple.
If I were amongst the people in the crowd when Tunku Abdul Rahman (known as the Father of Malaysia) gave his iconic Merdeka speech in 1957, I would be well over 70 years old today, but I digress. I wonder if these principles would have a deeper effect on me, if I were there in person. Would it resonate better than the printed words on our buku latihan? Would these principles be woven into my values more? I probably wouldn’t be just memorising the principles for the sake of memorising them but actually truly understand and integrate them into my daily life.
Perhaps these are just words strung together by those before us, who had faced adversity of being colonised by foreign powers, being at war etc. Which is something we can never fathom in these modern times. But I know that times are tough for us Malaysians. If each and every one of us took the time to understand why our founding fathers looked to these principles to unite us during those hard times, maybe each of us, no matter the race, status, age, class, and religion would consider looking to these values and incorporate them into our daily lives. Because if you look at the core of it, none of these values can be twisted in a bad way. If they were executed with good intentions and we learn to empathise with others. Should all of us uphold these values, maybe Malaysia could be a force to be reckoned with on the world’s stage.
As a Malaysian, I know for a fact that we don’t just survive in the face of adversity, we prevail. We are Malaysians, maka kami rakyat Malaysia akan menumpukan seluruh tenaga dan usaha kami untuk mencapai kejayaan. (so we will focus our whole energy and efforts to achieve success). And this year more than others, let’s return to our roots and learn to live out our Rukun Negara for the sake of our country and one another.
Happy Birthday Malaysia!