THE months of August and September are of utmost significance to Malaysians as we prepare to commemorate Merdeka Day on Aug 31 and Malaysia Day on Sept 16.
It is time again for Malaysians to spare a thought for the significance of Merdeka and what it means to us.
Occasions like these enable Malaysians to rekindle their patriotic spirit, which is essential for unity in a multiracial nation like ours.
Celebrating them would remind us of the contributions and sacrifices of those who secured our independence.
It also reminds us of the need for Malaysians to stand united in the face of whatever odds to defend our sovereignty and "territorial" integrity, more so in the wake of the Lahad Datu intrusion.
Merdeka celebrations should be a unifying force to bring people of diverse races together for a common goal and reinforce the foundations for a united Malaysian nation.
It is only appropriate for all Malaysians, irrespective of their political affiliation and differences, to focus on activities which will unite the people.
The private sector, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and voluntary bodies, youth and religious organisations can also help to organise events that will contribute to unity building.
Having said this, it does not mean that unity-building activities should only be carried out during Merdeka.
On the contrary, efforts towards unity should be ongoing. Unity in a multiracial country like ours should never be taken for granted. It has to be nurtured and promoted at all times.
Unity is the bond that seals our nationhood. It is the foundation upon which we build our relationships, our families, our communities and our nation.
As Malaysians commemorate the 56th Merdeka, allow me to stress once again the fundamentals that have brought us together, which are the principles contained in Rukun Negara.
Rukun Negara was formulated in 1970, and was laid out in order to achieve a form of minimum consensus with regard to national aspirations among the various communities in Malaysia, regardless of their geographical location or ethnic character.
Apart from achieving greater unity, maintaining a democratic way of life, creation of a just society, a liberal approach to cultural traditions, as well as building a progressive society oriented to modern science and technology, Rukun Negara also sets out a social guide based on the following principles;
BELIEF in God;
LOYALTY to the king and country;
UPHOLDING the Constitution;
RULE of law; and,
GOOD social behaviour and morality
These principles, which have enabled Malaysia to unite her multi-racial people and form the principles of our nationhood, should be embedded in our young generation who are the future leaders of this country.
Rukun Negara is our guide for nation-building, and should be respected by all citizens of the nation. It is a shared vision for national unity. Its principles should always be upheld and practised by all with the government taking the lead.
In the days ahead, the creation and sustenance of national unity must be given the highest priority for unity is vital to ensure the continued growth of Malaysia as a secure, peaceful, progressive and united nation.
Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, 1Malaysia Foundation trustee The New Straits Times Letters to the Editors 17 August 2013