Malaysia Takes Pride in Racial, Religious Harmony

January 29, 2007

Source: The Star

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's celebration of 50 years of independence from Britain will show how the nation has moved past the divide-and-conquer politics and backward agricultural economy of the colonial era, officials said Monday.

The Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry released a schedule of concerts, film festivals, publication launches, ceremonies and exhibits ahead of National Day on Aug. 31 to show the country's success in cultivating racial harmony and financial stability.

"Malaysia has reached a stage where our society has made progress that can be described as excellent ... with a democratic leadership,'' Culture Minister Rais Yatim said at a news conference.

The government has constantly reminded Malaysians that it has not been easy, since the nation's independence in 1957, to transform what was once an ethnically riven backwater into one of Southeast Asia's most prosperous and peaceful countries, with high-rise cities and a vibrant manufacturing sector.

Malaysia's colonial legacy dates back to the early 1500s, when the Portuguese and Dutch wrested control of Malay strongholds, traditionally ruled by Muslim sultans.