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Malaysia takes pride in racial, religious harmony as it marks 50 years of independence

Malaysia takes pride in racial, religious harmony as it marks 50 years of independence

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 trumpet 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.
The British began taking over in the 1820s. Soon, shiploads of Chinese and Indian migrants landed in peninsular Malaysia, then called Malaya, for trade and employment.
Malaysian history books teach that the British used a "divide and rule" system, keeping majority Malay Muslims in rice fields, Chinese in urban businesses and Indians on rubber plantations.
Tensions lingered after independence over racial divisions and a reliance on agriculture that kept poverty high. Things boiled over in 1969 when riots, sparked by Malay frustration over the ethnic Chinese minority's economic clout, killed about 200 people.
The government has since used affirmative action policies to help Malays _ nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 26 million people _ in areas like government jobs, housing, bank loans and contracts.
The Culture Ministry said this year's celebrations will show how far society has evolved, with musicians and dancers from different ethnic groups performing to "reflect the lives of the various races in Malaysia that are always united."
Cabinet ministers will join nationwide prayer ceremonies for the Malays, and for the Chinese and Indian minorities who mostly follow Buddhism, Christianity and Hinduism, the ministry said.


Updated : 2020-12-04 23:19 GMT+08:00