12 May, 2007

All Races Must Progress Together

Malaysia will be safe and prosperous forever if all races are to advance together in the pursuit for progress without leaving any group to lag behind, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said today.

The Prime Minister said it was crucial for leaders of the respective races, especially among the Barisan Nasional (BN) component parties, to also consider the aspirations and interests of the other races when pursuing the interests of their own community.

"I feel happy when I hear leaders of parties representing other races also think about the positions of the other communities. Everybody understands that we are heading to the future with the same goal," he said

Abdullah said, although it appeared that there was competition among the component parties in pursuing the progress of their respective races, it was a good friendly competition in the BN which would yield benefits to all communities.

He said BN leaders, particularly in the cabinet, always gave importance to cordial inter-racial relations to discuss issues arising responsibly and to listen to views and opinions of all races.??

"We have a common destiny, we have a common struggle...the struggle for the future of Malaysia," he said, adding that Malaysia and the people are safe throughout the 50 years of independence.

Abdullah said the thrust of the time-tested cooperation in the BN was inter-racial understanding and tolerance to ensure harmony, mutual respect and co-exist peacefully.

"While we want the nation to progress, we don't want any race to lag far behind. This is very important...and must be our norm, a reminder for us forever," he said.

Abdullah said the cooperation concept had been the national policy to develop all races without letting any race to be left behind.

He said the concept of consultation and consensus was BN's recipe of strength as clearly reflected in the April 28 Ijok by-election.

The BN candidate from the MIC won in the keenly-fought contest, with a higher majority, garnering the support of the other races, especially the Malays, he said. Ijok is a Malay-majority seat.

The Prime Minister said the diversity in Malaysia must be nurtured into a pillar of strength that needed all communities to be careful in their actions.

"It teaches us to be cautious when taking an action. It is akin to all of us on a ship...if the ship springs a leak, all of us will be drowned," he said.

Abdullah also reiterated his emphasis on developing a strong human capital for the country's continued progress and to embrace the challenges ahead in the next 50 years.

"I believe if human beings are imparted with useful knowledge, good education, high integrity and moral ethics, physical strength and firmly uphold the Rukunegara...we'll emerge stronger in future," he said.

Abdullah said he had high confidence in the younger generation in continuing the struggles of their respective communities because many of them had ideas.

"I'm happy to see young people having ideas but it is our responsibility as the elders to remind them on the importance of preserving congenial ties among us," he said.

He said that it was the duty of everyone to remind the younger generation on how the country had progressed so far so that they would not be easily influenced by the extremists.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi on Friday said he was optimistic that Malaysia and Singapore would revisit plans to build a controversial bridge linking the two countries.

Malaysia last year ditched long-fought-over plans to build the bridge to replace an ageing causeway, saying Singapore's demands for airspace access and sand for reclamation projects in return for its agreement was unacceptable.

But speaking ahead of a bilateral meeting with his Singapore counterpart Lee Hsien Loong next week, Abdullah said both countries will be connected by more than one bridge in the future.

"I have said that one day I believe that between Malaysia and Singapore, there will be many more bridges like the ones between New York and Manhattan and in Korea," Abdullah told reporters.

While both countries have "a different approach" to the subject, eventually more bridges would have to be built to cope with the increasing traffic flow, said Abdullah.

He said he would approach the talks with Lee on May 15 on Malaysia's northern tourist island of Langkawi with "an open mind."

Construction of the bridge has been among a number of unresolved bilateral issues the two neighbours have squabbled over for years.

Others include the price of water supplied to Singapore, the future of Malaysian-owned railway land in Singapore and rival territorial claims to a rocky islet off Malaysia's southern Johor state.

Foreign Minister Syed Hamid Albar last week said bilateral ties between the two countries were "at their best" but noted outstanding matters that have dragged on for years.

Relations have often been stormy since Singapore left the Malaysian federation in 1965 over ethnic issues but they have undergone a marked improvement in recent years, especially in economic cooperation.

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