A reproduction of lawyer-activist-restaurateur-with-a-heart’s letter to the editor in the Star on 3 September 2011 here.

I read “Let’s celebrate Sept 16 for its significance” (The Star, Sept 2) and fully agree with columnist Wong Sai Wan that we should celebrate Malaysia Day, which marks the formation of our country.

I have often admired the way the Americans celebrate their Independence Day on July 4 with barbeques, picnics and family gatherings.

I often wonder why we don’t do the same here in Malaysia. We have an official parade on Merdeka Day and some patriotic flag-waving and that’s about it.

Most Malaysians would rather take the opportunity to go on holiday overseas, or go shopping at the malls.

An occasion to remind ourselves of what makes this a wonderful country, to connect with our fellow Malaysians, and to forge a common destiny is lost.

An opportunity to be thankful for our independence and sovereignty is forgotten.

My friend Eddin Khoo would say this is because we don’t have “a common language of nationhood” – we did not have to really struggle together for our independence. Malaysia is unique in that it is made up of diverse peoples, with diverse histories, cultures, religions, and races, which makes it even more difficult to achieve national unity.

I am an optimist, and I believe each of us has a part to play in nation-building. Yes, this is far from a perfect country, but we must make the most of our situation.

We have to start by looking at the cup as being half full rather than being half empty.

Let’s be thankful for our wonderful diversity of culture, race, religion – which gives us this delicious rojak of food, arts, architecture, clothing, etc.

Let’s be thankful that we live in a country unscarred by war and unburdened by natural disasters.

Let us celebrate all that is good about this country. Let us work together to make this country better and fairer for all. Let us treat each other with respect, sincerity and compassion.

It is said that “men did not love Rome because she was great. She was great because they had loved her”. Let us love our country.

It was with these thoughts in mind that my friends and I celebrated Malaysia Day last year by organising a street festival at Bangkung Row, Bangsar, where we had food stalls, NGO booths, cultural performances, talks, art exhibitions etc.

This Sept 16, we will again celebrate Malaysia Day at Bangkung Row, with a series of talks and discussions on topics such as: “The Voices of the Moderates”, “Constructed Landscapes” (a talk by artists Anurendra Jegadeva and Yee I-Lann), “In Bed with Malaysia – Exposing the Rakyat’s Sexuality”, “Prejudice and Stereotyping”, “Conversation on Culture with Farish Noor and Eddin Khoo”, “Found in Malaysia”, “Malaysian Writing in English”, “Undi Malaysia”, “Environmental Debate”, etc.

We will also be having Malaysian food and handicraft stalls, over 20 NGO booths, and wonderful performances such as dikir tewas with 100 performers all the way from Kelantan (with the legendary Daud Bukit Abal), Sabahan and Sarawakian dances, Orang Asal nose flute performance, acrobatic lion dance, local singers (including Amirah Ali and Azmyl Yunor), and a grand Jom Joget party with the famous Rozells from Penang (singing P. Ramlee, Jimmy Boyle, Teresa Teng, etc, tunes) to end the evening.

Do come and join us in celebrating Malaysia Day at Bangkung Row.

I hope all Malaysians will start their own Malaysia Day celebrations, whether it is a street party in your neighbourhood or a pot luck dinner at home with family and friends or lighting a candle for peace in our country.

What is important is that we take the opportunity to celebrate this wonderful country, and all that is good and wonderful about it.

Selamat Hari Malaysia.

ED SOO, Petaling Jaya

Ed refuses to be defined by words. He is inspired by the words of Emerson in Representative Man: “We too must write Bibles, to unite again the heavens and the earthly world. The secret of genius is to...