Today is widely hailed as Malaysia's 50th birthday (a.k.a 'Merdeka'). It's not. Malaysia as a political entity is 44 years old--it was created as a union of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore in 1963 (when the country changed its name from Malaya to Malaysia). Fortunately for Singapore, they got kicked out of the federation by Malaysia's ruling party UMNO ("U Must Not Oppose") in 1965, but Malaysia didn't revert to its original name.
Malaysia marked 50 years of independence Friday with dances and parades in a colorful show of ethnic unity that belied worsening race relations and growing fears about eroding minority rights. [Editor: well founded fears, I'd say]
"The struggle is for all Malaysians. We must ensure that no region or community is left behind. We will hold true to the concept of justice and fairness for all citizens," [Malaysian Prime Minister] Abdullah said. [Editor: HA!]
But racial equality remains a distant dream, say many observers, citing an affirmative-action program for the majority Malays and the pervasive influence of Islam in what founding fathers envisaged as a secular nation.