We, each of us, are a thread making up a larger design, but look closely enough and you will see that each thread still retains its own qualities.Integration, not assimilation. Malaysia is built on the premise that the identity of each community must be preserved and protected, rather than allowing the culture of the majority to extinguish others. But of these, economic fairness has perhaps been the most visible and the most debated. We recognised long ago that without specific state intervention, enormous inequalities would fester among the people; inequalities intensified along ethnic lines. From this recognition came the New Economic Policy, with its twin objectives of eradicating poverty, regardless of race, and eliminating the identification of ethnicity with economic function.
Our efforts in this regard are now seen as visionary and far-sighted, as socio-economic disparities widen throughout the world and pose a grave threat to global peace and stability. The country's pursuit of economic fairness continues today, for example, in the approach of corridor development. The effort to spread development more consistently beyond the Klang Valley is underlined by the same basic principles, which are to eradicate poverty and to provide people with the opportunity to better their lives through employment, business and education. These efforts must reach everyone. Our pursuit of economic fairness is not without its lessons. For example, in implementing poverty eradication programmes, regardless of race, care must be taken to follow through word with deed.
No family, no matter their racial origin, can be allowed to live below the poverty line. And in implementing affirmative action, the principle of fairness must be upheld in all senses of the word. We do not believe that any Malaysian is against helping underprivileged groups, but people want to see opportunity followed by hard work, not shortcuts or rents. People also want opportunities to be given to those most in need. Moving forward, as we refine and sharpen these policies, this quality of fairness must be seen to prevail, and must prevail in dealing with issues of poverty, education and income irrespective of race. Secondly, we see the emphasis on responsibility, particularly to each other, as an integral value of the nation.
In this age of relative affluence and stability, we sometimes forget that there are many groups within the country, each with its own set of demands; each with their own set of sensitivities. These differences are very real, yet we do not descend into sheer, unmitigated chaos. Why? Because we think there are enough of us who do not forget, who know and remember our complexity.Those who do not forget understand that our situation demands balance, conscientiousness, a sense of accountability to the whole rather than the few.For us, this characterises a true Malaysian. A true Malaysian understands the impact of careless words and actions. A true Malaysian is aware of who will be provoked into retaliation and who will actually suffer the consequences.Because of this, a true Malaysian will try to be judicious in word and deed, even when striving for change.
The value of responsibility is as important today as it was in 1957 or 1969. If we are to evolve into a society that can live with media freedom, public debate or public shows of expression, the value and the burden of responsibility must lie with the ordinary people, not just with those who manage the country. If the choice is between public safety and public freedoms, We do not hesitate to say here that public safety will always win. We will not sacrifice our sense of accountability to the greater public, especially in the face of police intelligence about planned fighting or other violent intent. We must never, ever, take our peace for granted. We must continue to be responsible to each other. The third value we see guiding our efforts all these years, especially in our darkest days, is self-belief. Many of the doctrines and measures we have undertaken fly in the face of popular thinking, from the New Economic Policy in 1970 to capital controls during the Asian financial crisis.
We held fast through massive criticism and doubt, and this trust in ourselves has paid off. On the international stage, we consistently punch above our weight, from speaking up for developing countries to hosting international events, to chairing international groupings. Deep down, we know that "Malaysia boleh". We know that we have a lot to offer despite our youth and our size. we know that we are more than able to lead. For us and our children, the sense of self-belief is crucial as we step into a time of greater competition, global economic change and high commodity prices.The requirements for survival and success evolve through the ages, but it is now evolving very rapidly. Make no mistake, it will be a challenging time for us all. We not only need to cope and adjust, we must triumph over the changes required of us. But with faith and determination, we will continue to prevail. If we stay committed to giving our best, if we hold ourselves to the highest standards of excellence, we will succeed.
Fairness, responsibility, self-belief. These values are embodied in the country's policies and achievements throughout the last 50 years and we believe, with time and experience, that it will characterise us as a people. For these are values that guarantee sustained unity and continued progress. These are values that we would want for ourselves and our families, not only as citizens of Malaysia but also as human beings. Of course, these matters are far from settled; the quest to find what we stand for is the work of many generations.But in the final analysis, we can agree on one thing: that we love this blessed land. We love its diversity and its eccentricities. This is the only country we have, the only place where we feel truly at home, and we want it to succeed.So let us begin with fairness, responsibility and self-belief. Let us understand and appreciate the meaning of these values and start upholding them together.Everyone -- leaders, political parties, companies, NGOs, people from all walks of life. Let us start building our hearts and minds as we enter into our next 50 years as a nation. This is the long-term project for Malaysia's future, for which we truly pray for success and for God's blessings and protection.