Many of us would recall the 2009 movie directed by Clint Eastwood entitled Invictus, a story based on the John Carlin book Playing the Enemy: Nelson Mandela and the Game That Made a Nation. It is about the events in South Africa before and during the 1995 Rugby World Cup, which was hosted in that country following the dismantling of apartheid. Unknown to many, long before the movie appeared, the word Invictus was associated with a popular poem from the late nineteenth century by the English author William Ernest Henley (Invictus is Latin for “unconquered”). The author of the poem proclaims his strength in the face of adversity of having lost a leg and at the verge of losing the other leg too due to tuberculosis. Nelson Mandela, a man who was imprisoned for twenty-seven years, had the vision to see that sports could be the ‘tool’ to unite a fragmented, polarised and isolated nation that had been severely divided by racial discrimination and to a large extent the success of the 1995 Rugby World Cup achieved some form of unity for the nation to build on.

With one day to go before the closing ceremony, Malaysia has achieved 277 medals (gold = 122, silver = 81, bronze = 74) in the 29th South East Asian Games, a number that has eclipsed the achievement of previous games. It has surely been a collective effort put in by all – athletes, coaches, and all those concerned with that sport. There is a feeling of satisfaction not just among the athletes but also among sport loving and non-sport loving Malaysians alike. Not only people are making their way to the different stadiums to watch these events live but also at home, people are watching on TV.

Malaysians from all walks of life are cheering our athletes and no one in the stadium is concerned with what racial ethnicity the athlete comes from… there is no talk about pendatang or bumiputra or even haram or halal. Fans in the stadiums are “high-fiving” total strangers, proudly holding the Malaysian flag together and cheering on our athletes. All that people see are Malaysians who are giving their best not just for themselves but for the sake of the country that they love. The effort that that has been put in training and now seeing the fruits is all down to a sense of patriotism and loyalty to the only country that most of us have ever known and call it, our home. It is this spirit of unity that Malaysia needs at this time when we often find ourselves being fragmented, polarised and isolated for political motives.

The SEA Games has shown once again that Malaysians can be united irrespective of our racial ethnicity and the small mindedness of irresponsible individuals seeking political expediency. Our ancestry may originate from different parts of the world but this is the only nation that most of us have known all our life – that is Malaysia and we are proud to be Malaysians. As we approach the 60th anniversary of our independence, there is no better time than now for us to reclaim that unity and the SEA Games can be the catalyst. There is no better proof than what we have witnessed at these games that we, Malaysians, are capable of uniting this nation.

If only those who govern us and the politicians have the vision of Nelson Mandela, then they need to ‘ride the wave’ now and build on this oneness shown by Malaysians. However, given the recent past, I am quite sceptical that they have the political will to do so. The sad reality is that the only way known to them is to ‘divide and rule’ and that is where we are now – fragmented, polarised and isolated.

For some reason the politicians are unable to unite this nation or have no will to do so, it is time that we Malaysians assume the mantle and show them that we refuse to be divided for political motives. In a speech to the House of Commons on 9 September 1941, Winston Churchill paraphrased the last two lines of the Invictus poem, stating “We are still masters of our fate. We still are captains of our souls.”  It is time that we Malaysians took our destiny into our hands and reject the small mindedness of our politics and show that we can be united not only by sports but in all other aspects of life. It is time to heal the divide and map our future together and not allow ourselves to be robbed of a united Malaysia – this is our Invictus, the Malaysian way. Demi negara yang tercinta, Malaysia… Selamat Hari Merdeka!