Thursday, September 17, 2009

KLue: Happy Birthday, Negaraku: How to celebrate Malaysia Day

Happy Birthday, Negaraku: How to celebrate Malaysia Day

Wednesday, 16/09/09 - 16:44PM Filed in Blog by zedeck | Views: 470 | Comments: 4
Tags: kl, kuala lumpur, malaysia, Malaysia Day

Let's engage in some mental time travel. Go back one year, exactly: it's 16 September 2008. By that point, everyone knew that Opposition Leader Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim's promised fall of the status quo would not happen. A feeling of tense imminence prevailed, nevertheless.

Ahem. You don't remember any of that, do you? Don't worry. Few Malaysians do.

Why did Anwar choose this particular date? Time machine go! It is now 16 September 1963. The people of North Borneo and Brooke's Sarawak, having negotiated over terms, had finally acceded to their inclusion into nationhood with Malaya and Singapore.

It was on this date - and not 31 August 1957 - that the Malaysian federation was born.

We on the peninsula are prone to forget this detail. No wonder: we celebrate Merdeka with great fanfare - but Malaysia Day is not even a public holiday. Needless to say, there are no official celebrations of 16 September in KL, today. (There's a forum in Selangor.) The Klang Valley editions of English-language dailies The Star and New Straits Times don't even mention Malaysia Day anywhere on their front pages.

(Instead, they announce Prime Minister Dato' Seri Najib Razak's decision to spend an annual USD40,000,000 for a 1Malaysia F1 team.)

Officially, we disregard the inclusion of a majority of Malaysia's landmass. No wonder East Malaysians identify themselves by state first and nationality second; we treat Sabah and Sarawak like colonies.

So what are Malaysians doing to commemorate the birthday of our nation? Representatives from women's NGOs and Opposition parties are holding a demonstration in Putrajaya, according to a tweet by Selangor assemblywoman Elizabeth Wong. They protest the ongoing inaction with regards to the year-old issue of sexual abuse of Penan women in Sarawak. No other issue better symbolises the federal government's neglect of its further-flung territories.

Elsewhere is Fast for the Nation, Peace for Malaysia 2009. If you believe that acts of violence and racial or religious hatred - like the cow-head protest in Shah Alam - have no place in Malaysian public life, this is something you can believe in. Fasting is spiritually significant - look at Ramadhan - and also a supremely powerful political act: it was one of Gandhi's chief strategies, and he brought down the British Raj.

Perhaps abstinence and contemplation is the best thing to do. With or without a drink in hand: a toast to Malaysia's 46th. Remember that our nation was formed around the idea of multiculturalism, equity, and hope of collectively forging our own destiny.

To not forgetting.

1 comment:

  1. One big blunder Sabah and Sarawak made was to accept the design of the Malaysia flag. By adding 3 stripes and 3 points to the star, Sabah and Sarawak (and Singapore) were being flagged as just 3 more states of similar status to the previous 11.

    What they could have demanded, for example, was a flag of 11 stripes to represent the original 11 states and, in addition to the crescent & star on the blue background depicting the peninsula, 3 more symbols for each of the 3 (later 2) new entrants - Mt Kinabalu, Hornbill... whatever.