Merdeka, 64 years on

Independence means you decide according to the law and the facts.

Stephen Breyer, American lawyer and jurist

“Malaysia Prihatin” is the theme for the second year running for Hari Merdeka, the commemoration of the Malayan Declaration of Independence.

It has now been 64 years since the British Union Flag was lowered and the Malayan Flag was raised on August 31 1957 among more than 20,000 multiracial people gathered at Merdeka Square leading to the formation of an independent Federation of Malaya.

Some of the foreign guests of honour included the prime ministers of India, Pakistan, Vietnam, Ceylon, Burma, Cambodia and other representatives from several other countries.

It must indeed have been a satisfying and proud day for Tunku Abdul Rahman, the architect of Malayan independence. 

It was the momentous day that he had been working towards while he was the first chief minister of the Federation of Malaya from 1955 to 1957.

Oh, what hopes, visions, aspirations, ideals and dreams Tunku must have had for his fellow Malayans during this historical event.

I am sure the intentions behind this year’s slogan of ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ (Malaysia Cares) would have resounded well with him

The word prihatin is defined as being considerate or care for others according to the Dewan Bahasa and Pustaka dictionary.

The logo of Malaysia Prihatin is symbolised by the shape of a heart with the national flag of Malaysia, the Jalur Gemilang in the background.

Seven red and white stripes form the heart symbol and this signifies bravery and preparedness to face any challenges with fortitude and a sincere heart.

The dark blue colour in the logo is meant to represent the unity of Malaysians living in peace and harmony amongst the various races in Malaysia.

The hibiscus’s stigma design wraps the heart and refers to the country’s goal in achieving success.

In addition to this, the five red dots are also used to represent the five principles of Rukun Negara (National Principles) proclaimed on Merdeka Day in 1970 that reads as “We, residents of Malaysia, pledge our united efforts to attain these ends guided by these principles: Belief In God; Loyalty To King And Country; Supremacy Of The Constitution; Rules Of Law; Courtesy And Morality.”

I would sincerely hope that the newly minted prime minister, 31 ministers and 38 deputy ministers take note, adopt and act on all the above well-crafted and wonderful intentions embodied in the principles, slogans and logos in the interest of all Malaysian.

It is good to see that despite the ongoing pandemic great efforts are still being made to celebrate the 64th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence of Malaya.

However, there still seems to be a misconception, deliberate or otherwise that Malaysia was formed on August 31 1957 instead of the actual date of September 16 1963.

Many in Sarawak over the last decade have become aware of the difference between Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia.

I am sure all Sarawakians would also wish their brothers and sisters in Malaya all the best for their Merdeka and celebrate their joy with them.

However, it is certainly not our Merdeka. There are some here perhaps who wish to appease the Malayans by discouraging any talk of Merdeka is for Malayans only.

In fact, one local Malaysian bank apparently on its Facebook as part of its Merdeka message posted that Malaysia was formed in 1957.

These are the types of attempts to rewrite history we are now facing. Some attempts are even seeping into our history books.

There are even attempts to rewrite the history about the origins and founding of Kuala Lumpur, our capital city.

Even worse is the erasing of historical facts going back centuries from our history books and the contributions of the various races.

This is not exactly Muhibbah and Malaysia Prihatin in action.

Applying the slogan ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ requires strong moral commitment and support from all parties, especially the politicians to ensure its success.

Well, all said and done, I’d say that Malaya has achieved a lot over the 64 years and grown into a modern entity, especially, with the revenues from Sabah and Sarawak.

However, over these 64 years, racial polarisation has also increased. These can be halted via real leadership and not logos and slogans only.

We are to date fortunate in Sarawak. Our Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Abang Johari Tun Openg keeps reaffirming his support for the Sarawak way of life via mutual respect and mutual understanding.

I would reiterate, as I have in the past and I’m sure the majority of Sarawakians would still prefer Sept 16 as the date for Malaysians to celebrate a united country.

The views expressed are those of the columnist and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.

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