Much to reflect on this National Day

What then is freedom? The power to live as one wishes.

— Marcus Tullius Cicero, Roman statesman

Malaysia will be celebrating its 64th National Day on Aug 31, two days from now.

The official National Day commemorates the Malayan independence on August 31, 1957 to mark the day the peninsula was free from British colonial administration. 

‘Malaysia Prihatin’ (Malaysia Cares) has been chosen as the theme for this year’s National Day for the second consecutive year. The theme was chosen in recognition of the caring, determined and patient nature of Malaysians in facing challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Usually, Malaysians celebrate the historic day from the beginning of August which is also known as the National Month.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, programmes and national competitions were held to inspire the spirit of patriotism for the country.

They included national speech, Merdeka poetry, storytelling and photography competitions. Neighbourhood decorating competitions were also held.

However, the National Day celebration this year is low key and on a small scale because of Covid-19 and the need to adhere to the strict standard operating procedures (SOPs) to prevent the virus from spreading.

Nevertheless, Malaysians will still decorate their homes, offices and vehicles with the Malaysian flags.

Because National Day is a public holiday, many will be spending quality time with their family members at home and watching the national level or state level celebration on TV.

This year’s celebration also comes a few days after the swearing in of Malaysia’s ninth prime minister, Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and the announcement of his Cabinet line-up.

The King announced Ismail’s appointment after the Bera MP garnered the support of 114 MPs, giving him a simple majority to form the federal government.

Ismail and his new Cabinet will hopefully put an end to the political unrest after Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin resigned as the prime minister after 15 Umno Members of Parliament withdrew support for him and the opposition rejected his offer of cross-party cooperation.

Although Sarawak and Sabah are discontented that some of their rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) have been eroded over the years, there is no denying that Malaysia is a peaceful and progressive country.

The Federation of Malaysia was formed on September 16, 1963 following the merger of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah). Singapore later separated from Malaysia to become an independent country.

Today, people in Sarawak and Sabah are clamouring for their lost ‘rights’ and calling for a review of federal–state relations. Sarawak, in particular, has vowed to pursue its lost rights under the new prime minister.

National Day — Aug 31, 2021 — also coincides with the last day of evacuation flights out of the war-ravaged nation of Afghanistan. Since the Taliban swept into power on August 15, more than 100,000 people — Afghans and foreigners — have been flown out of the country by the US government and its Western allies. Thousands of Afghans are desperate to leave their homeland because they fear the hardline rule of the Islamists.

I am surprised at the huge number of people evacuated from Afghanistan. I didn’t know it has such a huge population. I wonder how many Afghans will remain behind after the last evacuation plane has left the country and what lies in store for those who remain behind.

But the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side for those who leave their country. Take for instance, Afghanistan’s former Minister of Communications and Technology and Oxford alumnus, Syed Ahmad Sadat. He was spotted delivering pizza on a bicycle in Germany.

Ahmad took refuge in the German city of Leipzig at the end of 2020 after giving up his position. His story, which went viral on social media, shocked many netizens.

There are some Malaysians who hate Malaysia. They like to compare this country to more advanced Western countries like the United States and the United Kingdom and are forever critical of everything the Malaysian government does.

Compared to the Afghans, Malaysians are so fortunate. At least, we are living in a peaceful country. With a new prime minister at the helm and a new Cabinet, Malaysians have a lot of things to look forward to.

They hope there will be no more unnecessary politicking and that the new government will focus on fighting Covid-19, improving the people’s welfare and reviving the country’s economy.

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