What a day!

Nothing is as good as being an independent and self-sustaining nation.

– Anon

Well, it is that time of the year again, Malaysia Day.

Malaysia Day marks the day when Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore entered into an international treaty (the Malaysia Agreement 1963) to form a new nation.

Many of us here in Sarawak have over the last decade or so become aware of the fact that Malaysia Day is celebrated on September 16 each year to commemorate the establishment of the Federation of Malaysia on this date in 1963.

This very clearly makes the Federation of Malaysia 58 years old.

But then why has the federal government been claiming that Malaysia is 64 years old via their Merdeka Day celebrations?

Just to reiterate what many Sarawakians have been highlighting is that the Federation of Malaya gained its independence in 1957 on August 31 and therefore marked with the public holiday Merdeka.

Some Sarawakians during the recent Merdeka holidays actively highlighted that it had nothing to do with Sarawak.

For myself, I do wish all Malayans the best of wishes every year and keep on hoping that they achieve their elusive harmony and understanding via religious and racial acceptance of each other.

Overall, nationwide, many still remain unaware of the difference between Merdeka and Malaysia Day. Malayans equate Merdeka to the day Malaysia was created.

Then, some just could not be bothered about the difference either through lack of interest or currently due to the struggle to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

That Malaysia came about in 1957 and is 64 years old is the biggest lie and ultimate fake news in Malaysia. Some websites still perpetuate this lie.

Perhaps those who propagate this falsity should be reported to the relevant authorities under whichever laws currently govern fake news.

It was the announcement by our former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak that from Sept 16, 2010, Malaysia Day has been declared a public holiday which made more people realise that Malaysia was in fact formed in 1963.

He said that “Malaysia Day would be celebrated with events that would foster closer unity, understanding between the different races and community success and achievement through sports, social culture and arts, to spur the 1Malaysia spirit.”

The declaration of this public holiday formally recognised the important role that Sabah and Sarawak played in the formation of Malaysia and to this day despite all of the former Prime Minister Najib’s trials and tribulation some in Sarawak still remember him fondly for this act.

Although I am sure, we as Malaysians will all jointly continue to celebrate Malaysia Day in our own way, it is important to note that not all Sarawakians were optimistic about this alliance with Malaya.

One such person was the late Temenggong Oyong Lawai Jau, the highly respected paramount chief of the Orang Ulu. He is cited as giving his opinion about Sarawak’s potential alliance with Malaya in a book by Professor Michael Leigh, “Deals, Datus And Dayaks”.

In early January 1962, Temenggong Oyong, is said to have spoken eloquently to and for his people at Long San with the following words.

“I see Malaya like a fruit garden, a garden already flourishing with ripened fruit and ready for eating. Furthermore, this garden is fenced round securely, with a fence made of belian. On the other hand, what can I say about Sarawak? If Tengku could only see for himself he would see how small the garden is, how freshly planted it is, not yet fully matured, not yet firmly established. He would see that it has a fence indeed but only a shaky one, one made of bamboo…What happens to a garden when you try to plant trees and shrubs under big a tree? They are simply eclipsed by the shadow of the big tree…and never bear fruit.”

There are still people who pay tribute to this Orang Ulu leader for his strategic foresight and his prediction on why we should not participate in the formation of the Federation of Malaysia — much of which has come true.

Oh well, as the old saying goes, ‘It is no use crying over spilled milk’. We are in Malaysia for good or bad at the moment. Let’s do our best to make it work together. Happy Malaysia Day to all.

In the meantime, also let us keep Sarawak free of bigotry and extremism, and maintain its progress, peace and stability.

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