THOSE of my generation in Sarawak will remember how happy we were to celebrate National Day every Aug 31 in years gone by. It was a public holiday (and still is today) but it was not a day off for us.
There were activities held in conjunction with the auspicious occasion and we gladly and diligently participated in them. National Day was a pivotal moment in our nation’s history and we were proud to celebrate it.
As students in Kuching in the 60s and 70s, many of us dutifully took part in the Aug 31 rally at the Central Padang. There was a real sense of unity then and we were one happy people and nation. Nationhood had brought out the best in us. We were proud to be Malaysians.
As a police cadet, I remember taking part in the march-past before the Head of State and other dignitaries. It was a proud moment for all of us, particularly members of uniformed contingents. We never complained about the long hours we had to stand there.
Weeks before the big day, we had rehearsals to ensure that we performed to the highest level expected of the police at such an important parade. The Police Cadet Corps was part of PDRM.
Together with the army, the police were expected to perform to almost perfection during march-pasts. I enjoyed the two years I took part in the parade. I was proud and honoured to be a participant.
We were still a young nation then and very mindful of the struggles we had to go through to achieve sovereignty for our state. We were proud and loyal citizens of a new nation.
No politicians had to request that we must fly the Malaysian flag (Jalur Gemilang was not coined yet) or order us to stand at attention when the national anthem was played. Nobody had to tell us that we must show patriotism. We, Sarawakians, were already patriotic Malaysians.
Unfortunately, things are somewhat different today. I’ve a feeling that Aug 31 has very little significance to the people of Sarawak now.
Why? It’s actually a Malayan affair. Aug 31 was the day Malaya gained independence from Britain in 1957. It was on Sept 16, 1963 that Malaysia was formed and Sarawak was a party to the formation of the new nation.
Happily, the government has now gazetted Sept 16 as Malaysia Day following appeals from Sarawak and Sabah. This is a very significant move by the Najib administration for previous prime ministers had turned a deaf ear to appeals for Sept 16 to be observed.
Today, Sarawak is also proud to recognise July 22 — the day the state gained independence from British rule.
This year, the state government organised a re-enactment of the lowering of the Union Jack at Pangkalan Batu in Kuching and the departure of the last British Governor of Sarawak. This was indeed a timely move by the Sarawak government.
I’ve a feeling that the next generation of Sarawakians and Sabahans will not feel anything for Aug 31. After all, it’s a Malayan affair and nothing to do with Sarawak or Sabah.
It’s possible that Sarawak could replace Aug 31 with July 22 as Independence Day and a public holiday in time to come.
In the weeks following up to today, Aug 31, there was a Merdeka frenzy with a minister calling for the national flag to be flown with fervour for the whole month of August, and for the national anthem to be played in cinemas.
Now this is the kind of political instructions many of us abhor. What was the minister thinking?
Will flying the Jalur Gemilang or singing the national anthem make us more patriotic? No, I don’t think so.
National pride cannot be defined by the number of Jalur Gemilangs that are flown from our buildings or by the frequency we sing the ‘Negaraku’.
Above all, I think many of us will resent the way some politicians talk down to us, Malaysians. We have to tell them off at times. There is no need to tell us how to be patriotic or put our patriotism on display in public. We know what to do.
I would describe this as a case of a minister trying to score political publicity. It’s wrong to make use of such an auspicious date to score brownie points. It’s just not acceptable.
This comment from a reader writing in a news portal said it all: “I love this country, and I will do whatever it takes to prosper our country but I don’t have to fly the flag to tell the minister that we love this country.”
I believe even Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak would not consent to his minister following through such ridiculous orders.
The issue of patriotism aside, I’m also unsure whether Malaysians are in a celebratory Merdeka mood at all.
Recent events have not been happy ones for Malaysians. We are now witnessing a deep political divide, increasing gun violence, rampant crime, open domestic abuse, as well as a total lack of religious and racial understanding.
Then, we have the annual fatal bus crashes followed by periodic knee-jerk reactions to stop such tragedies, and most recently, a seven-year-old high profile murder case where no one seems to be responsible.
There are more negatives emerging from the May general election.
Malaysians are still debating which side actually won the recent general election? The party which won the most number of seats or the majority of votes?
Black 505 rallies were held and many election petitions filed to protest the results.
The opposition and NGOs are still unhappy with the Election Commission, which they allege conducted a flawed election in May.
Worried that there are no visible changes to what they perceive to be an incompetent and corrupt police force, the public are demanding the implementation of the IPCMC. This again is strongly resisted by PDRM which, in turn, wants the return of the EO and ISA.
Our differences are real and serious.
How do we turn around this sticky situation? What about bringing Malaysians back to those good old days of my time in school when students were proud to march on National Day and sang the national anthem with honour and love?
That’s a tall order but it’s one any good government will be able to attain. Bad policies connected to education, race relations, cultural and religious sensitivities must be replaced with those that uphold justice, rights and freedom for all, irrespective of race, colour or creed. What is needed is the political will to see this through.
For now, I have no intention to be negative but I will be honest. With what’s going on around the country today, I’m in no mood to celebrate National Day today. What about you? – Borneo Post
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