FRANCIS PAUL SIAH
COMMENT | Sarawak state minister Abdul Karim Hamzah came down hard on a group of individuals who disrespected the national anthem by refusing to stand when it was played at a function in Kuching last week.
Among other things, he said heavy punitive actions should be taken against those individuals and they should be charged in court as such behaviour should not be tolerated.
“It is so unbecoming, so unpatriotic and disloyal to see somebody making fun of our own national anthem. I get so disgusted by that,” Karim said.
Of course, I do not expect a minister or any government officer to say anything else other than to condemn the group’s action. That was the normal, expected thing for servile government servants to do or say.
But I think Karim’s (photo, below) harsh words were somewhat of an “overkill”. Requesting the group to apologise and repent for their action would have sufficed.
No, I would not defend the action of the recalcitrant group nor condone such behaviour. But I would not condemn them either.
It is only appropriate to stand when the Negaraku is played. We also do that when the anthems of other nations are sounded, say during an international sports event.
That is out of respect. We do not have to be reminded of that. Even kids know how to show respect for the national anthem.
However, we must also accord due respect to those who no longer wish to respect the Negaraku, irrespective of their stand, be it their long-standing grudges or other reasons.
They have their reasons for their action; and that also has to be respected, even if we disagree with them.
On our part, it will be disrespectful if we condemn them. I would refrain from doing that. Being disrespectful towards others whom we think are disrespectful is also being disrespectful on our part. I hope all can grasp this.
If they had committed an offence, let the law deal with them.
That is my message to Karim and others who went overboard in condemning a mere rude and mischievous act.
About the incident on Sept 27
What was the incident about? On Sept 27, several Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) activists refused to stand for the Negaraku at a fundraising event, saying it was a silent protest to show their dissatisfaction over unfulfilled promises to Sarawak.
S4S member Alex Leong, who shared the clip on Facebook, said Malaya has been very unfair to Sarawak and Sarawakians.
“So we refused to stand up when Negaraku was played,” he explained.
Leong reasoned that Negaraku was Malaya’s anthem and not the anthem of the federation and that a new national anthem should have been created for Malaysia.
S4S spokesman Peter John Jaban (photo) concurred, saying Negaraku is “not our anthem”.
In fact, Peter John said, Negaraku was copied from the song “Mamula Moon” by 1940s band Felix Mendelssohn’s Hawaiian Serenaders.
The 22-second video was widely shared while comments ranged from disapproval and support.
It was also shared on the Facebook account of a group calling itself “Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia – Pakatan Harapan” which described S4S as “future fanatic extremists” and claimed the group’s objective was to leave the federation of Malaysia.
I have to take exception to the term “future fanatic extremists”, because that is totally out of line. Not standing up for the national anthem is rude, mischievous and disrespectful. It does not make the offenders fanatics or extremists.
If the Facebook account genuinely belongs to the Bersatu group, then this is exactly the type of extreme, uncouth lingo from Umno-like thugs and goons that Sarawakians do not wish to be associated with.
I don’t think a party like Bersatu should ever be in Sarawak. If anything, the Umno offshoot also soils the name of Pakatan Harapan in the hornbill state.
As it stands, police had called up the S4S group for investigation under the National Anthem Act. Let the law takes its course.
“Negara ku” means my country. By their action, this small group of Sarawakians probably feel very little sense of belonging to the nation, Malaysia, which many others must be proud of.
Thus, this incident should bring up a pertinent question. To the group, they must be asking, “Is Malaysia really mine?”
This is an important question which each of us have to answer individually. It must also be made clear that government policies have a distinct bearing on our answers and the course of action we would eventually take.
The immediate link to this is the increasing number of Malaysians migrating overseas. A contented, happy citizen who loves the country and feels that “Malaysia is really mine” will not pack and leave.
“In December 2014, the South China Morning Post published an article claiming that about 400,000 Malaysians had left the country in 2014. Many left for Singapore, Australia, US, UK and Canada,” a Malaysiakini reader wrote in January this year.
“Many of them who migrated are professionals. Although they love their motherland, it is unlikely that they have any plans to return home. This is really very sad. All these hard-working Malaysians left because they were fed up of the mismanagement in Malaysia”, the writer added.
Another report dated Aug 7 last year said that 700,000 Malaysians have migrated to Singapore over the years, while some 140,000 Malaysians have moved to Australia through the decades. Some 70,000 Malaysians are now residents in Brunei too.
Many of us must surely know more than a few relatives and friends who have migrated overseas in search of greener pasture. It is likely that many of them would be from the Chinese and the Indian communities.
The reason for their life-changing move is not a secret. Racial politics here discriminates against them. They know they will be much better treated in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United States or Britain.
They are also aware they will be able to make a much better living on a level playing field and fulfil their professional dreams.
Surely, it is not right to describe Malaysians who migrated as unpatriotic or disloyal. Their gut feeling tells them that Malaysia is not really theirs but belongs only to a certain privileged class.
If one does not feel that “Malaysia is really mine”, then Negaraku holds little meaning.
FRANCIS PAUL SIAH heads the Movement for Change, Sarawak (MoCS) and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.