Sunday, August 28, 2005

Are you sure it was 31 August 1957?


Several 'chefs' dressed up for a rehersal of the Merdeka Day parade held in Kuantan for the year 2004.

Should the expression of Merdeka solely be symbolized by how large a parade we could muster on that day, or by how many flags one can actually stick onto your car (I saw one with about 50 stuck on every imaginable surface on the roof of a Kancil), or by the number of locally celebrated record breaking feats we are able to achieve (think biggest tosai in Malaysia)? I think not, all this are superficial expressions and at times maybe even represent non-expression. The true meaning of Malaysia is lost and sublimed in the midst of all the pomp and pageant so much so that a lot of people equate Merdeka as being one giant parade on National Day or worse merely another holiday in the yearly calendar.

It’s all right to show patriotism and partake in the various month long programmes carried out, go ahead and make kites out of the Malaysian flag, go join the various rallies, runs, campaigns hosted for the country, go enjoy the various inundation of rosy advertising flooding the television screens of late but do we really feel the flame of independence? What does it truly mean to every single citizen in the country, from the Malay farmer toiling in the fields, to the technocrats in their suits and ties, to the teenager wearing the latest fashion label and sipping iced mocha at Starbucks, to the laborer working long hours to build our magnificent infrastructure, or the orang asli that still resides in the jungle. One simple question one can ask anyone to see if they truly see the significance or even know our own local history is this;

"Is 31st August 1957 really independence day for Malaysia?"

Okay at this point a lot of people will try to brand me as being unpatriotic or even being a traitor but it is a valid question. If you truly understand our nation’s history and the path towards nation building 1957 isn’t really the end in our road to independence. To be fair it is a trick question. It is merely a milestone, albeit a very important one that is the starting point towards what Malaysia truly is today. I say this because that date only signifies the date of the formation of the Federation of Malaya (Persekutuan Tanah Melayu) in which after the contentious scene put forth by the British in the formation of the Malayan Union was replaced by a more acceptable deal for the Bumiputeras (Sons of the Earth, denoting the Malays and inclusive of indigenous populations in Sabah and Sarawak with special privileges within the country).

The states in Peninsular Malaysia were given the reins of government on this day, seen by the exclamation of Tunku Abdul Rahman of “Merdeka!” 3 times with each punctuated with a confident rising of the arm to the air, signaling strength and determination as well as triumph. Yet by large the states of Sabah and Sarawak were still under British control and even Singapore was not given independence. Yet the road ahead isn’t so easy as this scene suggests and though we all look at awe at this historic moment much of the low down dirty business carried out to forge a coherent nation with diverging interests, multi ethnic and multi religious population, of differing economic gulf and population segmentation is no small feat.

The real achievement was to come later, after Malaysia was truly amalgamated. This took the form in a new Federation consisting of the original Malayan states, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore (Brunei which was also offered the offer, but rejected it) and soon Malaysia was given form and formalized on September 16, 1963. Singapore soon left in 1965 after much friction between the two governments and Malaysia reached its present form. Too few of us would understand the significance of such a date but to many here in the Borneo Isles Hari Malaysia (Malaysia Day) is more poignant and meaningful as it resulted in independence for all states within the Federation and not merely those located in the Peninsular. So in a sense 1957 wasn’t the real date of independence for Malaysia and 1963 is a truer picture of national aspirations. It also marks a trying time for Malaysia as the newly born Federation faced hostile neigbours; firstly by the Philippines who claimed that Sabah was a part of the archipelago due to its past links to the Sulu Sultanate and also from Indonesia which launched their ‘Ganyang Malaysia’ Confrontation on pretense that Malaysia was a British ploy and also to fulfill Sukarno’s dream of a Greater Indonesia encompassing Malaysia. Thus Malaysia had to face more trials after 1963 compared to the relatively easy transition during 1957.

Thus, when waving the flag this year think about it. Do you really emphatize with Malaysia of is the act of waving the flag merely as it seems with no deeper meaning. Do we see deeper into what the Jalur Gemilang truly symbolize for each and everyone of us? If not then it is just another painted cloth and that is truly a sad thing.

A note: Several Malaysians within the blogsphere is spearheading a campaign to blog in the National Language (Bahasa Malaysia) on Independence Day. Look out for it.


dannyFoo said...

This post has been plugged on Merdeka Blogger and hope to see more pictures in symbolic meaning of the coming Merdeka. :) Cheers.

3rd Chimp said...

Good post, Kervin. I hadn't heard of Hari Malaysia before. You've made me think about Merdeka from a different angle.

And I saw a little car like that, too! All over flags! I liked it, but I see your point.

BTW,couldn't see the photo of the 'chefs,' it didn't download. is there a prob?

Kervin said...

dannyfoo: Thanks appreciate it, best of luck with the project.

3rd chimp: I didn't really think about it before I studied in Sabah and only realised about it later, guess many of us Peninuslar residents take it for granted for this fact. As for the photo I'm not sure why you're facing the problem, maybe its your browser or firewall settings, I've checked it over several computer and it loads fine.

fishtail said...

Thanks for a very enlightening summary of the history of Malaysia in respect of the Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak. Since Malaya was given independence on 31 August 1957 and Malaya later became Malaysia, it's not so objectionable to regard 31 Aug as the independence day of Malaysia today. But it's definitely wrong to say the 31 August is the birthday of Malaysia because, as you pointed out, Malaysia was formed on 16 September and not on 31 August. It is therefore wrong to shout Happy birthday Malaysia on 31 August.