Today 55 years ago, Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (before Malaysia was formed in 1963) achieved its independence (MERDEKA) bloodlessly from British Colonialism. There was a history of this journey towards self-government for Malayan and by Malayan. The awareness began with the Japanese occupation in 1945 and the subsequent conduct of the unprepared and undermanned British. And of course Indonesia and India were also disentangling themselves from their colonial masters around the same period thus giving motivation for Malayan nationalists to go along the same path.
So you hear the stories of how Malayan, communists and British were fighting the Japanese and how later the communists got into the act and fought against their comrades at arms following the defeat of the Japanese. And depending on which history book you read there were certainly brave exploits and sacrifices all over the federated states and people claiming to have given their lives to fight for independence. The heterogeneous nature of this country has made what it is today: tendency to be divisive by playing to the ethnic and religious galleries.
So today is MERDEKA day but somehow it doesn’t sound as celebratory. This could simply be because the present government has chosen to capitalise the day to boast of its party-based achievements rather than the accomplishment of the people (rakyat) as a nation. And what more they invoke religious connotation to the theme. How desperate have they become?
MERDEKA belongs to the people who would normally come together to celebrate and unite to make this country stronger in all areas of human endeavours. They remember those who had worked selflessly to create this nation and they sing patriotic songs and make declarations to maintain harmony and renew their oath of loyalty. MERDEKA should be the one occasion where all people regardless of race,religion and political affiliation converge and recognise each others’ efforts in making this country great. All of us have a part to play and no one should hijack this spirit of brotherhood that is encapsulated in MERDEKA.
You can put thousands of people in a stadium, put on colourful displays and gay march pasts and planes hovering in precise unison and VIPs in their fineries but remember that is only a tiny fraction of the electorate. The others who stay home, working on the fields,factories and other workplaces are the ones who will determine the governing coalition’s fate. To many, especially those born after the 1960s, MERDEKA means a National Holiday. A day to get together and to celebrate as Malaysians. Telling people ad nauseam that they should be thankful to the government (which has been in power over 40 years) and that it has “fulfilled its promises”- Janji Ditepati, has become a sick joke. And using MERDEKA day as a political tool has a low down effect on the intelligent masses.
The thoughtless theme has inadvertently managed to evoke a response from the opposition who comes up with the slogan “Janji Demokrasi“, a rallying cry for so-called clean electoral reforms.
After 50 years, we should also be far away from “Senegara, Sebangsa,Sejiwa“ (one nation,one race and one soul) opposition national slogan crap, we need now move forward as one people and drum up that spirit of being Malaysians.
I used to feel proud when we sang “Kerana Mu Malaysia“ which was a MERDEKA theme for three consecutive years . “Kerana Mu Malaysia“ or “Because of You Malaysia“, conjures up a sense of love and sacrifice to build this country, to make it a proud nation, to develop it, to create harmony and many other heartfelt wishes for the country. Now, that is what the spirit of MERDEKA is all about.
“Advance Malaysia” ( Malaysia: Se Arah Kehadapan ) would, to my mind ,give that sense of urgency to work together for a modern country set to play its role in a globalised and challenging world. The theme would not have provoked the States under the opposition to create their own logo. It would have been unnationalistic!
Anyway, Happy MERDEKA Day to fellow Malaysians out there!