Saturday, September 23, 2006

At the Risk of Sounding Pedantic...

"A GOOD number of Malaysians in Sabah and Sarawak are nursing a grievance because the significance of Malaysia Day — Sept 16, when Malaysia actually came into being — has been eroded and even ignored as the years go by."

Damn right.

I refer to this column in the NST. This is also a kind of extension from my previous post about Malaysia.

Well, the good news is at least the grievances of many Sabahans and Sarawakians have not gone entirely unnoticed. Someone took the trouble to write the aforementioned column, and I appreciate that. According an article in the Star, the Deputy Prime Minister said that the cabinet is willing to discuss making 16th September a public holiday, if there was an official request from the State Government to discuss the matter.

Personally, whether Malaysia Day is a public holiday or not isn't really the point. My point is Malaysia Day's significance is not highlighted enough. It is AS important as 31st of August, not less. It should be made a bigger deal. I've said all these things before and I'll say them again.

Anyway, a common answer to the 16 September question is the US example. The American Independence Day commemorates the declaration of independence of the original 13 colonies, not the dates when other states joined the federation.

This is not a good example. The US' and Malaysia's independence/formation are not the same thing. Let's examine the United States Declaration of Independence. The 2nd line of the introduction is the following phrase,

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, (*emphasis by me)

According to that, the country was called the United States of America from day one. The other states gradually joined this federation, which as we can see from the document, was ratified on the 4th July 1776.

In Malaysia's case, it was different. On 31st August 1957, MALAYA was officially declared independent. On 16th September 1963, MALAYSIA was formed when Sarawak, Sabah, Singapore and Malaya banded together.

So prior to that date, Malaysia DID NOT EXIST. People can twist and turn and deny and pooh-pooh, but there you go.

I'm in NO WAY saying that we should change the date of National Day. It is no doubt, a vital date in our history. Neither do I want to be parochial or regressive or whatever else people might want to call me and others who feel the way I do.

What I DO want is to see 16 September 1963 be recognized for what it really means, not just for the sake of our people in Borneo, but for every Malaysian. We should ALL know what 16 September means.

The federal and state governments can and should do MORE. The current situation is NOT satisfactory. What do I mean? Go out and ask 1000 West Malaysians about what happened on 16th September, see how many people know. The result will be surprising.

I'm NOT being paranoid or stupid. I went to college in KL and Johor until the mid-90s and NOTHING happens on the 16th of September over there. NONE of my West Malaysian classmates EVER made a big deal out of the date.

This is NOT right.

I have a suggestion. Why not celebrate Independence over 2 weeks instead of just one day? I don't mean we should be wasting money by having parades everywhere for two whole weeks. Rather, the period between 31st August and 16th September should be treated like a memorial period. For example, we could have more documentaries, exhibitions and activities that celebrate the events and the people who were responsible for our independence. Sure, some of that is being done, but it's not enough. It must be more.

That way people won't forget, like they do now. Maybe, just maybe, if that happens on a regular nationwide scale, Sabahans and Sarawakians will start feeling closer to being more Malaysian. Maybe, just maybe, West Malaysians will get to know more of our half of history, get know us a little better and stop misunderstanding us.

Everyone will come out a winner.

As usual, I'm quite passionate about this matter and I think this is enough for now. One last thing, if it is true that our state leaders and politicians never made an official request for more recognition of Malaysia Day, then I'm very, very disappointed. Not surprised really, but disappointed nonetheless.

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