Spirit more important than dates

Let’s march forward together.

ALTHOUGH Aug 31 of each year marks the annual anniversary of the political independence from Great Britain in 1957 of the Federation of Malaya, yet Sabah and Sarawak have been celebrating the occasion together with Peninsular Malaysia since 1964, as if the two Borneo states were among the Federated or Un-federated states of Malaya.

Neither was in either category. By July 1963, they were self-governing British Territories. It was only by Sept 16 of that year they merged with Malaya and Singapore and, together, they formed a political partnership called the Federation of Malaysia.

When Singapore left the Federation in August 1965, the two partners in Borneo stayed put.

However, when it comes to celebrations, the difference in dates – Aug 31 and Sept 16 – does not seem to matter so much for many people in Sabah and Sarawak. They simply love to celebrate any day, especially one, designated or deemed by the politicians in power, to be an occasion of national importance.

There are people who like to split hairs saying that it is odd that Sabah and Sarawak should be celebrating Aug 31 – it’s like celebrating someone else’s birthday. But I say there is no harm in joining someone’s birthday celebration. We wish him or her “Many Happy Returns of the Day”. In our case, it is more than rejoicing with neighbours; we are rejoicing with fellow Malaysians, in the national interest. The spirit of sharing matters more than the dates do.

I don’t blame people who split hairs because they do not do any real harm to the country. So be tolerant of them because they are right in saying that Aug 31 is the birth of the Federation of Malaya, not that of Malaysia.


Malaysia Day/Hari Perpaduan Negara

Come Sept 16 – next Saturday – let’s celebrate the formation of Malaysia as well. And I hope our West Malaysian brothers and sisters will also join in the celebration with equal zest and zeal.

To me the date of its birth deserves to be declared as the Hari Perpaduan Negara while we carry on with celebrating Aug 31 as Hari Malaya Merdeka. Just don’t forget to do justice to Sept 16 as well.


Why Sept 16?

According to the Malaysia Agreement (1963), Aug 31 of that year was fixed as the formation of the Federation of Malaysia, but its formal proclamation had to be postponed to September of the same year because of the objection to its creation from President Sukarno of Indonesia and President Macapagal of the Philippines.

They wanted a second opinion to prove that the people of Sarawak and Sabah really wanted Malaysia. So a second opinion survey had to be conducted and U Thant, the Secretary General of the United Nations was given this task.

Thus there was the need to wait for the outcome of that second opinion survey on the Malaysia Project. This meant a delay in the coming into being of Malaysia.

What the UN Secretary General was asked to do was to confirm the finding of the Cobbold Commission the year before: pro-Malaysia (one third), against Malaysia (one third), and the fence-sitters (one third). U Thant’s job was easy. With the speed of light, the creation of the federation was sanctioned by the UN. As they say, the rest is history.

At the time of the Proclamation at the Central Padang in Kuching on Sept 16, Baby Malaysia had been 16 days overdue – a fait accompli.


The question is…

Will this day be marked with equal zest by all Malaysians? We shall see some evidence next week.

It is my hope that its 54th birthday will be accorded due respect and honour that it richly deserves. As many people as possible should celebrate it – with pomp and ceremony – if funds are available; otherwise, it would be better to be modest in expenditure, given the state of our national economy at the moment.

Never mind that it was the opposition which initiated the first celebration almost a decade ago. People in Kuching may remember that it was two state legislators, Dominique Ng and former Minister of Youth and Culture Hafsah Harun, who, with a handful of supporters had gathered at the Central Padang to celebrate Malaysia Day. Neither sumptuous dinners nor grand parades were held but it was a significant celebration of a historic event in the life of our nation, nonetheless.

When the state government saw the political light, it started celebrating it on a bigger scale, subsequently. I think almost everybody has been happy with this move.

Happiness matters, doesn’t it. There will be many happy returns of the day.

I’m looking forward to seeing more people displaying more interest in public displaying of the national flag and state flag this time around. For the past few years, I have been observing in Kuching this lack of enthusiasm in flag flying on motor vehicles and commercial and private houses. What’s the problem? Can sociologists help explain this sudden loss of interest in the national flag?

Of course, flag waving is not the only symbol of patriotism. There are several other characteristics of nationalism, both manifest and latent. The real test of true patriotism, however, comes if and when all Malaysians stand up against the encroachment of every inch of their land by the enemy from within or from without.

We hope that this test may never come. It is enough that everybody behaves well, at every minute of the waking hours, by observing the laws of the country, respecting each other’s cultures and beliefs, and by talking sense to one another. All should observe and practise most, if not all, of the five tenets of the Rukun Negara. And for good measure, love thy neighbour as you love yourself.

That’s my wish for the Malaysia Day.

Comments can reach the writer via [email protected]

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