THE significance of July 22, 1963, is not lost on the younger generation but they believe that more could be done to ensure that the day that Sarawak gained its self-rule from the British will be more widely appreciated.
Vellalee Albania Linus, 15, felt that Sarawakians should always mark Sarawak Day meaningfully instead of just seeing it as a public holiday.
“For me, Sarawak Day is the celebration of independence from British rule. We should celebrate it so that we can feel grateful and happy that we are no longer under the British,” she said.
She added that her family would gather and have a big dinner together to commemorate the big day.
Chan Jee Ying, 15, also said Sarawak Day should be celebrated to show appreciation for the opportunity for Sarawakians to govern their own land and be independent.
“This is the occasion to fly the Sarawak flag as well as get together with family and friends to appreciate the meaningful celebration,” she said.
Tia Leonorra, 15, also agreed that Sarawakians should be proud to celebrate their independence day even though it only lasted a few months.
“This is the day we become free from the British and come together with Malaya and Sabah to form Malaysia.
“For youths like me, I think we should celebrate this meaningful date by holding patriotic events. These events can be poster making competitions, sports activities or any other activities that will encourage participation of Sarawakians and serve as platforms for them to come together to celebrate the day,” she said.
Their sentiments are shared by Sarawak for Sarawakians (S4S) founding member Eric Chin, who said some Sarawakians are not even aware of the celebration because the state government has not done much to highlight its significance.
“The government needs to spend more money to promote this day, including by giving out token or encourage shops to hold special promotions and sales just to highlight our Sarawak Day celebration,” he said.
Chin felt more effort should also be made in schools to promote Sarawak Day.
“Since Sarawak Day was gazetted in 2016, I hardly see schools celebrating the occasion. Perhaps the Local Government (and Housing) Minister, Dr Sim Hui Kian can provide funding to schools for this celebration.
“Even though the education autonomy does not belong to us, the local government still has the power to promote Sarawak day in schools and encourage schools to organise their Sarawak Day celebration,” he said.
Chin praised the late Chief Minister Pehin Sri Adenan Satem for listening to the voice of Sarawakians by recognising Sarawak’s independence day and gazetting July 22 as a public holiday.
“It would really be good if commercial businesses can also highlight the date (July 22) by holding promotions or discounts for their customers. But I notice, many are not eager.
“I’m currently an exco member of the Miri Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI). During one of our meetings, I voiced the idea to other members, but many just seemed uninterested,” he disclosed.
Chin said in view of this, the state government should encourage local businesses to at least fly the Sarawak flag during the celebration as this would enhance the spirit of the celebration.
“When Tok Nan was still alive, he told us (S4S) to put up both flags if we want to go out and promote Sarawak Day and I totally agreed with him. He was right about that and he gave us very good advice to make our movement better.
“That is why we in the S4S really respect him and every year on January 11, we will commemorate it by visiting his grave,” said Chin.
Adenan was the chief minister from 2014 to 2017 when he died at the age of 72 from an illness.
Meanwhile, a former teacher and school matron Hanim Jaraee said Sarawakians should celebrate the state’s independence even though it only lasted a few months from July to September in 1963.
“Actually it was a transition period that enabled Sarawak to do many things, but in a short while not much could be achieved. We were allocated that time to prepare for the formation of Malaysia,” said Hanim, who is currently a trader running her own coffeeshop.
She added that everyone should be reminded that Sarawak did not join Malaysia but formed Malaysia, thus it was important for Sarawakians to know the significance of Sarawak Day.