Tuesday, July 17, 2007

50 Years of Merdeka?

You have probably been bombarded about it since the beginning of this year, had it pounded into your skull with the promotions, features, specials and cheap petty commercial exploitation of trinkets that bear our country's flag or colours: This is our 50th anniversary as a Malaysian (not quite but we'll go with that for now) nation. Now don't get me wrong, I am enjoying the wealth of information in the blast back to the past as done nicely in the New Straits Times, those old sepia toned or black and white photographs of people attired in the fashion of the times and the reminiscing about those embryonic days. I have always thought of the past, not as a decree to which we are slavishly bound to abide by but a place from which lessons are to be drawn and relationships understood.

The only real problem I have with this whole 50th anniversary thing is that 31st August 2007 is not the 50th anniversary of our nation. It would be something like the 43rd anniversary because Malaysia was finally formed on 16 September 1963 when the Federation of Malaya linked up with Sarawak, Sabah and Singapore. And if you want to be really anal about it then we should count it from the time Singapore left the country which is 9 August 1965. I therefore prefer this date because that is the Malaysia we are left with today. That means by my count we've already missed our anniversary and we are only at our 42nd anniversary. Yawn.

The intensity of these celebrations are no doubt isolating our fellow Sarawakian and Sabahan countrymen. There they are. Known as being part of Malaysia yet being excluded from many commercial and governmental developmental projects, exploited for its natural resources and tourism, and the date of celebration as a nation is not when they joined but when the Federation of Malaya obtained independence from British rule. I am told that they generally don't like us Peninsular folk. (Would be happy to stand corrected!) Can you blame them?

Reinforcing this 31st August 1957 date as being the celebration as a nation as it is found now is a denial of historical fact. It is a denial of our formation as a Malaysian nation. But it is not a fantasy, but a wish, a hope like a prayer, a doa - for a return to simpler and more honest times. A certain innocence so to speak. But we will not just get there by merely longing for it. We have to work at it. And we can start by acknowledging our true date of celebration as a nation: 9 August 1965.

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