By Mohsin Abdullah
In current times when COVID-19 is ravaging – “positive ” is dreadful while “negative” is to be prayed for.
I’m talking about the results of COVID -19 tests.
Taking the tests (as all medical tests) we do not want to be (tested) positive and pray we are (tested) negative.
But for this article let’s view “positive” and “negative” in its true or rather original perspective when we crave for positive for it is good while shun negative as it is bad.
And this article is not about the pandemic per se. It’s about Merdeka.
And talking of Merdeka, we are still seeing the old argument or polemic being played out – as when is the actual date of Malaysia’s independence.
And we keep hearing of our Malaysian brothers and sisters from Borneo (in particular from Sarawak) unable to relate to August 31 as Merdeka Day.
I don’t blame them. And I must say I agree when they say August 31 is a big day for “West Malaysia” or the peninsula.
On August 31, 1957, it was Malaya that achieved independence from the British. Not Malaysia. So why say Malaysia Merdeka when Malaysia was not even born back in 1957?
And Sarawak together with Sabah (or North Borneo as it was known then) merged with Malaya on September 16, 1963 to form the Federation of Malaysia.
Both were” sovereign” nations. They did not “join” Malaysia. They, together with Singapore helped form Malaysia.
Singapore left the federation in 1965. Till this day Sarawak and Sabah cannot understand why are they referred to as “states” in Malaysia. A downgrade to call it lightly.
Before that, Sabah and Sarawak as well Singapore were under British administration and were given self government status.
Hence, Sarawak’s Independence Day or Hari Sarawak as many see it, as de facto independence was on July 22 1963.
Sabah was granted self government status on August 31, 1963. So, perhaps Sabah could have some “feel” for August 31 but surely not Sarawak.
Therefore we have this situation. Also as said in an article in The Vibes a few days ago, there are dissenting voices largely from the youths who want “promises made to Sarawak fulfilled”.
Back in 2019 the then Pakatan Harapan government tabled in Parliament the Federal Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2019 which it said was “meant to be good for the people especially in Sabah and Sarawak”.
But it did not get the support of two thirds MPs with those who did vote for the amendments demanding more.
This and the Merdeka Day issue are not new. Perhaps we’ll discuss it another day.
For now my humble suggestion for August 31 to be celebrated on a modest scale in the peninsula as Hari Merdeka, and in Sabah as self government day, while July 22 as self government day in Sarawak.
And the big one for all to celebrate together would be September 16 being Malaysia Day. The birth of Malaysia, not Malaysia obtaining independence from anybody on that historical day.
A few weeks ago, we learned that a “Merdeka” themed video sparked controversy because it showed a Malay man complaining about the profiling or stereotype description, or should it be depiction, of the “other” races in Malaysia.
The ‘K’ word was used for the Indians and the Chinese were described as “drunkards”.
He did this in front of his child who would later come up with a drawing with the same stereotypical depictions in it.
The video ended with the child saying, “I was not born racist but I was taught.” The message was crystal clear.
After public criticism, the video was pulled back and its producers apologized.
Unnecessary as I see it. That should not be the case. The approach by the video producers was blunt. Granted. But the things the video showed are scenes which had happened and are still going on among some in this society of ours.
Yes, the truth hurts. But I must say there are Malays who have been stereotyping and saying nasty things about non-Malays, and there are non-Malays doing the same towards the Malays. Just how many doing what I can’t say for sure, but there are culprits on both sides.
In the words of veteran journalist R Nadeswaran: “Bangsa Malaysia remains a a pipe dream. The divide is so deep-rooted and even without the cajoling of self serving politicians, it continues to grow deeper, dividing an already divided nation.”
True. But we must get rid of such negativity among us. Focus on the positivity.
Is there hope? Yes. And if it’s just a glimmer we must not lose sight. We must break free from negativity.
Now back to COVID-19. And speaking of breaking free, what we need now is for us to free ourselves from COVID-19.
And the government must lead the way. It must show leadership.
Selamat Hari Kebangsaan Malaysia!
(Mohsin Abdullah is a veteran journalist and now a freelancer who writes about this, that and everything else.)