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Different takes on Merdeka

THE long weekend was a good opportunity to catch up with friends over a meal or drinks. Over breakfast on the eve of Merdeka Day, some friends chatted about the constitution the nation never had: the People’s Constitution, which was drafted 10 years before Malaya gained independence from British rule on 31 Aug 1957.

(Pic by Dominik Damaziak / Dreamstime)
On Merdeka Day, during the drive to Ijok, Selangor, for its famous but somewhat overrated beggar’s chicken, a friend proudly pointed out that he was deliberately dressed in black on independence day. Along the way, the conversation moved on to the state’s perplexing fear to acknowledge songs like Mamula Moon and Terang Bulan. Inevitably, a cow’s severed head emerged in the conversation.

I wondered what other Malaysians were thinking of on Merdeka Day, and decided to be a voyeur and trawl the internet to find out. Below are some random findings.

Merdeka Train Party

It turned out that commuters taking the KL Monorail on Merdeka Day were treated to a party, complete with balloons, flags, stickers, face paint and singing. The flash mob was organised by the youth collective Random Alphabets (RA), which previously pulled off the Read While Waiting Project and KL Freeze. This time around, RA collaborated with cosmetics brand Kiehl’s and The Star‘s youth space R.AGE.

smashpOp blogger Jason Goh was among some 200 participants who were deployed to hop on the train, decorate the carriage with party paraphernalia, belt out “Merdeka!” and spread the joy to the other commuters. Goh, who had participated in the KL Freeze, wrote that the train party was “super great fun”.

Dressed in black

The mood seemed to be more sombre among other Malaysians who wore black to make a statement about the dark events of late. Among them, the power-tussle in the Perak legislative assembly, deaths in police custody and that of the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission, the way the police clamped down on street demonstrations, and the cow head in Shah Alam.

Blogger Susan Loone asked: “What [colour] is your Merdeka?”

For blogger Walski, it was black. “Are we really ‘Merdeka‘? Not just from the independence-from-colonialism aspect,” he mulled.

“Freedom and civil liberties? That space seems to be shrinking as time elapses. And if you’re a person who’s Muslim, that space is even smaller still. Even if something is legal from the aspect of civil law, you could still be deemed a criminal from the Syariah viewpoint,” he wrote.

“And it’s not like one can really do anything about it either. Be a bit vocal and voice your disagreement and dissatisfaction, you get rebuked.”

(Source: 1BLACKMalaysia Facebook page)

Coffee shop talk

Gerakan Youth chief Lim Si Pin started his blog post on independence day by wishing everyone “Happy 52nd Merdeka” and promptly moved on to share some of the gripes and grouses he overheard in coffee shops.

“Overheard in the kopitiam today, ‘I love my country, but does the government love me?’

“And overheard others throughout kopitiams around the nation:

“1) 16As and no scholarship, whereas the dongoi who can’t speak a full sentence of English goes to medical school…

“2) Cow head march and no one detained — peaceful vigil and people get locked up…

“3) Innocent reporter spent a day in ISA lock-up!”

Fly a kite

Mien, who blogged in ku petik bintang, commemorated this year’s Merdeka with the success of Seksualiti Merdeka.

She also discovered the Top 10 Myths Pasal Merdeka, courtesy of youth information network PopIN, and flew a kite at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, dressed in black.

“[Flying kites] is definitely a more patriotic (and not to mention good exercise) way to celebrate our pseudo-independence than shopping (whatever the cause) or cutting off [an] animal’s head,” she wrote.

She also plugged the online petition, The Cow-Head Lesson for Merdeka: Deligitimise Violence and Hatred, which had 62 signatory groups by 1 Sept 2009.

Malaysia is not 52

Sim Kwang Yang, a columnist for several publications including The Nut Graph, reflected on the notion of a feel-good Merdeka in his blog, Hornbill Unleashed.

“I write many columns for many publications under various names, and I was asked by one editor to provide a ‘feel-good’ piece on Merdeka.

Hornbills (Public domain; source: Wiki commons)
“I understand the world of commercial journalism, so I finished my assignment of a ‘feel-good’ piece on Merdeka, without becoming a [sycophant] for the BN government. It tested the dexterity of my skills as a writer, but it can be done, because there are a lot of nice things about Malaysia and Malaysians in particular,” wrote Sim, whose hometown is in Sarawak.

“When it comes to writing for my home blog the Hornbill Unleashed on Merdeka, then I hesitated.  My feelings are much more complex and mixed than just feeling good or bad about our 52nd Merdeka anniversary,” he continued. 
“My lived experience and my long memory tell me that Malaysia came into being on September 16, 1963, and not August 31, 1957.  But for Umno and their nationalist narrative, the great Malay nation of Tanah Ai Melayu (sic) came into historic existence on August 31st, with Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah being attached to form Malaysia on September 16, 1963. Our state was added as an appendage, as an after-thought.

“You try arguing with the Orang Malaya of all races, and you will die of frustration.”


Merdeka on Twitter:

asianhiphop: Happy #Merdeka day to all Malaysians!!

delangj: #merdeka di jalan raya. hihihi…

fiquesunny: Nikmati #merdeka dengan minyak naik

aeropama: Hadiah #merdeka terbaik dr @NajibRazak adalah menaikkan harga minyak. Terima kasih DS @NajibRazak

akuhappy: iklan #merdeka yang pasal bagaimana rasa kena jajah tu memang lawak haha. B1N1

dakhoos: I signed the “The Cow-Head Lesson for Merdeka: Delegitimize Violence and Hatred” petition! #petol

Cindy Tham loves how Malaysians are taking back the meaning of Merdeka.

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