THIS year, Merdeka falls on a Monday. Obligatory flags have been going up on most streetlamp posts and in most public spaces. Yet the number of cars sporting miniature Jalur Gemilang is notably sparse. It seems reasonable to believe that the fanfare surrounding Malaya’s 52nd independence anniversary will be muted.
What has happened to the citizenry’s display of patriotism?
An obvious factor is the commencement of Ramadan, which will render most Malaysians, an estimated 60% or more of the population comprising Malay Muslims, sluggish. Or the international economic downturn, which has rendered our collective pockets slim. It doesn’t help that there’s an influenza pandemic out there, too.
Maybe it’s because it has been more than a year of political uncertainty. Since the landmark 2008 general election, we’ve seen the Barisan Nasional (BN)-engineered takeover of Perak, the constant stream of by-elections, and problems and infighting in Pakatan Rakyat (PR)-governed states. All these have undoubtedly caused consternation.
And then there’s the perennial issue of race, a colonial construct designed to ease governance through communal divide-and-rule. One need only look at Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin‘s accusation of Opposition Leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim as a race traitor, to see how much traction race-based rhetoric still has.
There is also that nagging feeling that Malaysia does not care for the welfare of all its citizens in equal measure. One doesn’t even have to look at the long mismanagement of the New Economic Policy (NEP). Just consider the lack of action with regards to the Penan task force report.
Maybe our lack of enthusiasm stems from a suspicion that Malaysian independence is not all that it is cut out to be — being, as it is, a deal struck between Malaya’s elite right and the British.
Between May and August 1947, the multiethnic and left-leaning Putera-AMCJA negotiated particulars of the “People’s Constitutional Proposals for Malaya“. They recommended, among other things, equal citizenship rights, a “conference of races” to block discriminatory legislation, and swift independence.
The proposals were ignored by the British administration. They instead adopted the less-progressive Revised Constitutional Proposals for the Malayan Federation, which was formulated jointly with the Malay Rulers and Umno.
The rejection of the so-called People’s Constitution resulted in the All-Malaya Hartal on 20 Oct 1947, a peninsula-wide strike modelled after Indian strategies of non-violent protest. Notably, this part of our history is missing from our school curriculum.
The British reacted to the hartal with the declaration of the Emergency. What does it mean when colonial-style legislation, such as the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the Emergency Ordinances — used to detain the Malayan left at the outset of the Emergency — still remains intact today?
And why does Merdeka receive so much attention while Malaysia Day receives so little? Especially since the latter commemorates, on 16 Sept, the actual date Malaysia — Sabah and Sarawak included — came into being?
These are just some of the issues The Nut Graph finds itself mulling over, in the lead-up to Merdeka. We’d like to know what independence means to our readers. Is it everything, nothing, or a middling somewhere-in-between? What about Malaysia is most important to you? What are your hopes and worries, as independence day swings around? Tell us in six words.
Step 1: Merdeka from colonial rule.
Next step: Remove relics of colonialism.
ISA, Section 377, divide and rule …
Selective historical interpretation can spoil Merdeka.
I feel most patriotic when overseas.
At home watching parades on TV.
Why did Britain deal with Tunku?
But colonial laws are still intact.
Colonial divide-and-rule is still officially practised!
Merdeka negara tetapi tidak merdeka minda.
What role did wasiat raja-raja play?
Still considered “pendatang” despite our independence.
Freedom from oppression and … oh, wait.
52 years young and already deteriorating.
Independence Day: when the aliens attacked.
Country. Hell. Handbasket. Connect dots. Merdeka!
Malaya: founded as a secular state.
Kemerdekaan siapa? Rakyat atau parti politik?
Kisah tanahair sentiasa berkembang. Hayatilah sepenuhnya.
Politik? Merdeka. Institusi? Merdeka. Minda bagaimana?
Let’s focus on Malaysia Day, too.
Unity in diversity — theory or practice?
Erasing and forgetting the left’s contributions.
Long weekend! Want to go holiday?
The Nut Graph is truly independent.
Inspired by Ernest Hemingway‘s genius, the Six Words On… section challenges readers to give us their comments about a current issue, contemporary personality or significant event in just six words. The idea is to get readers engaged in an issue that The Nut Graph identifies, while having fun and being creatively disciplined.
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