It is disheartening. Today in school I did not hear any mention of Malaysia Day. Well, save for the yelling boy. When I mention Merdeka, they dismissed the thought since for them, it was last August.
There are two events that I wish to discuss here, Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day. Of the former I have no intention of downplaying its role. The United States of America as a whole celebrated the Fourth of July even though only its thirteen colonies declared their independence at that time. But there is a catch: people remember when their state was bought or joined the United States.
The emphasis on Malaysia Day however must not be ignord. On that day 42 years ago the states of Sarawak and Sabah, with Malaya formed the Federation of Malaysia. A little bit of research will show that Sarawak became independent on 22 July while Sbaah (reportedly) gained its independence on 31 August. Those dates are not remembered except by serious and amateur historians.
Let us run a ‘what if’ scenario: what if Sarawak and Sabah had not joined the Federation? The Brunei Revolt of 1962 (which I doubt many Malaysians know) led by Azahari Husin of the Partai Ra’ayat and the North Kalimantan National Army (Tentera Nasional Kalimantan Utara) was against the formation of Malaysia. The revolt, while unsuccessful, convinced the Sultan of Brunei that joining the two neighbouring states to form Malaysia is not an option. Fortunately, the revolt did not do the same to Sabah and Sarawak. Either we would have remained separate as two different nations or joined Brunei to form the Federation of North Borneo which was Azahari’s vision.
Or another possible outcome: we could either be absorbed or annexed into Indonesia. Malaya would have been surrounded by it. While the Confrontation was launched by Sukarno in response to the forming of the Federation, he would still be hostile to Malaya since he sees it as a British puppet. And a Malaya surrounded on three sides by a hostile neighbour is not a good situation.
On both sides of the South China Sea, voices can be heard demanding an explanation on why there is so little done to remember Malaysia Day. Two years ago, on the 40th anniversary of Malaysia there was nothing. Nothing to remember it. Nothing to remind us of the formation of our nation. The date was confined to school textbooks and soon forgotten after the examination. Papers run interviews on Emergency heroes, but for the men who herald in a new chapter for Malaysia there was not even a biography. Where are the Confrontation heroes? Something is very wrong.
The so-called attempt at ‘bridging the gap between the Peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak’ is unsuccessful, the cause most likely being both sides failure to understand each other. West Malaysians view East Malaysians with fear, whispering ‘black magic’, being unable to understand our culture. Only West Malaysians who had traveled to East Malaysia had this prejudice removed, then again a small number who had not traveled does not have it. East Malaysians, who are more open are perplexed by the West Malaysians’ conservative attitude. The view that they came here to rob our natural resources is a view held by a few, fortunately. The situation is not helped by the fact that East Malaysians are often discriminated in the Peninsular, mainly in the universities, mostly by Malays.
I have nothing against West Malaysians. My mother is one of them and she has a Permanent Resident status in Sarawak. In a way, it makes me one of the East-West Malaysian hybrids. Having seen both sides of the lake they often can be found siding with the East Malaysians. Why?
In my ending words, I would like readers to remind and wish others a ‘Happy Malaysia Day’.
Lest we forget.
Matthew Anderson Lockhart
An empty classroom, still.
P/S: West Malaysians, if I had offended you in any way, I apologise.
Salutations to the following bloggers for remembering!