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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Bring back the true spirit of Merdeka

Merdeka Day is supposed to signify joy and peace but unfortunately both these sentiments have long left the hearts of the rakyat because of racist politicians
COMMENT
For peace-loving Malaysians, Aug 31 is sacrosanct. It is an everlasting reminder of how the nation finally got rid of colonialism. That the country managed to gain Merdeka or independence is the biggest celebration for the rakyat. However, fast forward 56 years, the enthusiasm and thrill once associated with that momentous day seems to have dissipated. Why?
While the government gets busy lavishing money on Merdeka Day celebrations, the question that comes to mind is what really is the country commemorating? The fact that it is no longer dictated to by outside forces or the fact that it can do as it pleases without being answerable to anyone? From the look of things, it seems to be the latter that motivates the government to go agog over independence day.
It is unfortunate that while foreign powers had long left the nation, the politics of hate and divide and rule continue to flourish, perpetuated now by the BN government. Before demanding that the rakyat stand stand to attention in cinema halls to pay obeisance to the national anthem ‘Negaraku’, the country’s leaders have to realise that they have failed to deliver the spirit of ‘Merdeka’ in its true sense.
Today, five decades after Malaysia’s independent status, the scenario back home sadly is no reflection of a nation thriving on a strong self-identity. For the most part, Malaysia has been making news one after another for all the wrong reasons. Communal unhappiness is at an all time high. Umno politicians are sparing no effort in making sure the country is synonymous with just once race, Malay.
Time and again the non-Malays are rebuked and threatened with displacement should they dare challenge Malay rights bestowed to the latter by the Federal Constitution. Merdeka Day is supposed to signify joy and peace but unfortunately both these sentiments have long left the hearts of the rakyat.
Learn to value kinship and camaraderie
With passing time the significance of Merdeka too has evolved. It should not be yet another public holiday but a day for deliverance and thanksgiving for the unity and peace that sit as the nation’s backbone.
However, for that to happen, the mindset of the rakyat in general and the politicians in particular has to change. There can be no more finger-pointing or abusing of one another’s faith. For instance, if the word ‘Allah’ has been used by Malaysians of other faiths for years, let us respect that and not indulge in bad politics to deny them what is rightfully theirs.
Also, there cannot be a government that for obvious reasons is biased towards one particular belief and unabashedly creates policies that are racist in nature. As it stands today, the 56 years of independence seem to have taught the country or rather the politicians administering the nation no lessons at all, as far as valuing kinship and camaraderie go.
Had the ties binding Malaysians deemed priceless by the BN government, a film like Tanda Putera that conveniently gives a dangerous wrong take on the May 13, 1969 communal riots should never have seen the light of the day.
The movie directed by Shuhaimi Baba has been condemned for its untruthful portrayal of the Malays as the victims and the Chinese as villians as seen from a scene in the film which has the latter urinating on a flag pole outside the residence of the then state menteri besar Harun Idris.
In fact, no such incident was recorded as Idris’ residence was heavily guarded. So what was the motive of creating a scene that in reality never took place? Since Tanda Putera was funded to the tune of RM5 million by the BN government, did it dictate to Shuhaimi the message that the film had to deliver?
And once again the communists are portrayed as trouble makers, despite the real situation been otherwise.
Merdeka = Love thy nation
The rakyat love Malaysia but the endless polarisation and politicians with bigotry as their agenda get in the people’s way of uniting and loving their country unconditionally. With films like Tanda Putera out to do more harm, how does the Najib Razak-led government hope to make good on his ’1Malaysia’ ‘way of life?’
Clearly, the ’1Malaysia’ slogan that Najib keeps preaching has remained at best just that – a lip service that means nothing to the rakyat. Had the BN government meant business when it conceptualised the ’1Malaysia’, there would have been no tolerance on its part when it came to safeguarding the nation’s harmony and tranquility.
Instead, the opposite is happening – the ’1Malaysia’ belief has found no takers while Najib remains passive each time the country’s peace and harmony come under attack. Otherwise how dare Shuhaimi warn cinemas which do not screen Tanda Putera of impending trouble with the National Film Corporation Malaysia.
When the rakyat are reminded by the government of the significance of Aug 31, the latter has to ask itself the same – just what exactly are Malaysians being reminded about – that the British are good riddance or that the conniving BN has failed to upkeep the true meaning of Merdeka?
Jeswan Kaur is a freelance writer and a FMT columnist.

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