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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Let’s Restore The Spirit Of Merdeka

Raja Sara Petra
At this same time every year, we go through the ritual of wishing each other ‘Merdeka’. It is an empty greeting like wishing someone ‘happy birthday’, ‘merry Christmas’ or ‘happy New Year’. That’s the trouble with rituals. It is done without any passion and without really meaning what you say. It is like when someone asks, “How are you?” They do not really want to hear your reply. It is a mere pleasantry.
So why do we celebrate Merdeka? Is it because that is what we are expected to do, so we do it lest we be seen as unpatriotic? Does hoisting the Malaysian flag and saluting it make us a better Malaysian? Would failing to celebrate Merdeka make us a traitor to our country? If we celebrate Merdeka merely to put on appearances then we would be better off doing nothing. It is like wearing a tudung while taking bribes. Would that bribe become halal or would it still be haram?
Merdeka is not about customs, traditions or rituals. It is about the spirit of 31st August 1957. Do we even know the spirit of that day? Do we remember what it was like on 31st August 1957 if we happen to have been born before then and were already around when Tunku Abdul Rahman stood up in Stadium Merdeka to shout that magic word?
Merdeka was a day of self-determination. It was the day the country achieved nationhood. It was the day we charted our own destiny. It was the fateful day we were supposed to make Malaysia great. It was the day of great hope.
But hope was left with hope. Harapan tinggal harapan, as the Malays would say. But hope never came. What came instead was hopelessness. Then, 15 months ago in May 2018, they told us we can safely hope again. We even have a new government called the Alliance of Hope or Pakatan Harapan. Merdeka, they told us, is here again. May 2018 was when ‘Merdeka 2.0’ happened, they said.
They defiled or mencermakan the original Merdeka of 31st August 1957 by calling 9th May 2018 ‘Merdeka 2.0’. That is how cheap they made Merdeka. We now need to restore the original spirit of Merdeka by remembering what Merdeka was all about. It was about pride. It was about honour. It was about respect. And unless we know what those words mean we will never understand what Merdeka means.

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