Saturday, August 31, 2013

Independence Remembered

I was 9 years old when my country was freed from British colonial rule and became a sovereign nation. There was much celebration and joyousness filled the air when our first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, lifted his arm and led the crowd in the Merdeka Stadium in shouting 'Merdeka!' seven times. That was on August 31, 1957. The following day our first king was installed.

Thereafter every year the nation celebrated her independence with gusto. The people were one in enjoying the freedom from the yoke of foreign rule, yet we couldn't help but thank the British for introducing the legal system, education, various professions like medicine, engineering, architecture as well as the appreciation of arts, sciences, food and other fine things in life. And yes, they gave us English language which has helped us communicate with the rest of the world. I cannot remember if our government had officially thanked our colonial masters for the good they brought into our land. Of course they also introduced the idea of superiority and laziness which have caught on to some people who like the idea of being the new colonialists.

As a schoolboy I took part in national day parades waving tiny flags. The spirit of patriotism was very evident and Merdeka was welcomed as much as a festival like Christmas and New Year. Now 56 years on all these have died and people of my generation are feeling the chill of seeing our national spirit dying. How could this be happening in a land of plenty like Malaysia ? It used to be a spontaneous response from offices, businesses and home, but not anymore. I cannot imagine being told to fly our national flags or stand when the national anthem is played and sung. This is happening in my country when there is no celebrative mood today. Yes, the government organized public events to commemorate this day but I cannot feel Malaysians from all walks of life endorsing them or joining in. They are too engaged in defending their space and rights in a land where democracy and equality are mere words. Today shall pass into history as an ordinary day that we treat as a mere holiday. It didn't crept on us suddenly but over the past 30 odd years the relevance of rejoicing our freedom has become lost. In our race towards modernization and development, we built our body but starved the soul. Many people today felt yoked by tensions caused by racism, religious extremism and intolerance, and disparity in helping the poor and needy. At least the British is perceived as fairer although they may handle such issues with better finesse and class. A fool can easily tell when he's robbed and mistreated now.

To each his own has become our way of life. Have we lost our patriotism ? No of course. We just lost our chance to bring change to a corrupt government structure that is as deep rooted as our nationhood. Not all the 56 years because I felt the death of neighborliness and real friendship across race and religion only like some 30 years ago when a new prime minister helmed the government and changed the way the entire nation has been transformed. I hate saying this but we are going to be like a corpse dressed up in fine suit if we don't restore the joy of being a true and real Malaysian soon. The spirit of Merdeka had left us and we must seek after it before we try to break free from the new bondage we are now in.

For now it is Merdeka remembered. Hopefully soon it will be Merdeka celebrated again like before. Happy Merdeka to all my Malaysian readers. Continue to love this land you've called home. It is not her fault but that of the regime we grow up under. Malaysia is a paradise under the skies above us.

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