Wednesday, September 14, 2011


By Mansor Puteh

I don't think there should be any issue concerning Merdeka Day of 31 August, as being the Independence Day for Malaysia. It is a petty issue.

This is despite the fact that Malaysia was said to have not existed then and only from 16 September, 1963.

They say Malaysia does not have an independence day as the country was not yet formed on 31 August, 1957. Only Malaya or Persekutuan Tanah Melayu received its independence on this day.

Unfortunately, and not surprisingly, only one English language newspaper in Malaysia which harping on this issue and ‘encouraging’ some of its readers who are all non-Melayu to add to this unnecessary debate.

In some ways, they are seen by the Melayu to be an agent which aims to cause unnecessary disability and confusion between those in East Malaysia and the Peninsula or more between the Melayu and non-Melayu as those who are not happy with 31 August as being recognized as Merdeka Day are mostly the non-Melayu.

If there are some who question the logic as to why Malaysia cannot be said to be independent on 31 August, 1957 because of this, then Malaysia that we know of now, cannot be described to be independent from any colonial country, as it was only Malaya or Persekutan Tanh Melayu which could use the date for its independence from Britain.

If we were to look at the United States of America, which gained independence from Britain on 4 July, 1776, one can see some similarities with our experience.

At that time, not all of the 50 states of the American Federation formed the country; there were still many states which were not formally in it, which they joined the country much later.

Yet, those states never questioned the date when America became independent and jointly celebrated it till today.

Using this as an example, then surely, one can say Malaysia's Independence Day is 31 August, 1957.

Changing the name of any country does not change the day of its independence, even when there are new states entering its federation, such as Sabah and Sarawak as in our case.

There are many countries which changed their names, for some reasons or the other, yet, they still used the original day of their countries' independence as the only day for it.

It's like a person's birthday which still remains the same even when one changes one's name for some reasons or the other including when a non-Muslim converts to Islam.

In fact, Bangladesh, too, now has a different and new date for their independence day, instead of the day when India got their independence from Britain (yes, the same scourge!) on 23 January, 1947.

At that time both these Muslim countries were part of India, formerly known as East and West Pakistan.

But when Pakistan ceased to be part of it, they still celebrated their independence day on the same day since they were never part of India.

And only much later when East Pakistan left West Pakistan to become Bangladesh, a new entity, they celebrated their independence day on the day this happened instead of 23 January, 1947.

Bangladesh could do this because they became independent not from Britain but from Pakistan.

Singapore, too, did the same when they celebrate their independence day starting on 16 August, 1966, when they were expelled from Malaysia, so they could not say it was on 31 August, 1957 which they also claimed to have become independent when they were still part of Malaysia then.

But again, Singapore could not claim to be independent from Malaysia because the country did not colonize Singapore.

Singapore was expelled from the Federation of Malaysia. So 16 August, 1966 is not Singapore’s independence day but the day it was expelled.

This is definitely an unusual day for Singapore to celebrate each year with a lot of gusto. And most of their citizens are not aware of that and continue to celebrate their independence day.

Fortunately, they do not call it independence day but their National Day, which is vague and meaningless, as any important day can be so described.

The most appropriate term that they can use is their National Day of being Expelled from Malaysia.

Some in Sabah and Sarawak must cringe when they finally discover that they were not colonized by Malaysia, which accepted them into the Federation by a unanimous vote by its citizens supervised by the United Nations, although it caused the neighboring countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines to get angry with it, because they too have their claims on these states.

Some of then can celebrate Malaysia Day on 16 September each year to mark their agreement to join the Federation of Malaysia as much as the others in the Peninsula as it is a special occasion for all of them too – to mark Malaysia Day.

But it is also to taunt Indonesia and the Philippines to stop harboring their dreams of ever trying to wrest the states in East Malaysia to join their fold, more than anything else.

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