4 reasons why Malaysia Day 2020 is so different

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This Malaysia Day, let all of us stand together in unity amid diversity to face and ultimately prevail over adversity, Badlishah Sham Baharin writes.

Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia (GBM) would like to wish all Malaysians a Happy Malaysia Day.

While Malaysia Day is celebrated every year, this year’s celebration is unique in several regards.

1. Greater awareness of how Malaysia was formed

Firstly, this year marks a full decade since Malaysia Day was made a national public holiday in 2010.

It also marks 20 years since Malaysia Day was made part of the independence celebration in 2000, during which for the first time ever, a one-month period from 17 August to 16 September was designated as Merdeka Month. This ensured that both Merdeka Day on 31 August and Malaysia Day on 16 September were celebrated as part of our commemoration of independence.

In the past 20 years – and more so the last 10 years – the celebration of Malaysia Day has helped to bring awareness to the general public that Malaysia was formed as a result of the merger of Malaya, North Borneo (now Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore.

It has also brought attention to the issues related to the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and the issues related to Sabah and Sarawak, particularly over unfair treatment and the lack of economic development. We hope this awareness will continue with the realisation that Sabah and Sarawak, as partners in the federation, will be given due attention and a fair share in the country’s development.

2. Vision 2020 did not turn out the way we expected

Secondly, this year’s Malaysia Day is also special as this is the Malaysia Day celebrated in the year 2020, the year we are supposed to achieve Vision 2020 and become a fully developed country. We probably had imagined in the past that the Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day in 2020 would be triumphant celebrations of our entrance into the club of advanced economies.

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Alas, the dream remains a dream. Instead, what dominated our social media radar in the period between Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day this year were reports of the water disruptions followed by a flash flood in the Klang Valley and the news of two deputy ministers questioning the validity of the story behind Veveonah Mosibin, a foundation student of Universiti Malaysia Sabah. Veveonah had made headlines after a video of her climbing a tree to gain better internet access to sit for an online examination during the movement control order went viral.

While we probably didn’t think or imagine we would really have flying cars by 2020, we also wouldn’t have expected that we would still be struggling with things that should not have been a problem. Disruptions to reliable water supply, a good flood control system and decent nationwide internet connection should not have become issues of concerns.

Perhaps, in moving forward, it is necessary to rethink and wean off our obsession with mega-projects and skyscrapers and instead adopt a back-to-basics approach in ensuring we do not fail in the basic things that matter.

3. Malaysia Day during Sabah election campaign

Thirdly, this year’s Malaysia Day celebration falls during the campaigning period for the Sabah state election, with the Sarawak state election and national general election looming.

This (Sabah election) being the first major election held since the first change of federal government in May 2018, we hope all parties will compete fairly and do their best to win by convincing the voters they are the best choice to rule the state. We are hopeful the Election Commission will do its utmost to ensure a free and fair election for the benefit of the people of Sabah rather than for unwarranted parties.

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4. First Malaysia Day in the ‘new normal’

Lastly, this is also a Malaysia Day held in the “new normal” under the recovery movement control order, which has been extended until 31 December. We call on all Malaysians to remain vigilant and not let down our guard in fighting against the coronavirus pandemic.

The year, 2020, might not be the year we become a developed country. But as a federation of states in a nation-state setting, our common aspiration for a strong, united and prosperous Malaysia should remain.

The quest for national unity towards a common destiny for the common good of all must ever more be cherished if we are to maintain Malaysia as a truly rainbow nation.

While recognising that there are many social deficits that hinder or threatened to derail this aspiration of ours, Malaysians of all walks of life must guard this precious heritage coming from our first independence and subsequently at the founding of the Federation of Malaysia.

The year 2020 may well be remembered in the annals of history as the year of the coronavirus pandemic, but we Malaysians can all make the year a memorable one in our history books – a time when Malaysians from all walks of life stand together in unity amid our diversity to face adversity and ultimately prevail.

Selamat Hari Malaysia.

Badlishah Sham Baharin, the chair of Gabungan Bertindak Malaysia , issued this piece on behalf of the GBM executive council

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