We need to strive towards making Malaysia into “a haven of peace, harmony and happiness”, by being “brave…fair…and just, says Adrian Lee.
In 2015, Malaysia celebrates 58 years of independence, self-governance, self-determination and self-rule.
31 August 1957 is Merdeka day for the peninsula while Sabah and Sarawak achieved independence later.
During the changeover from colonialism to self-rule, Malaya was founded as locals and jus soli citizens pledged their allegiance and loyalty to their new homeland.
In the course of nation building, policies, strategies, and laws accommodated the needs and wants of the first generation of multicultural Malaya. During these early postcolonial days, what did Malayans want and what issues did they face?
The British divide-and-rule policy had segregated Malayans geographically and ethnically; hence, solidarity was vital in constructing a united nation.
This infant nation also needed safeguarding from external and internal threats. Ssafety was prioritised to protect Malayans from foreign offensives and local crimes.
A robust economy ensuring Malayans a good life and living standards would be essential. Economic security through a healthy economy, good spending power and low inflation was necessary.
Finally, Malaya became a space for people to speak, think, move, assemble and associate freely within legal confines. Hence, a sovereign nation promising liberty and freedom was most welcome.
Since 1957, the desire for solidarity, safety, security and sovereignty essentially helped the nation to progress culturally, politically, socially and economically.
At least three generations have occupied this land since 1957. Would the notion of Merdeka be understood differently by the different generations?
On 16 September 1963, Malaysia was formed as independence was granted to Sabah and Sarawak. Policies, strategies, and laws were amended to accommodate the needs and wants of a changing Malaysia.
We currently live in the era of dot-com wonders, better living standards and supposedly liberal minds in a country that is supposedly offering its best to us.
Yet, when we’re supposed to be experiencing greater wealth, progression, development and advancement, many reminisce about how things were better in “the good old days”.
This probably means that since 1957, things have gradually worsened. As we celebrate our 58th Merdeka/National Day/Hari Kebangsaan, what do Malaysians of 2015 want?
Like our forefathers (and mothers), we too want solidarity. Malaysians have experienced enough racial and religious profiling and are tired of being cautioned about so-called threats from other ethnic communities.
Ethnocentric championing and the demonising of ‘the other’ is exhausting. Many are fed up with the distrust that has overwhelmed our subconscious.
Malaysians are more segregated along educational, political, cultural, and economical lines than ever before. Solidarity remains critically wanting and the incapability of formulating a proper Malaysian national identity speaks volumes.
Are we a united nation?
Lest we forget about Sabah and Sarawak, we Malaysians of 2015 want better nation-building policies that promise and enhance solidarity.
Annually, billions of ringgit is invested for our national defences and protection. It is assuring knowing that our safety is prioritised. Yet, crime, perceived or otherwise, continues its rampage.
Malaysians are abducted through our increasingly porous borders. Reports of alleged rape, robbery, and road rage take place regardless of place and time.
We once feared the dark of the night. Today, daylight robbery literally occurs and criminals strike at any time.
Do you feel safe as a Malaysian?
We Malaysians of 2015 want to live, travel and work in a safe environment.
Today, almost everything has become pricier. The GST and currency depreciation have severely affected the economy and our buying power.
Prices of houses, groceries and essentials, petrol, food and education only go upwards. The buying power of the lower and middle classes, young families, young graduates, and senior citizens has been weakened through rising inflation.
Financial security thus becomes another main concern as we journey towards industrialised nation status. We Malaysians of 2015 want economic security and better value for our ringgit.
How much groceries can RM50 buy you today?
Sovereignty means more than independence from foreign imperialism. A sovereign nation allows its citizens to think, move and associate freely without imposing who one can associate with whom, why we should behave in a certain manner, and what, how, and when to think.
A free country shouldn’t reinforce censorship and laws to stifle and censure but should allow policies to be questioned, injustice to be criticised; it should understand that democracy isn’t just about voting rights.
Do you feel free as a Malaysian?
We Malaysians of 2015 want sovereignty through freedom of speech, association and expression and not “no freedom” after these cherished rights.
Like the Merdeka generation of 1957, we Malaysians of 2015 have similar desires and want them improved. We want better education, governance, medical care, life quality, academic freedom, wealth distribution, free and independent media and judiciary, and a cleaner environment.
We also want crime, brain drain, pollution, corruption, poverty, deteriorating education standards, rising living costs, limits to free speech, poor road conditions, appalling public transport, gerrymandering and political instability to be eradicated in this negara Merdeka.
Such noble ideals are of course owed to us and not the other way around.
Merdeka is not about political speeches about national unity, not just about cultural performances or lining the streets with the Jalur Gemilang. Merdeka is not about sales, about shouting “Merdeka” at parties or about having a day off.
Merdeka goes beyond the definitions provided by politicians. Merdeka is a concept that needs to be truly understood and appreciated in form and substance. Malaysia after all, belongs to us and not to any politician or political parties.
In spite of technological and infrastructural advances, we anak Merdeka and anak Malaysia of 2015 who live in our Negaraku, Tanahairku and Pribumiku want above all, solidarity, safety, security and sovereignty.
To paraphrase Tunku Abdul Rahman, we need to strive towards making Malaysia into “a haven of peace, harmony and happiness”, by being “brave…fair…and just…so that come what may, we shall be ready as a united Malaysian people to meet it. Merdeka.”