[Ed’s note: This story was originally published on 16th Sept 2015]
Happy Malaysia Day, ugaiz! Just a few weeks back we were celebrating Hari Kebangsaan, and now we have another public holiday again 😀
But if you noticed, the word ‘Merdeka’ has been replaced by ‘Kebangsaan’ cause of this advisory sent out by the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC). No using ‘Merdeka’ or ’58 years’ on 31st August! Of course, some people, including even CILISOS editor, were quite shocked. But the reasoning is apparently this.
“…is to strengthen ties among the people, regardless if they were from the peninsula, Sabah or Sarawak because August 31, 1957 focuses on the independence of Malaya whereas September 16, 1963 is felt more by Sabah and Sarawak,” – The Malay Mail
Our readers shared the same sentiments when we wrote about the advisory.
Okla, timing coulda been better since it got released right before BERSIH 4.0. But the thing is… With all that taken into consideration… Why should 31 August be considered Hari Kebangasaan, when we have 16 September? Plus, why isn’t anyone talking about the fact that…
… Malaysia has 3 x Hari Merdeka in a year!
While Najib was inspecting the upside-downside flag on 31st August at Dataran Merdeka, our friends in Sabah were celebrating their own Hari Merdeka! It had nothing to do with the one in KL, and it was organised by the USA! (United Sabah Alliance, not McDonald’s.) It was like a real celebration, with parades, flags and even poetry!
Pics or it didn’t happen? Bah, siap ada video lagi!
In fact, even before 31 August, Sarawak got the jump on everyone by celebrating Hari Merdeka on 22 July!
See? Tak payah jaga hati orang Sabah and Sarawak bah. We can take care of ourselves. But back to the question of since when Malaysia had more than one Merdeka day, the simple answer is: since before there was even a Malaysia!
Ok this story is mainly about Sejarah, but due to time and space constraints, we’re only gonna highlight what we can. Feel free to click on some links to read further 🙂
How did everyone get their ‘Merdeka’?!
Malaya – If you didn’t know about Malaya’s Merdeka on 31st August 1957, just go Singapore la k? 😛 But for those who didn’t know, it’s when Tunku Abdul Rahman led a delegation to a conference in London to negotiate terms for an independent Malaya. But Sabah and Sarawak? Well here’s the part you may not have studied during SPM.
Sabah – Since 1881, North Borneo (old Sabah name) was run by North Borneo Chartered Company (NBCC) until WWII when the Japs came to mess things up. In July 1946, the they sold the state to the British cos they were unable to bear the cost of rebuilding the state. When Colonial Governor Sir Herbert Ralph Hone took charge, then began the first of 3 restructuring plans, and on 31st August 1963, the last Colonial Governor left, granting them self-governance during the ending phase of the 3rd North Borneo Development Plan that ended in 1964.
Sarawak – Now, the state was ruled as a private kingdom of the Brooke family, who left momentarily when the Japs came to conquer during WWII. After they left, the last Rajah of Sarawak decided that he would cede Sarawak to Britain and kasi them power on 1 July 1946. Later on, they were given the status of self-governance on the condition that it would form Malaysia eventually. Then on 22 July 1963, the last British Governor left the governor’s palace, boarded a white sampan to cross the Sarawak River and handed over power to Sarawak’s first governor Tuan Haji Openg, where the Union Jack was lowered and replaced by the Sarawak flag.
Now that our foundation’s laid out, here’s the next question. Why are Sabah & Sarawak so annoyed with Peninsula’s 1957 Merdeka?
Well… Back in 1963, Sabah & Sarawak had a lot of options
While Sabah and Sarawak became independent from their colonial masters, their road to independence was parallel with a major milestone in the history of Malaysia, which is the forming of Malaysia itself! You can read more about the formation of Malaysia here, but know this.
In June 1962 itself, the Cobbold Commission report showed that 80% of the people were in favour of forming Malaysia, BUT 1/3 of them wanted conditions that would safeguard the interests of Sabah and Sarawak in the new federation. Later on, the 20-Point Agreement (for Sabah), 18-Point Agreement (for Sarawak), and the Malaysia Agreement (for Brits, Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore) were signed to safeguard the peoples’ rights.
At this point, our Philippines and Indonesia friends were a bit geram with the formation, so much so that even till this day some fellas are still trying to claim Sabah as theirs. But with the Agreements in place, East Malaysia went along with Malaya.
So think of it as East Malaysia being the sweet, popular girl in school that everyone has a major crush on. But she’s careful with her heart, and only gives it to the one guy she trusts. And that one guy, is Malaya… And she gave her heart to him on 16th September 1963 when they officially became boyfriend-girlfriend.
But Malaysia/Malaya hasn’t quite kept its word to them
Like a boyfriend who doesn’t really care about his girl’s feelings, it seems like Malaya (we’ll just refer to it as Malaysia) didn’t quite keep his promises to his girlfriend.
After more than 50 years as part of the Federation, Sabahans and Sarawakians have seen themselves treated like one of the 13 states in Malaya, rather than equal partners that signed the Malaysia Agreement with Malaya to form Malaysia. It has caused a growing sentiment within East Malaysia that their rights have not been respected as according to the 20-Point and 18-Point Agreements, which were the conditions for to form Malaysia.
Plus, it took West Malaysia sooo long to start celebrating Malaysia Day! The date ’31 August 1957′ pretty much have no relevance to these two states… and yet, it has been celebrated all the same by them all these years. It’s like your mother told you to celebrate your birthday on your brother’s birthday date. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the respective states to celebrate their own date of independence rather than Malaya’s?
As for our Sarawakian friends, politicians and NGOs there have started calling for 22 July to be gazetted as a state holiday. some of them have pledged to keep organising walks for it it until they get it. Reason being, it is important to remind Sarawakians that they gained independence by themselves, not thanks to the efforts of Malaya.
In other news, talks of secession (leaving Malaysia a.k.a. boyfriend-girlfriend breakup) have emerged and are slowly gaining traction with the emergence of groups like SSKM (Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia).
Although some might think that secession is a bit extreme, it can’t be ignored and they will continue to gain traction for as long as Sabahans and Sarawakians feel that their rights and prosperity are being sacrificed for their Peninsular partners.
So maybe the least we could do now is to focus on 16th September?
“August 31 is a wrong date and many are unhappy with it. It is only to appease a certain political movement.
I agree that we should only talk about Malaysia from September 16, 1963. The agreements make this clear.” – Darell Leiking, Sabah PKR, quoted from The Malaysian Insider
16th September is, after all, the day when we put aside our differences from the South China Sea (and the Straits of Johor) to come together to be called members of one nation that is Malaysia. It has a meaning to ALL the people who are still living in it today, whether you are from Padang Besar or Kudat.
In fact, politicians from Sabah and Sarawak from both sides of the political divide have agreed that it should be 16 September that should be given more emphasis as the true ‘Hari Kebangsaan’ rather than 31 August.
While it took the Federal government about 47 years since the formation to recognise the significance of 16 September in 2010 to be a national holiday, but a first step to make amends is better than none at all. It’s showing a small change in the attitude of Putrajaya towards Sabah and Sarwak.
On another note, while Putrajaya has made clear its stance on secession (by making it very very seditious), if one day Sabahans and Sarawakians are given the choice to vote on a referendum (like Scotland did), how will they answer this question:
Am I Malaysian first or Sabahan/Sarawakian first?
I hope in the spirit of MALAYSIA DAY, we East Malaysians will find that answer within ourselves one day…