The Malaysia - Merdeka Debate

There are some who argue that 2016 is Malaysia’s 53rd and not 59th Anniversary. There are also those who argue that Merdeka Day should be celebrated on 16th September and not 31st August. Then there are those who say we should have two celebrations — Merdeka Day celebration on 31st August and Malaysia Day celebration on 16th September.

Why not we celebrate Merdeka on 16th February instead? And on 16th February this year we would have celebrated our 74th Anniversary of Merdeka from the British on 16th February 1942 when the Japanese kicked them out. We can also celebrate Federation Day on 1st February and this year would have been the 68th Anniversary of the creation of the Federation of Malaya on 1st February 1948.

Melaka can also celebrate Liberation Day on 15th August and this year would have been the 505th Anniversary of Melaka being liberated from the Sultanate. Anyway, as you can see there are endless possibilities and if the opposition is really bankrupt of issues and need to create issues out of non-issues there are many they can conjure.

Can you imagine the Americans having this same argument as Malaysians? The United States celebrated its Bicentennial or 200th Anniversary of its Independence on Sunday, 4th July 1976. That was basically the 200th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence. Last month they celebrated their 240th Anniversary.

Do you know that when the United States was created on 4th July 1776 there were only 13 states? It was not until 3rd January 1959 and 21st August 1959 that Alaska and Hawaii became the 49th and 50th state respectively. Arizona and New Mexico joined in 1912 and Oklahoma in 1907. New York joined in 1788 and was not part of the original 13 states. Texas became a member of the United States in 1845 and California in 1850.

So, if based on the arguments that Malaysians put forward, Independence Day for the United States is not the 4th of July and the United States is not 240 years old this year. Different states would celebrate their independence on different dates and no two states would celebrate it on the same day, not even the original 13 states of the United States.

But then all Americans anywhere in the world celebrate the 4th of July as their Independence Day although Texans may have a second celebration on the 2nd of March when the Republic of Texas became independent from Mexico in 1836. But now the Republic of Texas is just one of the 50 states in the United States and Texas does not claim to be equal to the United States instead of just a ‘downgraded’ state in the United States after just nine years as a Republic.

Is this why Americans are more progressive than Malaysians who waste so much time arguing about whether Merdeka should be celebrated on 31st August or 16th September and whether Malaysia is 59 or 53 years old? Then we argue about whether Malaysia is a Secular State and if so then why is Islam the ‘official’ religion of the country and why do we have two legal systems, one for Muslims and another for non-Muslims?

The point is the supporters from both sides of the fence love arguing and if they have nothing to argue about they will create something. On 31st August 1957, Tunku Abdul Rahman declared Merdeka and that is when it happened. The same goes for the 13 states of America on 4th July 1776 that has now grown to 50 states and all 50 states celebrate 4th July as their Independence Day — even Hawaii, the last state that joined on 21st August 1959.

Originally written by RPK.


Personally, I see 31st August as the day when Malaya achieve independence from the British rule with our Tunku declaring Merdeka Merdeka Merdeka to the loud cheer from the masses. And thus, despite the government effort to encourage people to start using Hari Kebangsaan on the day, I would still call it our Merdeka celebration.

As for the 16th of September? That would in fact be the Hari Kebangsaan, that's the date the country truly got united as Malaysia with the inclusion of the Borneo island.

Does it matter that we celebrate 2 different days that "represent the same thing"? No, it doesn't matter at all, at the end of the day, it's just a commemorative date to remember the country's history in coming together to become Malaysia, it doesn't affect us in the current age whether Independence day is celebrated on the 31st or Malaysia day is celebrated on the 16th, life still goes on, we still have a battle to fight to bring Malaysia as a country to a bigger height.

With all the dramas that is affecting the country, why not look at the bigger picture? Look at today, to me, every day, yesterday, today, tomorrow, it's all a celebration and a battle. A celebration because we as a nation is peaceful as a whole while we read news of countries around us that is always with some form of fight. A Battle because as a nation, we still have a long way to go. The country has grown stagnant over the last couple of years, technologically, the country is advancing but yet, the country is suffering from brain drain. Why not stop this bickering and look at what better way to move forward, help the country to go forward to a bigger plateau and strive for another milestone that is in the country's agenda? 2020 is just around the corner, how many things in the Vision 2020 that the government put forth all those years ago has been achieved? How many is still unresolved?

So 31st August, Independence Day aka Merdeka, 16th September, Hari Malaysia. 2 Celebration, 2 holidays, you have a problem with having 2 extra holidays in our calendar? If no, then let's get on with our task at hand and stop bickering about it already.

Michael Yip

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