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Thursday September 16, 2010

A meaningful national holiday

UNTIL last year – September 16, the date Malaysia was born, has been a public holiday for the people of Sabah and Sarawak.

In Sabah, the date did not commemorate with the birth of Malaysia, instead it was observed as the official birthday of the Yang Dipertua Negeri with a parade and an investiture ceremony at the Istana Negeri.

And not many Sabahans are aware that the celebration of the Yang Dipertua Negeri’s birthday indirectly acknowledges Sabah’s union with Malaya and Sarawak under Malaysia.

Historic: Fuad (left) declaring the state’s independence at the Padang Merdeka on 16 September 1963. Together with him is Deputy Minister of Malaya Tun Abdul Razak (right) and Tun Mustapha (second right).

But all that changed last October when Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak announced Sept 16 as Malaysia Day beginning this year.

Najib felt that the holiday was appropriate with the 1Malaysia concept to foster national unity among the various races, including strengthening national integration between the people in the Peninsula and those in Sabah and Sarawak.

It is only appropriate that the first national-level Malaysia Day celebration be held in either Sabah or Sarawak.

And where else would a better spot for the inaugural celebration to be held but at Padang Merdeka in Sabah, the historic venue where Malaysia Day was declared 47 years ago.

It was at this spot in Kota Kinabalu, formerly known as Jesselton, where Sabah’s first chief minister, Tun Fuad Stephens made the momentous declaration of the formation of the Federation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963. Tun Mustapha Harun became Sabah’s first Head of State.

After Sabah, the celebration organising co-chairmen, Sabah Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun and Deputy Information Communication and Culture Minister Datuk Joseph Salang Gandum, felt it was fair that next year’s Malaysia Day celebration be held in Sarawak, who were just as significant as Sabah was, in the formation of Malaysia.

Masidi said the celebration, which is expected to be officiated by the Prime Minister, would be used as a platform to educate the people, especially the younger generation, on the formation of Malaysia and the difference between Sept 16 and Aug 31, the country’s Independence day, through exhibitions by the state and national archives and the museum.

“Although the Federation of Malaysia was formed in 1963, many people still do not understand its formation and the customs and traditions, whether in the Peninsular or East Malaysia.

‘‘Carrying the theme ‘Generating Transformation’ in line with the government’s aspiration to promote better and more efficient delivery services, we also hope that this national-level celebration would change people’s mindsets so that they will be more appreciative of the country, whilst building team spirit and unity”, he said.

Masidi also said the celebration would be a good avenue to remind the people in the Peninsular, Sabah and Sarawak that they were equal under the federation.

Lawyer Mohamed Nazim Maduarin, 30, said the Government’s decision in making Sept 16 a nationwide holiday came at the right time as not many Malaysians were aware of the date’s significance in the countrys history.

He said commemorating Malaysia Day would help make sure the people from Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak will not only remember the day Malaysia came into being but also the concept of Malaysia.

Communications and Quality Control manager Shanti Doraisingam, 37, said the move acknowledged Sabah and Sarawak as part of Malaysia.

“Everyone thought Peninsula gained independence on Aug 31, while Sabah and Sarawak gained independence on Sept 16.

Lam Chee Wah, 36, co-operator of Fook Yuen, a popular coffee shop in Kota Kinabalu, said another national holiday meant lucrative business.

“When people have more time to spare, they can enjoy a good rest and maybe Malaysians from Peninsula can spend their holiday here.”

He said his coffee shop may look like a typical non-halal coffee shop because of its Chinese name, but it has been popular even among Muslims because it does not serve pork.

Now, the coffee shop is halal certified by the Islamic Development Department (JAKIM) and a big LED display bearing the halal logo by JAKIM inside the coffee shop assured the Muslim community of Fook Yuens economy-priced halal food and service, he said. – Bernama.

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