KUCHING: The significance of Malaysia Day cannot be downplayed as it marks the birth of our nation, say Sarawakians.
Deputy Chief Minister Tan Sri James Masing said Malaysia Day reminded him of the day when Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah came together and formed the Federation of Malaysia.
“Therefore Sept 16 marks the formation of the federation of firstly four and now three regions, not 13 states.
“The people of Malaysia must get the historical facts right. Malaysia was created 54 years ago, not 60,” he said.
Masing said he was confident that Malaysia would do well and remain united if the people continued to live with respect and did not govern the nation through the blinkers of race and religion.
“I wish for Malaysia to stay on the course upon which our founding fathers built this nation,” he added.
Sarawak Dayak Iban Association president Sidi Munan said the creation of a new nation was an event of great significance anywhere and Malaysia’s formation on Sept 16, 1963 was no exception.
“For Sarawak and Sabah, it meant that they would be federated with Malaya and Singapore as equal partners, enjoying both the privileges and obligations to make the federation work,” he said.
On the whole, he added, Malaysia had come a long way in terms of physical development, particularly in the peninsula.
However, he said there was still room for improvement in Sarawak and Sabah.
“We have a lot to catch up. Sad to say, the regional disparities are still there.”
Sidi, 81, was studying at the Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand when the proposal to form Malaysia was mooted and when it was finally formed.
“But I knew about it from visitors like Lee Kuan Yew and Goh Kheng Swee (from Singapore) and Sardon Jubir (from Malaya). They came to our campus to impress upon the students the benefits of Malaysia.
“As president of the Borneo Students Association, I wrote to Tunku Abdul Rahman setting out the students’ reservations on the Malaysia proposal – fear of loss of job opportunities to the Malayans and the Singaporeans and of land to capitalists, among others.
“No way of knowing if the Tunku ever received that letter or if he did, whether he took notice of our concerns,” he recalled.
Sarawak Dayak Graduates Association president Dr Dusit Jaul applauded the Government’s move to celebrate Malaysia Day but said it should be given more prominence.
“In order for this occasion to really reflect its historical significance, we suggest that Malaysia Day be elevated to be the premier celebration with Putrajaya as the central venue of celebration,” he said, noting that so far the venue had been rotated between Sarawak and Sabah.
Dusit also called on the Government to review its policies, laws and regulations to harmonise them with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), which Malaysia supports.
“On the issue of native land rights in Sarawak, for example, it is an important obligation on the part of the state government to ensure that native customary rights (NCR) to land are unhindered and upheld.
“The Dayak community has been fighting for their NCR since decades ago. We cannot allow grievances over encroachment and non-recognition of NCR to fester for long without any clear solution in sight.
“This is contrary to the spirit and principles of UNDRIP,” he said.
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