KUCHING: The significance of Malaysia Day on Sept 16 should be observed by all Malaysians in accordance with the historical facts.
PRS president Tan Sri Dr James Masing said Sept 16 had been overshadowed by Aug 31 for 47 years after Malaysia’s formation and was only declared a public holiday in 2010.
“The acknowledgement of Sept 16 as the birthday of Malaysia has come a long way. Although it has always been perceived by older generations of Sarawakians and Sabahans as the correct Independence Day, it has taken our nation a total of five prime ministers to right the wrong.
“But to right the wrong should not just stop at the prime minister’s level. It should be observed by all Malaysians regardless of region and social strata,” he told a forum at the book launch of “50 Years of Malaysia: Federalism Revisited” at Sunway University recently.
Citing the historical record, Masing said Sarawak declared independence from Britain on July 22, 1963, followed by Sabah on Aug 31, 1963.
Malaysia was then formed on Sept 16, 1963 as a result of four independent nations — Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah — coming together on an equal footing to merge into one.
“In short, while the four nations declared independence on different days, the day when they gave birth to Malaysia was Sept 16,” he said.
But he said the observance of Aug 31 as Malaysia’s independence day had led to confusion over the date of the nation’s birth.
“If all goes well, this mistaken historical fact can be ignored or corrected without much fanfare. However, if doubts begin to emerge, then a lot of questions need to be answered.
“If there are feelings of being unfairly treated, perceptions of being shortchanged in allocation of development funds or ill feelings because promises have not been kept, then the mere question of a mistaken date can escalate into a bigger problem,” Masing said.
“Such signs of dissatisfaction must not be assumed to be anger in passing or political gimmicks to get attention. Don’t dismiss critics hastily, for in doing so, we may kill the messenger and miss the message.”
He also pointed out that Malaysia’s multi-ethnic and multi-religious society meant that there were diverse needs among its citizens and between different parts of the country.
For example, he said the needs of peninsular Malaysia differed from those in Sarawak and Sabah.
“Therefore, the approach of one size fits all will not work. But in spite of these challenges, I am confident that Malaysia as a federation will survive and grow,” he added.