KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia is all geared up to celebrate its 65th year National Day with great zeal on Aug 31 after two years of muted celebrations due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Various activities have been organised and launched during the National Month aimed at instilling the patriotic spirit among the people in line with the theme ‘Keluarga Malaysia Teguh Bersama’.
Patriotic fervour gripped the air as major buildings and structures along busy roads and streets are festooned with Jalur Gemilang while cabs and private cars are also displaying the national flag on their vehicles.
As in past celebrations, some Malaysians have their own novel way of showing their patriotism and love for the nation by having Jalur Gemilang-themed outfits as well as hats and various types of replica using the national flag to mark the joyous occasion.
However, an expert has warned that fashioning the Jalur Gemilang - a symbol of national sovereignty - as clothing or other items may be treated as desecration of the national flag.
Such a situation stemmed from the lack of knowledge on the flag protocol and etiquette, Principal Research Fellow of the Institute of Ethnic Research (Kita), Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia Prof Datuk Teo Kok Seong told Bernama in an interview.
MANDATORY TO RESPECT THE FLAG
He said there are certain rules that should be followed correctly in line with the international protocol and flag etiquette, one of which is, it should not be worn as apparel.
"Some Malaysians tend to be overzealous during the National Month celebration, causing them to lose respect for the flag by using it as clothing, etc.
"While there are no laws governing how the Jalur Gemilang should be treated, the flag should be flown in all its glory on its own,” he added.
He said the flag also signifies the spirit of patriotism in defending the honour and dignity of race, religion and nationhood as well as a symbol of leadership and citizenship of a country.
As such, the use of the national flag should be based on the set guidelines given that it is also a symbol of nationalism, patriotism and love for the nation.
A 2020 publication released by the Communication and Multimedia Ministry’s Information Department (Japen) outlined several rules on how the Jalur Gemilang should be utilised in formal and informal situations.
Among others, it is considered degrading to utilise the Jalur Gemilang as shawl, songkok, sampin or other objects and thus it is prohibited to do so. However, the use of the primary colours and motif of the Jalur Gemilang such as red, white, blue and yellow are allowed.
Besides the use of flags in various styles, photos as well as alterations made to the Jalur Gemilang to advertise the Merdeka month are prohibited. Other prohibitions include having the Jalur Gemilang on logos while the national flag cannot be covered up by text in infographics.
Teo noted that some Malaysians would go the extra mile to express their love for the nation by preparing special attire, etc based on their own creativity, but the rules on the proper use of the flag should be clearly explained to the people.
Unfortunately, he said, to date no quarters, either from the government or non-governmental organisations (NGOs) has chided the public for improper use of the Jalur Gemilang.
"I’m sure the enforcement authorities are looking at the issue in terms of the appropriateness of using the flag as shawl, apparel, etc that is not based on ethics, but it appears that they are turning a blind eye to the situation,” he added.
"As such, I would like to propose that the relevant parties should disseminate information on the ethics or a handbook on the use of the flag to the people widely especially schools as there are some that display the Jalur Gemilang without following the guidelines given,” he said.
According to Teo, exposure on the guidelines on the use of the flag should be carried out in various platforms, including the social media, television or the main news slot of each channel or newspapers that can be utilised given their wider reach.
He is confident that once the information and guidelines are widely disseminated with full commitment by the relevant authorities, the people will be more aware and informed of the proper ethics in upholding the sanctity of the Jalur Gemilang.
EMBLEMS AND NAMES ACT 1963
Meanwhile, a Constitutional expert Prof Datuk Dr Shamrahayu Ab Aziz said the Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1963 states that it is improper to use certain emblems and names for trade and commercial purposes.
"However, the Act does not have non-legally binding protocols and guidelines on the use of the flag as clothing, etc, hence the question arises do we need a law to prohibit and punish those who use the flag or emblem in an improper manner?
"All citizens or non-citizens should respect the flag of a nation and this is human behaviour, that is the social behaviour that should be present among the community, that is to respect the flag,” she told Bernama.
The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act 1963 prohibits the use of any specified name or specified emblem, or any colourful imitation thereof, for the purpose of any trade, business, calling or profession.
Others include "the use or continue to use any specified name or specific name or specified emblem, or any colourable imitation in the title of any patent, or in any trade mark or design.”
This Act has also been amended in 2017 whereby any person who contravenes Section 3 commits an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding RM20,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both.
Asked on the need for laws on punishing those who use flags improperly, she said although the punishment is needed, it is important for one to understand the true meaning of the flag.
In this context, she urged all the relevant parties to spread the message on the proper use of the national flag. - Bernama