Reflect on history and diversity

  • The Star Says
  • Sunday, 13 Sep 2020

Giant digital board at Jalan Bukit Bintang. — LOW LAY PHON/The Star

THIS coming Wednesday is a public holiday to celebrate Malaysia Day.

Malaysians love their holidays and Malaysia is one of the countries in the world with the most public holidays.

We got this extra break when Malaysia Day was declared a public holiday in October 2009.

But do we – especially Malaysians growing up in Peninsular Malaysia – know why we are celebrating Malaysia Day?

It is to commemorate the birth of Malaysia on Sept 16,1963. Malaya, North Borneo (later known as Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore formed the Federation of Malaysia (Singapore left the federation in 1965).

Many in the peninsula do not know this part of the country’s history.

Before we celebrated Malaysia Day officially for the first time on Sept 16,2010, many thought the birth of the nation was on Aug 31,1957. Some of us are not aware that Sept 16 is also an important day especially for Sabahans and Sarawakians from the Borneo part of Malaysia.

Now, we have twin celebrations – National Day and Malaysia Day – to commemorate the country’s journey from the independence of Malaya to the formation of Malaysia.

Both are historical anniversaries to remind us of the struggle of Malaysians to achieve independence from the colonists and the formation of the country.

When we enjoy the public holiday on Wednesday, we should reflect on the day when Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak came together as one. We still have much to learn about each other.

Geographically as a nation, we might have come together. But, because of the unique geography of Malaysia where Peninsular Malaysia is separated from Sabah and Sarawak by the South China Sea, Malaysians from both sides have little understanding and appreciation of each other.

Many in Sabah and Sarawak have not visited Peninsular Malaysia. Similarly, many in Peninsular Malaysia have not visited Sabah or Sarawak.

While the media have tried to raise awareness and foster understanding among Malaysians on both sides of the South China Sea, the best way is still to visit each other.

Peninsular Malaysians especially should visit Sabah and Sarawak to see for themselves how diverse the nation is.

Many still have a vague understanding of the diversity the two Bornean states bring to Malaysia. To foster closer unity, we should understand the different ethnicities in our country.

One way to do it is to visit the Borneo part of Malaysia so that we can appreciate that Malaysia is not only about Malays, Chinese, Indians or Orang Asli.

In Sabah and Sarawak, we have Bajau, Kadazandusun, Rungus, Iban, Bidayuh and Melanau. All them make up what Malaysia is.

Malaysia Day is not only a holiday. It is a day for us to reflect on the formation of Malaysia.

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