Should we re-brand our national day celebrations?


Students taking part in the National Day celebrations at A public university in Kuala Lumpur.

Happy Merdeka Day!

Happy Malaysia Day?

Happy Independence Day?

How about, Happy National Day!?

Phew... Suddenly, sending good vibes on National Day (let's call it this for the time being) has become a political-correctness minefield.

I'm not entirely sure when this happened. It's quite a recent phenomenon. Some say it’s the politics, but let's leave that out today.

Let's be clear. In my eyes and the eyes of most, if not all Malaysians, 31 August and 16 September are both special dates worthy of celebration (and not just for the public holidays they come with).

The former is about commemorating the Federation of Malaya's independence from the British while the latter is also about commemorating the day Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak came together to form Malaysia (Truly Asia). 

Personally, I’m not too sure about calling it "National Day". I like Merdeka AND Malaysia Day. Both have a great vibe and it's what makes Malaysia a truly unique country.

Indeed, there are some contentious issues which I don’t intend to delve in. These are well-documented and other Star columnists have written about it.

Rather, I did a Whatsapp Ideas-Sourcing on "How Can We Rebrand or Rethink Merdeka/Malaysia Day" so that we can celebrate these special days even better. Here are some of the interesting ideas that came about:

First Idea - The "Malaysia Merdeka Fortnight" (MMF)

One of my favourite ideas is to officially declare the period between 31 August and 16 September as MMF.

Aside from the resemblance to the emotive WWF acronym (aww, panda), MMF would recognize 31 August as the kick-off point to our nation's independence celebrations (no more 1 August being "independence month").

The kick-off can be in the form of a parade (which we already do), whereby we honour our nation's institutions, police force, army, veterans, and the likes.

The MMF Parade "ends" with an Olympic-esque baton torch being lit and handed over to our athletes (able-bodied and handicapable) who will then embark on a 16 day run around the nation with the run ending in (surprise, surprise) Sabah or Sarawak!

In between, there'll be MMF events planned all-over the country - school-level celebrations, shopping sales, theaters, exhibitions and more.

On 16 September, MMF will culminate with a night-time gala focusing on race relations and the nation's coming together as one (North Korea's 'Arirang Mass Games' stadium performance would be too epic).
Second idea - "National Day Episode 1: Merdeka" & "National Day Episode 2: Malaysia".

Everybody loves movies. Even more so those with sequels.

What if viewed our national days as a 2-part special? The days in between are the mini-series of various events. Both days can be seen as part of a larger story, one of unity and a collective good. There’ll be some romance,  good food, and heart-warming moments.
That would be epic, as long as no one argues which episode was better...

Third Idea - Just celebrate 31 August.

Quick historical note: Malaysia Day was originally planned for 31 August 1963.

Nevertheless, Tunku Abdul Rahman, after meeting with his Philippines and Indonesian counterparts, decided to postpone it to 16 September in order to give the United Nations time to assesses the popular will of the Borneo people.

The popular analogy commonly used to support this idea is the United States of America's Independence Day whereby on 4 July 1776, the Declaration of Independence was signed by just 13 states.

Over the next 183 years, the other states would join on various dates with Hawaii being the 50th and final state to join on 12 August 1959.

If the USA can do it, why not Malaysia?

I'm not persuaded by this suggestion.

The fact that USA has 50 states, requiring some 183 years to form (with the possibility of more), means that a single date makes the most sense - resources and arguably, patriotism-wise.

In Malaysia's context however, it's between just two dates, both of which we have been able to celebrate individually. Both dates have a significant place in the hearts of Peninsular and East Malaysians. Both dates should also have a special place in the hearts of all Malaysians. 

At the end of the day, my friends and I couldn't really agree on what the best solution was, or whether we even needed a solution.

Two of them interestingly compared the dates to a child's birthday and that the family needed to celebrate both.

Another friend spoke of the bigger picture. "What's important is for all Malaysians, especially the young, to cherish and truly understand what it took to attain our freedom – the history, the struggles, and the benefits we can enjoy together". 

I agree.

As Tunku Abdul Rahman read out the declarations for Malaya's independence and Malaysia's formation, one can't help notice the near identical closing lines in which the Tunku says "Malaysia (previously Malaya)... forever be an independent and sovereign democratic State (Nation) founded upon (the principles of) liberty and justice, ever seeking to defend and uphold peace and harmony (welfare and happiness) among its people and to perpetuate peace (maintenance of a just peace) among nations".

We are together in this journey.

Happy Merdeka and Malaysia Day.
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Danial Rahman

Danial Rahman

Danial Rahman has education close to his heart. He tweets at @danial_ari and welcomes feedback at danialrahman0330@gmail.com.

   

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