September 6, 2013
After 50 Years, It’s time to clear haze of Fuzzy History
by JASWINDER KAUR KLER
September 06, 2013
Latest Update: September 06, 2013 06:37 pm
This is where the sun hits first, before it claims West Malaysia in the morning. Sabah is beach and sweet sea, forest and fresh water, bountiful on the surface and rich with resources deep below ground.
Its natives are still celebrating only their fourth national independence day together with their West Malaysian neighbours, so how do people here in Sabah feel about it?
She argues, “Malaysia Day marks the day when Malaysia was born as a nation and it is more important than Merdeka Day. Malaya, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak were colonised and gained their independence separately before Malaysia came to being.
“I feel it took way too long for the rest of the country to acknowledge the crucial fact that Malaysia was born on September 16. There is not enough emphasis on this fact, and it is just fleetingly mentioned in our history books.”
Sabah Youth Council President Kevin Lim says, “Some in West Malaysia think that Malaysia is an upgraded name for Malaya when in fact, it is a nation.
“The independence of Malaya, and later of Sabah (and Sarawak) and the formation of Malaysia are two different incidents in our history, but many are still unclear about this. This confusion also happens among Malaysians in Sabah.”
Mother-of-one Joan Goh is someone who acknowledges the fuzzy history, saying, “as to how old Malaysia really is, it seems that some people are either confused or refuse to acknowledge this fact”.
The solution to the problem of fuzzy shared memory is an open discussion on revising the history of Malaysia that is taught to children, argues clergyman Carrey Yubong. This, he said, could be done by roping in historians from the state.
But there is also a sense of Sabah remaining excluded from the centre.“As a Malaysian from Sabah, I feel excluded, as we are always treated like the stepchild,” declares Goh.
Some netizens from Sabah have in recent weeks aired their disappointment over announcements and billboards that state Malaysia is celebrating its 56th and are annoyed with wordings used on billboards that indicate Sabah has been “in” Malaysia for 50 years.
“Even though Malaysia Day is now a national holiday, I feel our shared history means nothing. We are not ‘in’ Malaysia. We formed this nation as partners and Sabah should be recognised for its contributions,” says Aripen.
“This forms the very basis of the discrimination that we feel and unless it is rectified, how can we be united as a nation under 1Malaysia?” she asks. What else contributes to this continued sense of alienation? There must be a resolution of serious issues, say Sabahans.
“Issues include provision of basic amenities, poverty eradication, education, inclusion in decision-making, creation of jobs, business opportunities and other matters,” says management consultant Azhar Othman.
Goh wants to see her son grow up in a competitive environment rather than being fed with affirmative policies. She also adds that recent events ranging from rampant shootings to the argument over the word Allah have diluted her feelings of being Malaysian.
Azhar wants the government to be serious in addressing such issues raised by Sabah and Sarawak and he for one believes Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is doing as much as he can but might be hampered by political factors.
But clergyman Yubong wants action. For example, Christians in Sabah should not be made to feel excluded or guilty for using the Malay-language Bible, considering this is their official language and the one used in public schools, he points out. Underneath this anxiety though is an acknowledgement that East and West do have a shared destiny.
Cleric Yubong says that whether some Sabahans like it or not, and if they feel included or otherwise, the fact remains that the state is part of a federation, an agreement sealed five decades ago.
“This means we share the ups and downs of our system, and what we need in Sabah is for the federation to uphold the fundamental rights of each individual and to study the needs of the people in the context of social justice. Once we affirm the dignity of each person, only then can we, as Malaysians, be proud of Malaysia Day.”
And while Goh says, “I am saddened by the actions of those running the country and others who are bent on eroding the harmony people of various backgrounds have enjoyed,” she adds that she is trying to remain optimistic as having travelled extensively, Goh feels Malaysia is the best place in the world.
Sabah Youth Council’s Lim hopes that the recognition of September 16 as a national holiday will encourage every Malaysian to better understand how the nation was created and be proud of Malaysia Day. Cleric Yubong says Malaysia Day is an opportunity for him to reflect on how he has treated fellow Malaysians who may not share the same opinions.
It is on a day like this, he says, that he asks himself, “Have I been kind, attentive and compassionate towards fellow Malaysians? Am I consciously living my days as a true Malaysian? Can I challenge myself to learn, to accept and not panic that we have diversity in this country?” – September 6, 2013–The Malaysian Insider