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Thursday, September 16, 2010

Malaysia Day: A Day for ALL Malaysians

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Mrs. Walski’s home state Penang paved the way, and was the first state in Peninsular Malaysia to recognize September 16 as a holiday last year. This year onwards, the Federal Government has made it a national holiday. And about time, too.

Image taken from SK Bt 4 Jalan Apas website, hosting by PhotobucketFor the first time, Walski can really wish you Happy Malaysia Day!

Walski sees it more than just another public holiday. It’s a first step for those in Peninsular Malaysia to realize that Malaysia is made up of more than just the 10 states and Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Langkawi & Putrajaya.

For it was 47 years ago today that Malaysia as we know it really took shape…
(the importance of Malaysia Day, and more, in the full post)

Granted, on September 16, 1963 Singapore, too, gained their independence from Britain and became part of the federation until 1965. But the date is historic and deserves recognition as much as August 31, 1957 does.

For far too long, we in Peninsular Malaysia have taken September 16 pretty much for granted, and instead the focus has been entirely on August 31. Walski personally thinks that this in itself has played a role in how our national narrative has unfolded over the years. Similarly, our political narrative and landscape.

Ironically, it’s taken 47 years for today to have the recognition it rightly deserves. But the road to recognition hasn’t been a very obvious one. The catalyst for September 16 being recognized, in Walski’s opinion, has its roots in another important date: March 8, 2008 – the day Malaysia realized that the country would still “survive” without BN having a ⅔ majority in Parliament. Until then, the “specter” of doom surrounding losing ⅔ majority had become somewhat of an urban legend.

Granted, the politicking has continued since 3-08 rather relentlessly almost without pause, but Malaysia has survived very much intact. The “fear” was pretty much a fear of the unknown.

But Walski digresses. Another result of 3-08 was BN losing Kedah, Penang, Selangor, and for a short while, Perak. And it was in the Pakatan-ruled state of Penang (Pulau Pinang) that September 16 was first given recognition as a state holiday last year.

This year onwards, Malaysia Day becomes a full nationwide public holiday. And while no one in federal government will outright admit it, Walski suspects that if it weren’t for Penang and the other Pakatan states taking the lead, today would still remain a footnote in our national history narrative.

To commemorate September 16, there are a chockfull of activities going on, at least in Kuala Lumpur where Walski resides. One that deserves special mention will be this evening at Rumah Anak Bangsa Malaysia.

Registration for the program opens at 6:30pm, and an evening of meeting and celebrating the real birth of Malaysia with other Malaysians.

Another reason for attending the event is that today also marks the first anniversary of the Saya Anak Bangsa Malaysia initiative.

The event at Rumah Anak Bangsa Malaysia this evening will therefore be a double celebration: 47 years of Malaysia being a nation, as well as the first anniversary of an initiative to bring about a true Malaysian people (bangsa Malaysia).

Rumah Anak Bangsa Malaysia is located at 66 Lorong Setiabistari 1, Taman Bukit Damansara, 50490 Kuala Lumpur (link will bring up a new Google Map window). Incidentally, it’s the same house that used to be the Blog House.

Another event is the Sape Solidarity exhibition, film screening and performance, going on at Central Market Annexe (link will bring up a new Google Map window).

Image taken from the Central Market Annexe website, hosting by Photobucket

The Sape is a traditional stringed musical instrument that originates from Sarawak, sometimes also called the Borneo Lute. The highlight will be the live performance by Kilah Kuit, a well-known sape player, scheduled for 8pm tonight.

The Central Market Annexe will be hosting a number of events this coming weekend (September 18 & 19). You can check out the Annexe Gallery website for a full listing. Among the highlights, however, are Arts for Grabs Malaysia Day 2010, and an installment of the OtherMalaysia lectures, “TWO, THEN THREE, THEN FOUR COLOURS: A Potted History of the Malaysian Flag", by none other than Farish A. Noor.

Another celebration of today – MalaysiaKU : Celebrating Malaysia Day (via Facebook), happening at Bangkung Row (link will bring up a new Google Map window), located off of Jalan Maarof in Bangsar. There’s really a lot going on, so check out the invitation page on Facebook (see link above) for details.

One final thing that Walski would like to highlight is an initiative that has just been launched today, called Our Ideal Malaysia. It’s quite simple: the site allows Malaysians to express what we want to make this nation better. Suggestions will be collected between now and August 15th, 2011, after which these will be forwarded to the Prime Minister, heads of all political parties, as well as to the media for Malaysia Day 2011. Our Ideal Malaysia also has a companion Facebook page. So, if there are things about the country that bother you and you have suggestions on how to make Malaysia better, here’s your opportunity. In the coming days, Walski will be writing a bit more about this initiative.

All in all, a lot of positivity has so far emanated from Malaysia Day, which makes Walski happy. Perhaps, despite the vicious politicking that seems unending, ordinary Malaysians, of all walks of life, essentially wish for the same thing: an equitable and peaceful Malaysia. While it is disheartening that there are some who wish to retain the status quo where some Malaysians are “more equal than others” regardless of the consequence to the nation as a whole, Walski’s personal feel is that these people form a small minority.

He is certain, that the majority of Malaysians want our nation to progress and be great. There are, perhaps, a number of things that don’t work as well as they could. But to improve upon these things is not an insurmountable task.

But let’s not lie to ourselves – it won’t be easy either.

The key thing is to accept that in order to progress, we have to be willing to change. Without change, we remain stagnant, and to remain stagnant, we open ourselves up to the very real possibility of regressing.

Every journey starts with a single step, and the first small step can be taken today. That small step is to realize that regardless of which state you may come from, regardless of what creed you may belong to, and regardless of what shade of the human skin spectrum you might have acquired, we are all essentially Malaysians – one people with a collective wish to move forward positively as one nation.

And today is our day, when we celebrate her 47th birthday… as one Bangsa Malaysia.