Malaya Merdeka! What about Sarawak & Sabah?

Today is 31 August, commonly referred to as Hari Merdeka or Independence Day.  What is not commonly understood by most people is that 31 August is actually Malaya Independence Day when Tunku Abdul Rahman together with the rest of the founding fathers of various communities gained independence from British Rule for Malaya.  This is West Malaysia today.

So, we are really commemorating the 51st year of independence for Malaya or West Malaysia.  Happy Merdeka Day!  So where does East Malaysia fit in?  Did somebody forget that they are part of Malaysia?  Why is it that Merdeka Day which is Malaya Independence Day celebrated as if it was for all Malaysia?  What about Sarawak and Sabah?

Indeed, over the years, our Government had inadvertently swept Sarawak and Sabah into Malaya both in concept and in practice rather than joint partners of independence.  The early Government before 1963 had correctly celebrated Merdeka Day for all because they ruled all of Malaya.  There was no Malaysia until 16 September 1963.  Without doing justice to the inclusion of Singapore (who was kicked out of Malaysia in 1965), Sarawak and Sabah, Malaysia continues to celebrate the Malaya independence as Malaysia independence.

We are taught in our Sejarah (history) textbooks in schools (and still teaching children today) and it echoes in the media for the past 51 years that 31 August is Merdeka Day with a silent implication this is independence day for all of Malaysia.  Does it even matter if the day and year of Malaysia independence is taken as 31 August instead of 16 September?  After all, we’ve been doing it for half a century.  So what?

James Chin wrote an excellent article here expounding on this very issue.  Are we 45 years or 51 years of independence?  It does matter.  Apart from his main thesis in his posting, there is another dimension to be understood.

Especially so now after Anwar won his Pematang Pauh Parliamentary seat last Tuesday.  Sarawak and Sabah have both become the focus of BN and PR in their endeavor to gain the East Malaysian states’ support to either form a new Government or to maintain control of the present Government.

For the first time, the East Malaysian states are now the pivot of attention for both Pak Lah and Anwar.  Why?  Because they control 54 seats in Parliament.  Both Anwar and Pak Lah need these seats to establish their control in Parliament.

Now, politics aside, recognizing Merdeka Day today for all Malaysians, it should now bring our attention to include our East Malaysian brothers and sisters to the Malaysia their forefathers subscribed to in 1963.  Over the past 45 years, they have been sidelined and allowed to play second fiddle at most in the BN Government.  Their concerns in serious issues have gone virtually unheard.  The bumiputra of East Malaysia, the natives of the land of Borneo now part of Malaysia, feel left out and let down in the Malaysian development.  They have continued to sit in the shadow of the Malayan peer.  They continue to see their rightful resources taken for Federal management but little comes back to them.  They feel used this Merdeka Day!  Ask any East Malaysian and you will get the same feeling about West Malaysia, the Federal Government.

It is with disdain they view West Malaysia because for 45 years, the Malaya part of the Malaysia has somehow lorded over them.  But today, they have come to the fore of attention for both Pak Lah and Anwar need them to establish the future of Malaysia.  They once had autonomy but today, that too has been usurped from the constitution.

And suddenly, we recognize the importance of Sarawak and Sabah for the future of Malaysia.  The 2009 Budget announced by Pak Lah dished out money for the building of infrastructure.  Hopefully, this is not the last time they see this magnanimity from the Federal Government.  Certainly, there are quarters who are sceptical about this focus in the Budget because of the wooing of Pak Lah to East Malaysian states.

But is it enough?  The treatment of Sarawak and Sabah for the past 45 years has been listless at best.  This listlessness is now seen in this year’s Merdeka celebrations by the people.  Most have kept the flag in the cupboard.  Patriotic songs usually blaring in shopping complexes and TVs are low keyed or not even played.  There are more Olympic songs on TV than Malaysia patriotic songs by far.  Looks like nobody is particularly interested to celebrate Merdeka Day as in previous years.

This is a dangerous sign.  Perhaps the March General Election historic results have shaken the BN Government but seems not to have woken it up yet.  The recent Pematang Pauh by-election historic result mirrored the March GE 12 results may have caused the powers to be to have forgotten about Merdeka Day with their absorbed focus on Anwar.  Where is Shabbery Cheek when you need him?  Someone forgot to send out a memo on the celebration of 31 August?

We are having the worst Merdeka Day for a long time most people can remember.  Nobody seems interested.  The celebration dressing is listless.  The little flags that used to fly in motorbikes and cars all over the country long before Merdeka Day is now no longer visible.  No more patriotic songs.  No more Sudirman on the radio ringing out “Tanggal Tiga Puluh Satu, Bulan Lapan, Lima Puluh Tujuh, Merdeka…..” so familiar to our ears over the years.

Perhaps the sly recognition of Anwar to the significance of 16 September shows wisdom to be all inclusive of Sarawak and Sabah in his plan to Putra Jaya.  This was spouted soon after the March GE12 results as a major milestone for all Malaysians to watch.  Certainly, the cry of 16 September is the admission by Anwar that Sarawak and Sabah will not be forgotten in the new Malaysia if he succeeds to form the new Government with them because he has long recognized the fact he can’t do it without them.  Implicit meanings of the shouts of Merdeka during his Pematang Pauh campaign rings to underscore the eventual importance of 16 September – Malaysia Day – where Sarawak and Sabah signed up with the rest to form Malaysia.

Perhaps this is the turning point for all Malaysians to think about celebrating Malaysia Day on 16 September together with ALL states as well because it was this day that Sarawak and Sabah made it possible for us to be called Malaysia.  We can’t avoid looking at 16 September as Anwar’s date now.  But regardless of what Anwar has said, he has successfully pointed us to this very day, 16 September, as our focus whether we like it or not.  It is Malaysia Day and Anwar has successfully painted himself as a true Malaysia leader pinning himself and PR to 16 September.

Because of this, BN leaders are all wary of 16 September but have they forgotten Malaysia Day along with it?  Have they forgotten that Sarawak and Sabah are truly part of Malaysia for Independence Day and not only for a day but forever?  Hopefully not.

Happy Merdeka Day! And we should also look forward to Malaysia Day in a few weeks time.

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9 Comments to “Malaya Merdeka! What about Sarawak & Sabah?”

  1. Up to date, the KL administration still clinging to celebrate the Nation called Tanah Melayu, which estabilished since 31/Aug/1957.
    Borneo should have the right to celebrate and stand up as a nation called Borneo, which estabilished since 31/Aug/1963.
    Why Sabah & Sarawak wants to fight for a political position to stand in a nation called Malaysia on 16/Sep/1963?
    The Borneo decendents should not conform the policy, “assimilate to be kaum melayu”, which set by the Nation called Tanah Malaya and put in their education context.
    Borneo has its own civilization since 10,000+ years ago as discovered in Niah cave. Why Borneo people needs to conform and follow the history of a nation celled Tanah Melayu, which only exists after 1400 AD, and with the culture imported from Arab?

  2. i am proud to be a malaysian… i always dream to be an architect, astrounouts and a prime mistress…
    merdeka, merdeka, merdeka… we’re free from british…. hoooray…

  3. i didnt read the whole blog..but im just interested in responding to that Borneo as a Nation’s comment. In your last paragraph, uve said that why do natives in Borneo need to follow and conform with the history of that Tanah Melayu? Just have this brief reply; That’s because the well known history of Melacca has been written down since its establishment nation at that time. If you the Borneo has its own history to be shared, i supposed it’s not wrong to reveal and appeal to the education Ministry of that fact for it to be included in one of the syllabus in our education system…it’s just that you need to convey and justify these information so that we won’t create a false history and culture. So, if no research done up till now, debate about that is not a debatable issue.
    Hopefully Malaysia could expand its history and with that, integration in our community will last.

  4. I urge you to read it through. Borneo, especially Sabah and Sarawak in this case, are equal partners in the formation of MALAYSIA, together with Singapore. Regardless of the history of Malacca (as it is known then), there’s a lot of non-history about Melaka too, written by historian to spruce up what little there is without much basis.

    Anyway, my point was that equal partners then in the formation of Malaysia is no longer equal partners now 45 years down the road. Perhaps, it’s time to acknowledge them and not ignore them. Their natural wealth is powering much of our economy.

  5. to Proud to Be Malaysian,

    i will read that through next week as my time is filled with exams till this coming 26. I supposed you have the point in this matter. Well, just as i thought unfairness in this country, i supposed Kelantan is one of the states that is left behind by the Malaysian Government. Although this is somehow relates to the ruling parties of the state, i supposed development in Kelantan should not just be about education and more towards commercial and industrial sectors. I personally felt that Sabah and Sarawak did and still get a better funding from the government unlike Kelantan.
    Well, if Oil was the reason for such funding to mask this unfair action, i believe that it’s not 100% true either if i we were to reflect on Teregganu state. The wealth and funding from oil straightaway flow to the federal government (there goes the expansion of our Capital city Kuala Lumper), what is left to Terengganu? Similar to Kelantan, money were then funded for education, again not much on commercial or industrial.
    Sorry for this mumble, the point that im trying to bring out here is that Sabah and Sarawak is never left behind or being the ‘second class citizen’, instead, it’s much better than that of East Coast locals of Malaysia Peninsular.

  6. You have a point in that the East Coast states have been lagging everybody, not forgetting the Northern states. It’s different in that they are part of the Peninsular states that formed Malaya. The economic focus was not in those states even till today. A different story altogether and warrants a closer look.

  7. To Faaris, with response to comment about Borneo as a nation.
    Go in google or wikipedia (or search for past National Geography) and search for ancient civilization in Borneo. Jagan jadikan katak di bawah telaga dan percayakan apa yg dicetak dlm buku2 sekolah dgn arahan kerajaan Tnh Mlyu.
    Kalau boleh, pegi tinggal sementara di luar negara yg maju, London, Jktr, dan carilah buku2 rujukan mengenai Borneo… baru tau berapa banyak kerajaan Tnh Mlyu menbelokan kebenaran sejarah Borneo! Juga ada banyak menbelokan kebenaran sejarah sebelum raja Melaka dibentukan (pendatang & penlarian dari kerajaan Majapahit Sumantra sebelum 1400TMS).

    A country that bans truth gives licence to lies.
    And it is lies, not truth, that will cause harm most.

  8. Yes, I agree with you “Nosoob” regarding our national history in textbooks, it was well written for our generation and young generation to support some groups.

    And some people bought it, including yourself, (Nosoob) since you mention about Kesultanan Melayu Melaka as a pendatang and as a root for Malaya.

    For your information the history of Malaya is not only revolving around Tanah Melayu (Malaya) it has a long history covering from northen of Thailand (Pattani) to Philippines, or The Malay archipelago.

    In Malaya Kesulatanan Melayu Melaka is not the oldest form of government, there are more older and “civilize” form of government such as Kesultanan Melayu Pattani, Kedah Tua, Kerajaan Dinding and a few more I don’t remember.

    And recently evidence of human existence dating back 1.83 million years was uncovered at Bukit Bunuh in Lenggong Perak which is more older the previous Perak man which dated 31,000 years ago and prehistoric skeleton in Gua Niah Sarawak dated 40,000 years ago. Every place has its on history we should respect it.

    Our schoolbook was root from our beloved British Administration succeeded now by our current loving administration; and now our people accusing each other (like us now), can u see something fishy around here? “WE” only the people not the government what can we do accept to vote once every 5 years.

    To cut thing short I thing it is too “childish and immature” to argue emotionally about dissatisfaction for the federation by this inter-State debate, we should know what our government can do for us especially our “State administration” and what “WE” can “contribute”.

    In the pursuit of UNITY we should understand and respect each other, and STUDY MORE to understand and bring the gap closer, if unity is what we want otherwise it would be a different story. When Tun Jugah and his delegates came to Malaya and agreed for the federation there must be a reason.

  9. Silver ink got his view.
    However, Tun Jugah and Tun Fuad Stephen was fool by the Federal admin led by Tun A. Rahman.
    Now, the natives in M’sia Borneo felt their basic rights being interfered and fool by the KL politicians, and not taking National Unity by heart.
    Check here:

    That’s why there will be more Borneo natives support Indonesia’s Pancasila than the Ruku Negara.
    Some more, we know that the Semenanjung M’sia is no consider as the Malay Archipelago (Malay-polynesian or Nusantara) as it is part of the Asia main land (link with Thai and China). Therefore, Semenanjung is not the land of Malay (Tanah Melayu)!
    Borneo, Indonesia, & Philipines… until Hawaii are the land of Malay-polynesian people! Centre of the Malay-polynesian should be Sulawesi and not KL nor Jakarta!
    So, the history of Semenanjung M’sia & Islam civilization is not for all the Malay-polynesian people.
    Just wonder how long will the KL politicians still live under the self-centred shell and keep fooling with history? Even the Australia gov dare admit their wrongful act of the British (POME) towards the natives, will the KL politicians admit theirs?

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