By Bob Teoh
I am really upset with our inability to celebrate our 55th Merdeka in peace and harmony. So I sat down to write this song, a love song.
A wind of change is blowing through our nation. My prayer and hope is that it can change our circumstances through renewal of our hearts. Perhaps it can change the way we look at ourselves so that we can look at others differently. Even lovingly, as brothers and sisters. Enemies no more. Therein lies the promise of our future. Janji harus ditetapti.
The prologue of my song is taken from a three-line verse I wrote five years ago on 29 August 2007 to accompany a piece
My country, my King, my God on our 50th Merdeka celebration then.
Negaraku, tumpahnya darahku
My country, my home.
Sing, sing a new song
Brave hearts embracing freedom
O how sweet the sound
Many tribes and tongues
All living as one nation
Come let us seek God’s
Grace and showers of blessings
We exalt thee Lord
One God, one nation
Many hearts, one faith, one hope
A new love begins
Winds of change bringing
A future for our children
My country, my home.
Our future is deeply etched in our history. Let’s get one thing clear about our national day before we begin our celebrations. On 31 August 1957, nine Malay states and two non-Malay British colonies of Penang and Malacca where there are no sultans achieved independence as the Federation of Malaya or Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (Land of the Malays).
Singapore became fully self-governing on 3 June 1959 while Sarawak became independent on 22 July 1963 and North Borneo, now Sabah, on 31 August 1963.
Brunei withdrew from the proposed formation of the new Federation of Malaysia at the last minute while Singapore withdrew two years later under acrimonious circumstances.
This, thus, is the history of Malaysia, a nation eventually made up of three sovereign countries and not 14 states. The dominant partner is Malaya or what is now known as Peninsular Malaysia. The other two equal partners being Sabah and Sarawak. This is our common destiny.
While the 1957 Constitution (Malay version) refers to Malaya as Tanah Melayu, the 1963 Constitution officially states that the name of the federation shall be Malaysia both in English and Malay with all its legal and constitutional significance.
Thus, this year on 31 August Malaya celebrates its 55th Merdeka while all three regions will be celebrating 16 September as Malaysia’s 49th anniversary.
Some have come to re-construct our history by asserting that Malaysia continues to be a Land of the Malays and by some warped logic the country should pursue Ketuanan Melayu or Malay Supremacy as a matter of national policy. The others are bumiputras and lain lain lagi; second class citizens or alien pendatangs. Therefore, it is not difficult to understand why some insist that 31 August is a national holiday to commemorate Merdeka but not 16 September as the founding date of Malaysia. Supremacist or racist agenda has no place in the brotherhood of nations.
It is also plainly clear that we cannot deny the Malayness in the makeup of our nation simply because we are smack in the midst of the larger Malay Archipelago or Nusantara just as Indonesia is. But our neighbour is not paranoid about its Malayness . They do not suffer any identity crisis.
Unlike Indonesia, Islam is the “religion of the Federation” under our Federal Constitution. But this is equally balanced by the constitutional guarantee that, “other religions may be practised in peace and harmony...”
Sadly, this promise has not been kept for half a century. Janji belum ditepati.
In August 2009, the Kota Kinabalu Pastors’ Fellowship, decided that 16 September 2012 marks the Malaysia Jubilee or its 50th anniversary. In the Christian calendar, the Jubilee celebrations begin in the 49th year.
The following month on 16 September, the pastors and church leaders throughout Malaysia gathered in Sabah and symbolically built a national altar offering the nation to God for His blessing.
Coincidentally, the following month, Prime Minister Najib Razak made a surprise announcement that from 2010 onwards, 16 September will be marked as Malaysia Day and declared as a public holiday to commemorate the formation of Malaysia in 1963.
The Year of Jubilee is set aside to usher in transformation, renewal and blessings that will bring forth hope, rest, reconciliation, and restoration to the nation. This has snowballed into an unprecedented united prayer movement to celebrate the Jubilee by all major Protestant denominations and prayer networks throughout the whole country. Thus, they await the fulfilment of Divine promises. Janji akan ditepati, balas budi terus diikuti.