By LIM SUE GOAN
Translated by SOONG PHUI JEE
Sin Chew Daily
I used to sing the national anthem with my classmates during school days but such chances became rare when we started working. Therefore, I have no objection against the acts of flying the Jalur Gemilang and singing the national anthem, particularly during the Merdeka month.
I can see that the government has really given much thought to the Merdeka Day celebrations. A series of activities and programmes have been well planned to stimulate people's patriotism.
First of all, a collective memory of grief is used to call on the people to defend the country's sovereignty and dignity. The Sulu terrorist intrusion in Sabah earlier this year had resulted in the sacrifice of 10 members of security forces.
Security forces have repeatedly demonstrated to the public how the terrorists were annihilated. Even the Warriors’ Day celebration theme this year was related to the "sovereignty operation". In addition, a new sub-module, dubbed "Malaysia Berdaulat" (Malaysian Sovereign) will be introduced at all National Service Training Programme (PLKN) camps starting January next year. Members of security forces who had participated in the Lahad Datu operation will also be invited to share their experiences with NS trainees. The Lahad Datu intrusion will also be demonstrated at the Merdeka Day parade on 31 August.
Secondly, the government is also intended to boost patriotism among Malaysians through national flag flying and national anthem singing campaigns. The national anthem has been arranged by the Communication and Multimedia Ministry to be played in cinemas before the screening of films, from Aug 28 to Sept 3 in more than 700 cinemas nationwide. And one of the independence promotional video clips, titled Pesanan Terakhir, is meant to praise the sacrifice of the security forces.
Officials and the public have been flying the Jalur Gemilang in recent days in conjunction with the Merdeka Day celebration.
Flying the national flag and singing the national anthem are only auxiliary acts and I personally think that there should be a better way to inspire patriotism.
For instance, playing the national anthem in cinemas would not bring much effect. I believe that it could reach only a small group of people as the number visiting the cinemas this week would account for only a small percentage of the total population. Moreover, could singing the national anthem and watching the promotional clips make them patriotic? Children are relatively simple but the adult world is much more complicated. The goal would not be achieved by only playing the national anthem for a few times.
There are many ways to love the country. Some people choose to express it openly while some prefer to make their contributions silently. Whatever the way, all they hope is to make the country better.
However, patriotism formally shown instead of being reflected in daily life and work is not helpful to the country.
Patriotism should come from the heart instead of being forced. Only true awakening and gratitude will bring true love to the country and put love into action.
I also think that the Merdeka Day theme "Malaysiaku Berdaulat: Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku" has been neglected as too much focus has been put on the national flag and anthem. This is our motherland, the only place we live and thus, how should we make it a prosperous paradise without the threat of crime and corruption? It should be the priority agenda of the country.
Since the US and China have the American Dream and the Chinese Dream, why can't Malaysia have the Malaysian Dream? A common dream can unite the people and build national consciousness.
Meanwhile, under the atmosphere of capital outflow, the depreciation of ringgit and economic slowdown, the ruling and alternative coalitions should stop playing politics. The contradiction of stressing on patriotism and solidarity while splitting the people through politics will not help in building national consensus.
I would like to thank opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim for taking the first step of suggesting a round table discussion between the BN and Pakatan Rakyat. Although the recommendation would not be easy to implement, we still hope that the move can really start the effort of national reconciliation, and thereby wipe out racial sentiments, so that politics and economy can be pulled out of the quagmire.
Without a national consensus, the consequences could be dire when a crisis strikes. It is a question that must be pondered amidst the Merdeka Day celebration.