Hornbill Unleashed

September 5, 2011

Potpourri story of Malaysian independence

Filed under: Politics — Hornbill Unleashed @ 12:03 AM
Tags: , , , , ,


Sim Kwang Yang

The nation has launched into another orgy of National Day celebrations, as the country celebrates the 54th anniversary of Merdeka. That, of course, is the story of the country’s independence, from the point of view of the Malaysian national narrative.

This interpretation of our national story always runs counter to my personal memory of the formation of the country. In my personal recollection, Malaysia is only 48 years old, as Malaysia was declared an independent nation only on September 16, 1963.

But according to the received wisdom of our written history, Malaysia was a mere continuation of the great Malayan project, starting out with the birth of the Malay nation in 1957.

Still, no matter how often the newspapers or history textbooks repeat this, nobody can erase from my consciousness, or our collective memory, how the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to form the federation of Malaysia under unique circumstances.

I cannot accept the purely racial narrative of the Orang Malaya’s sense of history. In my lived experience, Malaysia came into being as a result of combining the western territory of the Malayan states, together with the eastern states of Sabah and Sarawak and briefly, Singapore.

No amount of official history in Malaysia will erase the crucial importance played by Sabah and Sarawak in this tale of national sovereignty.

In most history books, Sabah and Sarawak were made out to play the supporting cast, and that is how the official narrative is replayed year after year.

But in the annals of real life, Sabah and Sarawak are always the main actors in my history book of national deliverance, occupying a central role in the new nation state of Malaysia.

From my personal standpoint, without Sabah and Sarawak, the story of Malaysia would never be complete.

Squeezing out other stories


In a sense, the story of Malayan independence is largely irrelevant to the people of Sabah and Sarawak.As far as I know, independence to the Malayan is merely celebrated in conjunction with the birth of the new Malay Nation State of the Federation of Malaya.

The Independence of Malayan people ought to be celebrated for the birth of a new state is always a major historical event.

But the celebration of this new nation state is now on the brink of squeezing out the crucial importance of the story of Sabahans and Sarawakians.

The inclusion of Sarawak and Sabah in the great Malaysian project has altered the political colour of our national tale.

Originally, politics in Malaya had always been determinedly racial, but the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak has diluted the ethnic nature of this historical record.

Unlike in Malaya, no single race forms a majority among the people of Sabah and Sarawak. There are some 70 different ethnic tribes collectively classified as “bumiputra” in these two states.

Easy mingling of ethnic groups

The integration and mutual respect that exist among the native populations, and the Chinese and others, in these two states is a living example of racial harmony, unlike the case in the Malayan peninsula.

Socio-economically, Sabah and Sarawak are vast states, with astaggering wealth of mineral and land resources.

While the urban development potential in Malaya has been exploited to the full, the potential for economic development in Sabah and Sarawak has barely been touched, except for the timber, oil and mineral resources.

In terms of real economic development, Sabah and Sarawak hold the key to greater flowering in future decades.

sarawak election kuching dap ceramah 160411 04

Half a century after Merdeka, we are witnessing dramatic developments in the story of independence.The political scenario in the country has changed drastically, as the race narrative is now losing its power and grip on the population, though a clear alternative has yet to flourish.

That revolutionary change will come only when the long-ruling BN coalition loses power and is replaced by the alternative alliance of Pakatan Rakyat. That will tip the fulcrum of the national equation of power.
For the first time in Malaysian history, the voters of Sarawak and Sabah suddenly find themselves in the unusual position of kingmakers in the Federation.

This is a great chance to renegotiate their social contract to regain their political self-determination in the eastern territories.

Politics is all about the art of the possible. All we are certain of is that the BN cannot hold on to power forever. We look forward to future decades with confidence and hope in our hearts.

Our task, on our long and arduous journey, is to reinstate the prominence of Sabah and Sarawak in national politics.


  1. “Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and about 30 of his cabinet ministers on Saturday declared their personal wealth.” – as reported in Malaysiakini.

    Malaysian cabinet members too would be too happy to do similar declaration. But in view of the fact that they have too many assets and too much wealth that it would be unfair to fore them to recall what they own, the PM kept all declarations made by Cabinet ministers for affirming loyalty. Besides, MACC has only been good in causing custodial death of witnesses, and they would bark when called upon to.

    Comment by Sazairi Sam — September 5, 2011 @ 2:18 PM | Reply

  2. Each time the robotic outcry “merdeka” is repeated in the media there appears a strong of animosity among our young Malaysians, especially those who born after the Federation. “What is this all about”, is their determining exclamation. The big question mark is, ” Are we Malaysian not Malaysian? ”

    A historical age, passing the half a century and our children, our children’s children should be by now live as one in one nation. They should have already been moulded to contour living as one Malaysian and one single identity. This is the crux then why they have to always chart and paint the Malaysia history to frighten young Malaysians that it should be merdeka, merdeka, medeka every year? Our children, our children’s children already feel the meaningless proclamation for they have themselves uncovered the many insecurities despite they are born in their own beautiful motherland Malaysia. The continuous pinches hurt them dearly making them feel they have had treated worst than being those adopted children. A wandering Malaysian despite born in their own motherland!

    Can’t we look forward to more meaningful celebration other than the mythical heroes. Malaysia has a diverse groups of colourful citizens. May the rich arts, cultures, dances and performances be the vital instruments to merge and blend all citizens uniting them as one true Malaysia family instead of politic jugglings on race, religion, sex and now political myths.

    A watch out for who is already making the lead in SEAsia nations again!

    Comment by miaowkia — September 5, 2011 @ 12:10 PM | Reply

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