There was an order by the government for all building owners to fly the national flag on Merdeka Day. The year was 2002 and the directive came from the then-culture, arts and tourism minister Abdul Kadir Sheikh Fadzir.
In 2010, a news report said there was still a lukewarm response, especially among citizens in Sarawak, towards the ‘Fly the Jalur Gemilang’ campaign launched early that month in conjunction with the Merdeka month.
In 2013, the Malay Mail Online reported about bare buildings, just three days before the country celebrated Aug 31 with the yearly pomp and splendour.
This year the government ordered the local council to ask businesses to fly the flag in August and September to mark Independence Day and Malaysia Day. Their demand was met with scorn.
Clearly something is terribly wrong. Gone are the days where buildings were wrapped in the flag and individuals hoisted it with pride, in their homes.
It’s a clear sign of protest against Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his administration.
Malaysians are fed-up of the rampant corruption, especially the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) financial scandal that resulted in the US Department of Justice initiating a civil suit against people close to Najib, including his stepson.
The sovereign fund, set up to develop the country, is now in debt to the tune of billions of dollars.
And there has been no straight answer to the millions that was deposited into Najib’s personal bank account.
There is certainly no mood for celebrations when people are struggling to make ends meet, with increasing prices of food and essentials and a country which is economically in a slippery slope.
Where are we at, one may ask, as a nation?
The answer is heartbreaking and frightening as we have ruling party leaders who get off scot-free after making racially inflammatory speeches, a government that uses fear amongst its own people to hold on to power, politicians making careless remarks that destroy the social fabric even further, a play of religion on politics, increasing crime rate, weakening ringgit, a prime minister who has given himself enormous powers, a police force that stays loyal to Najib and the list goes on.
Seeing a better future
Amidst this grim scenario, we saw hope when students shook off fear and took to the streets to reclaim their right to freedom of speech and assembly.
We see a better future when Malaysians come together to urge greater transparency in governance and demand for a more direct involvement in the decision-making process of the country.
And it’s heartwarming when individuals, such as rapper Namewee, take the risk to call for help for undocumented migrant workers whom he saw being treated badly, when he was detained recently.
So come Merdeka Day, we will celebrate our freedom from fear, our freedom from toeing the line. We shall celebrate our freedom to express and be heard.
And we will certainly celebrate our freedom to not comply to ridiculous orders and directives from the government.
Selamat Hari Merdeka!