DEBATES are still on about the understanding among Malaysians, especially the young Sarawakians, of the significance of Sept 16, 1963 (916).
Many argue on which date holds the highest prominence – Sarawak Day on July 22, National Day on Aug 31, or Malaysia Day on Sept 16.
Deputy Chief Minister Datuk Amar Abang Johari Tun Openg says Sept 16 is a historical date, because it was when Malaysia was declared independent and sovereign back in 1963.
“In the years to come, I hope that Malaysia will continue to prosper, and that the people remain united.
Everybody sacrifices for the sake of this country.
We work together so that this country remains peaceful and the people will benefit from it,” he said recently.
In July this year, Abang Johari was quoted as having said that July 22, 1963 was when Tan Sri Datuk Amar Stephen Kalong Ningkan was appointed Sarawak Chief Minister, and the Supreme Council comprising Sarawak’s ministerial cabinet was formed.
The steps towards the formation of Malaysia, however, were from July 9 up to Sept 15 that same year.
Abang Johari said as a 11- year-old at the time, he saw that Sarawak gained her full independence when his father Tun Datuk Abang Openg Sapiee was sworn in as its first governor.
“Personally, I think that Sept 16 should be the real date to be celebrated as Sarawak’s Independence Day.
Before Sept 16, 1963, the (British) Union Jack flag still flew over the Astana (official residence of the Head of State).
“Whatever it is, I’ll leave it to the historians,” he told reporters at a press conference in Wisma Bapa Malaysia in Kuching on July 14 this year.
Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Minister Datuk Fatimah Abdullah believed that all three dates should be remembered by all Sarawakians.
Adding on, she pointed out that as far as Malaysian history was concerned, it must include the correct facts on these important dates.
“We hope that in the spirit of 1Malaysia, we could celebrate these dates in the spirit of ‘muhibbah’ (solidarity) and respect, so that we can continue to enjoy the peace that we have all this while.
If we want to achieve a developed country status, we must have peace.
If we want to enjoy peace, we cannot be complacent.
“We must put in the efforts and work towards peace, and this requires the cooperation of all.
We do not want any element that can divide us and disrupt the harmony of our people.
Our diversity must never divide us; instead, it should unite us,” she said.
In a similar sentiment, Works Minister Datuk Fadillah Yusof said with the peace and solidarity: “We can become a prosperous nation.”
“Thankfully, we are living in a peaceful nation.
This is especially so after the government has declared two important dates for public holidays, which is National Day and Malaysia Day.
With the inclusion of Sarawak Day on July 22, we have these important dates for us remember our history and the people’s struggles in gaining independence,” said Fadillah, who is Petra Jaya MP.
Meanwhile Federation of Kuching, Samarahan and Serian Divisions Chinese Associations president Dato Richard Wee said Malaysia Day should be recognised as the day Malaysia was formed, whereas Aug 31 should be celebrated as Independence Day.
“Malaysia Day is more significant to Sarawak and Sabah compared with Independence Day.
Peninsular Malaysia may celebrate that day (Aug 31) in a more elaborate way whereas we, in Sarawak and Sabah, should concentrate on the main celebration on Sept 16.
“After all, it was on Sept 16, 1963, that Malaysia was truly formed – although the agreement might have been signed earlier.
” For Miri Mayor Adam Yii, he acknowledged that prior to its declaration as a public holiday by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak in 2010, Sept 16 was not officially accorded with due recognition and thus, it was not celebrated.
“Of course, Miri as the non-capital city in the country has been very eager in organising events such as ‘Malaysia Day Countdown’ concert on the eve of the occasion.
However due to the lack of time for any preparation, we may have to forego the countdown concert this year,” he said.
Still, Yii was proud to see the tremendous changes in Miri over the past 53 years.
“Miri began as a small fishing town – now, it is very modern, with a myriad of infrastructures and amenities.
We are optimistic that Miri will progress further under the wise and pragmatic leadership of Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Adenan Satem.
“Although we still have a long way to go in educating and instilling in young Malaysians, especially Sarawakians, the historical knowledge about Sept 16, it is better late than never,” he said.
MORE THAN JUST A HOLIDAY
Miri City Councillor Ernest Goh was very honest when he was asked about the significance of Sept 16.
“Shamefully, I admit that I only learn about Malaysia Day after it was announced as a public holiday.
Having said that, I believe that many other Malaysians, particularly Sarawakians, were like me.
Before 2010, we only celebrated Aug 31 – like 916 never existed.
” Nevertheless, Goh began to learn more about the history behind Malaysia Day.
“After that, I grew to love and honour Malaysia, its history of becoming a nation, and also the unification of territories that are separated by the South China Sea.
“Therefore, I think that more measures should be undertaken to encourage all Malaysians to learn and understand this history, as well as to pass it on to our future generation.
” Echoing Yii’s disappointment about the non-possibility of a Malaysia Day Countdown concert this year, Goh said it was unfortunate that the Miri City Council had too little time to organise it.
“We do hope that it could be held next year.
” Meanwhile, Miri Indian Association (MIA) president Councillor Karambir Singh Honey suggested Sarawak government to undertake research and compilation of materials for the publication of a book relating accurate and comprehensive history of Sarawak and Federation of Malaysia.
“More Sarawakians are becoming more aware of the significance of Malaysia Day, which signifies the creation of a new country based on Malaysia Agreement 1963.
Still, there are many young people who do not fully understand such importance; hence the need to educate these young Sarawakians about the role and rights of Sarawak under the Malaysia Agreement 1963.
” Karambir hoped that the Sarawak government could complete such book as soon as possible.
“I see this as being highly necessary.
However, such move could begin with a basic booklet on ‘History of Sarawak’ to be distributed to every young Sarawakian.
” On behalf of the Chinese Mirians, Miri Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MCCCI) chairman Lee Khoi Yun also highlighted a suggestion.
He proposed for the Education Ministry and relevant associations to work hand-in-hand in various plans to educate the young ones.
“To be honest, it is vital to learn about the past – namely the history – for a nation to be strong.
I believe that many young Malaysians, especially the Sarawakians, don’t understand and may not even able to differentiate between July 22, Aug 31 and Sept 16.
Perhaps, many of them only see these dates as public holidays.
“Therefore, the government should embark on programmes to educate youngsters – maybe through specific learning or publication of books.
This could be an arduous task, but the first step must be taken to pave the way for others to follow,” he said.
Lee acknowledged that the advancement in technology and social media had brought significant changes and influence to everyday life these days.
“People, young and old, can easily obtain information about anything, whether it is accurate or false.
Those who do not know about the history of Malaysia could easily believe the wrong information, while ignoring the facts.
Therefore, it is only right to get them to learn and understand the right facts in history,” he said.
RESPECT AND UNDERSTANDING
Othman Yusof, who hails from Matu and works as a technician at Universiti Malaysia Sarawak in Kota Samarahan, opined that it is the responsibility of Sarawakian leaders to point out the significance of July 22, Aug 31 and Sept 16.
“Should there be any error (on information about these dates), the leaders are the ones responsible in reminding their fellow Malaysians what the dates mean to the people.
“Having said this, I believe that as Sarawakians, we are lucky that our present batch of leaders have this realisation.
Under their guidance, July 22 and Sept 16 are now being celebrated more than before.
However, Sarawakians must also respect Aug 31,” he said.
Agreeing with Othman, John Brandie of Kota Samarahan emphasised that Sept 16 marked more than the formation of Malaysia.
“The date should also be recognised as the day when the country became truly united and independent in 1963; when Sarawak, Sabah and Malaya merged as equal partners under Malaysia.
” Teo Fang Wui of Bintulu hoped that the younger generation would uphold Sept 16, adding that in this respect, education remained the key.
“Our children should be educated about the full-fledged history of Malaysia at school.
“Without any lesson, our history might be interpreted differently and if this continued, our history would be lost forever.
“On this, I believe that a review or even a reform is needed, especially on what is written in our History textbooks.
“Simply said, the Malaysian history must be told correctly and a big part of this responsibility falls on our leaders’ shoulders,” Teo said.
The Borneo Post Online