What would Merdeka mean to Malaysians, this Aug 31?


What will Merdeka mean to us this year?  (Photo credit Phallin Ooi/Creative Commons - Flickr)

What will Merdeka mean to us this year?
(Photo credit Phallin Ooi/Creative Commons – Flickr)

By the time August 31 rolls in, we would have celebrated 58 years of Independence — a long, arduous journey of self-discovery for our nation.

But this upcoming Merdeka celebration would be different from the ones we’ve had for decades past. This Merdeka would have come from the aftermath of Bersih 4, when the people sat through 34 hours on the streets, demanding that the system of parliamentary democracy that has been carrying Malaysia forward over the last few decades, be upheld with integrity and honour.

The ruling leaders of today have refused to budge over allegations of blatant corruption and siphoning of funds from state coffers. The economy is going on a freefall against our favour, and the people are feeling the pinch of the Goods and Services Tax.

Yet amidst this uncertainty, the federal government is trying to convince us that this year we will be celebrating Independence Day with one heart and one soul, hence their decision to push out “Sehati Sejiwa” as this year’s theme.

However, those growing up in the 1990s recognise that “Sehati Sejiwa” is just a portion of the lyrics from a well-known Merdeka song called “Setia”; its meaning today, sadly, seems a little hollow.

Malaysians have never been more different in expressing their messages of love and loyalty for this country. Politics have become more diverse than ever after the political tsunami of 2008 when the ruling coalition was, for the first time, feeling vulnerable and the people gave the Opposition the mandate to rule in a few states.

Slowly, as the ruling coalition, through the federal government, entered into defensive mode and demanded for loyalty no matter the circumstances, even Merdeka themes like “Sehati Sejiwa” started to feel suspect; it becomes a meaningless slogan rather than instill any form of pride for our country.

Perhaps this is a reflection of our society, as it matures and develops socially, Malaysians begin to have an idea and ponder on what Malaysia means to them, and some of them have taken those measures even to the point that they are prepared to face animosity that comes from governmental institutions.

They want not only for the country to be independent but they also want themselves to feel truly independent, hoping that they will one day vote for a government that reflects their views, and dictating or shaping their opinions.

It is no surprise that the rakyat are taking to the streets, expressing dissatisfaction and demanding for our democratic rights, and to demand that all who threaten our democracy be accountable to it.

It will be unprecedented if Bersih 4.0 achieves its 34-hour sit-down goal. It will show that in the end, no one man, or political party, is above the democratic system.

– The Rocket

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