Still yawning gaps in our priorities and vision
Published on: Sunday, August 11, 2019
By: Johan Ariffin

I was on Malindo flight  flying from Kota Kinabalu to Kuala Lumpur on August 4 to attend a meeting. Flying across the South China Seas and reading the flight magazine, I could feel my heartbeat and stress level rising. This comes from reading the Happenings on page 9. 

The headline “Malaysia Independence Day Parade” 31 August, 2019 caught my attention. 

The short description, and I quote – “Also known as Hari Merdeka Parade, the main parade is held at  Merdeka Square in commemoration of being the original site of the first Independence Day parade”. 

Hello! Original site of Malaysia Independence parade?  What are you talking about? 

First of all Malaysia was formed on September 16, 1963 and Sabah and Sarawak had their own padang Merdeka for the Malaysia declaration ceremony.

On page 10, it gets more interesting. The heading, “Love our Malaysia”. In the first paragraph, and I quote – “Merdeka Merdeka Merdeka!

It was just like yesterday, when Malaysia first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman chanted “Merdeka” (which means independence) 62 years ago in Merdeka Stadium, Kuala Lumpur. 

The Malaysians always associate August with independence and patriotism, simply because the country gained independence on 31 August, 1957 from the British Empire. 

The federation was officially formed as Malaya, which consists of the states in peninsula and Singapore. 

The Federation then changed its name to Malaysia with the inclusion of Sabah and Sarawak in 1963 and Singapore seceded to become an independent republic in 1965”.

Wow, talk about rewriting history in a flight magazine read by Malaysians and international travellers.

Interestingly, the flight magazine printed pictures of Peninsular states but none from Sabah and Sarawak. The pictures were supplied by Tourism Malaysia.

I feel I need to correct a period of history that has been conveniently ignored and distorted. 

Could the writer like many others be a product of our Malaysian education system which teaches history to suit a particular political agenda rather than telling a factual account. I can’t think of any other reason. 

East Malaysian don’t associate August with independence and patriotism, far from it. 

As a history lesson for the ignoramus, Malaysia was formed by the Malaysia Agreement 1963 signed between United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore. Singapore seceded from Malaysia, becoming an independent state on 9 August 1965.

Singapore was not part of the Federated Malay states, the Federation never changed it’s name, and Sabah and Sarawak was never an inclusion, but were entities that formed Malaysia by way of Malaysia Agreement 1963.

Singapore is ranked No.1 as the world’s most competitive economy for the first time since 2010 in the World Competitive Rankings 2019 beating the United States. 

If Sabah and Sarawak seceded the same time as Singapore, we could have been a greater nation instead of a vassal state of Putrajaya, as it is today. 

I could only dream of efficient underground system, buses that run like clockwork, clean toilets at the airports and shopping malls, no littering, low crime rates and corruption, less on religion and race, no fugitive like Zakir Naik, no sleazy senators who think man should be protected from rape by women, best at maths and science, and most of all, a strong and vibrant economy. 

In life I have to accept that we can’t turn back the clock, but I can only dream of what Sabah and Sarawak can be with its huge oil and gas resources. 

What we are getting now is a miserable 5pc oil royalty despite Sabah producing almost 60pc of the national oil production. 

We now have to beg for annual allocation for infrastructure, education and health services, while Singapore with no natural resources advances even more on the world stage.

If the flight magazine was plugged in on Malaysian politics, they should  have known that Sabah and Sarawak has been in the news lately. 

On April 9, in his parliamentary speech, Tun Mahathir promised to amend Article 1 (2) of the Federal Constitution with the inclusion of the definition of states of the federation comprising Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak. 

Under the Malaysia Agreement 1963, Sabah and Sarawak are equal partners, but over time it became one of the states of Malaysia. “Malaysia Baru and the Pakatan Harapan government take cognisance of this and will return the associate status to Sabah and Sarawak”, said Tun Mahathir.

However, Sabah and Sarawak have lost a “golden opportunity” to regain their position as equal partners in Malaysia when a Constitutional amendment to Article 1(2) failed to be passed in Parliament. 

The bill was to reinstate the original wording of the 1963 Constitution that was amended in 1976 that made Sabah and Sarawak one of 13 states in Malaysia. So its back to the drawing board for Sabah and Sarawak.

Aisehman! Why are Malayans still ignorant about our history? 

I have written many articles on this subject and even appeared on a radio special for Merdeka Day and explained our position in many forums. 

I now sound like a broken record. Sadly, our education system is slanted towards race and religion, and now taking Khat script as if it’s the most important written style in the world. 

How to you trade with the rest of the world writing in Khat. Shouldn’t you be better off mastering written English and learning Malaysian history? 

What is our priorities here? I can see polite political correctness in public discourse on Khat but underneath all that some suspect there may be hidden agendas in our education system. 

What next? Drop English and make it compulsory for students to learn  Arabic? 

So far the only real change I see in our education system since Pakatan Harapan formed the government is the change from white shoes to black.

Incidentally, Malaysia Day was only declared a public holiday on October 2009, 46 years after Malaysia was formed. How sad is that? 

Malaysia Day is still celebrated in a big way only in East Malaysia and not in the heart of our capital. 

Merdeka Day still continue to overshadow Malaysia Day. There is no one date that truly celebrates the birth of a new nation called Malaysia on September 16, 1963. Merdeka day will always be bigger and better than Malaysia day.

There is a big disconnect between East and West Malaysia. The West is more concerned with water cuts in Klang Valley, the east is more concerned about whether we are going to get clean piped water, roads and bridges. 

The West is more preoccupied with Azmin sex tapes and Sabah is more concerned about whether there will be a repeat of kampung Tanduo territorial invasion by armies of neighbouring countries, and Philippines claim over Sabah. 

While the west enjoy good infrastructure and good security, Sabahans are still uneasy over the large number of illegal immigrants and those who were given “illegal “ citizenship through “Project IC”. 

Our priorities are different, the way we celebrate nationhood is different, and on different dates. 

There are still huge gaps in our priorities and vision for Malaysia between east and west.

Next year is VMY 2020. The current Minister of Tourism, Arts and Culture is Mohammadin bin Haji Ketapi and the Chairman of Tourism Malaysia is Datuk Ahmad Shah Hussein Tambakau, both are from Sabah. 

It’s a shame if both Sabahans cannot correct the erroneous writing of the history of Malaysia in  flight magazine giving tourists a false narrative of how Malaysia came about. 

Happy Merdeka day to my fellow Malaysians in Peninsula Malaysia, and don’t forget to wish me the same come September 16.

Remember without Sabah and Sarawak, there will be no Malaysia and you will still be Malaya.

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