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Keep Merdeka Day clean

August 7, 2012

It is one special event to show your loyalty lies with the country. Not with Najib and Umno. Not with Anwar and Pakatan.

Come Aug 31, the country will celebrate the anniversary of its independence. We were freed from the British colonial yoke 55 years ago and it has become a yearly ritual to observe this historical day with parades. There were hardly any political overtones to the event that comes and fades into the mist of time. Over the years its relevance has dimmed somewhat as people are more concerned with new challenges and dangers than with a long gone era.

Today the political climate has become hotter, with the country on the brink of another historical upheaval. Power may change hands with new rulers coming onto the stage and old ones driven into the political wilderness. This is a scary prospect for the old faces who realise that the popular tide is ebbing away from them. How then to arrest the rapid slide to obscurity?

The old guards have found the answer: turn Aug 31 into one vast campaign for their party and trumpet its achievements across the length and breath of the country. This is a cheap strategy to find your way into the hearts of the people. It is also unethical because an event that is largely a celebration of freedom is being misused to further the narrow cause of a political party that cannot be said to enjoy public trust anymore.

Not to be outdone, the other side of the political divide has also rushed in to play the same ball game. Suddenly, the whole scene has been transformed: now Independence Day is not a reminder of the struggle of the founding fathers but the presentation of two themes for the people to decide and choose the coalition best suited to steer the ship of state to calmer waters. Effectively the campaign for the coming general election has started, drowning out the hearty shouts of Merdeka.

Though unseemly, the stage is now set for the two coalition rivals to push their respective agendas on the day the Union Jack was lowered. The fight for independence has taken a dual meaning: for the opposition, it is to free the country from the grip of a powerful clique of politicians who are seen to have overstayed their welcome. For the power-holders, it is to publicise their record of achievements, which is dubious at best.

Day of remembrance

Two themes are on the table for public consideration. One unashamedly proclaims that all promises have been fulfilled and the other gallantly promises to unite the country as one race, one soul. The political menu is appetising except that there might not be takers for the fare cooked up for the purpose of expediency. It is hard to accept that all the promises made have been kept and harder still to swallow the piece about unity when one dominant race continues to harp on its supremacy. Promises are easily made and just as easily broken. They are tossed about in the heat of elections and liberally used by candidates of both camps. They are weapons that are called out to woo, to titillate, to deceive – used and abused wherever there are governments.

But the bells have yet to be rung for the fight to begin. The country is in a celebratory mood as it prepares to mark one important date in the calendar. It should be an occasion to wave the flag of patriotism and not to sing the battle hymn of political allegiance. It is a day of rememberance and not a time to play politics. The anniversary may have lost its shine but still it has its place in the annals of our history. To sully its memory with political posturing is no way to show reverence for the founding fathers. It would be a national tragedy if independence, fought without bloodshed, is turned into another battlefield where blood will have to be shed to retain power.

All have a stake in the country. The country does not belong to any political party or race. The freedom fighters did not espouse the cause of one race or creed but struggled for the interests of all. Independence Day marks an important milestone in the growth of the country. It is one special event to show your loyalty lies with the country. Not with Najib and Umno. Not with Anwar and Pakatan. Politicians are expendable while a country stays forever.


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