An 18-year-old Malaysian says the government's Merdeka theme for this year does not reflect the dreams of the nation's founding fathers.
Before independence, we were a people lacking an identity. We were not referred to as Malaya or Malayans, but rather as a British colony. We lived in a land whose destiny we had no control over, and with a future that was determined for centuries, not by us, but by the foreign colonialists who occupied our lands.
A princely Kedah noble, however, came along and dared to challenge the status quo. He dreamt of a nation which would possess its own unique identity, a nation governed on the principle of self-governance, a nation with a destiny shaped by its inhabitants, and a nation with laws reflecting the will of the people. He dreamt of Merdeka.
We now live in a country where instances of intolerance are at times accepted. We live in a country where some use the rule of law at their whims and fancies in order to serve their interests. We now live in a country where freedoms are repressed, and at times even frowned upon as being unpatriotic. And most importantly, we live in a nation where our democratic system remains in an inadequate state.
When I think of the word “Janji”, I think of the Merdeka dream of our founding fathers: creating a Malaysian nation with its unique identity, a nation governed by its people through a free and fair democracy, a nation with a future driven by own citizens, and a nation with laws that reflect the will of the people.
Looking at our country over the past few years, have these promises – a reflection of their Merdeka dream – been fulfilled? Let us do a bit of an analysis.
Malaysia is an immensely beautiful nation; a melting-pot of cultures and customs that band together to give it its special identity. This is 1Malaysia – an idyllic dream of what we as Malaysians should aspire to achieve: a society based on equality and mutual respect. And here is where we give Najib Tun Razak credit and praise for having conceptualised this idea, right? Wrong.
The conceptualisation of the 1Malaysia dream was done by our founding fathers, who promised us this when they fought for Merdeka. Najib, on the other hand, has only served to provide this vision with a name and logo – nothing more.
Today, 1Malaysia is in an unfortunately lamentable state having turned into nothing more than a brand with a catchphrase. Logos and slogans are found on shops, consumer items, restaurants and on public infrastructure – with the the true meaning of it having been lost in translation. Was it our founding fathers’ promise to turn their vision into a marketing campaign? Let’s face it, clinics with the 1Malaysia logos on them are not capable of “healing” societal divide. (No pun intended.)
The principle of self-governance is the cornerstone of every democracy, and the very definition of the word “Merdeka”. The right for Malaysians to govern themselves was what our founding fathers fought for.
Today, we live in a nation where some members of society fail to see that the very essence of democracy is something that goes beyond the ballot box.
A stiffling environment
In order for us to be able to fulfil our founders’ promise and call ourselves a democracy, human rights ought to be upheld. It is terribly unfortunate that we live in a day and age where media bias has become blatantly obvious, where the rights to assemble and protest are repressed and frowned upon, where Malaysians are not able to hold certain views or support certain causes without fearing for their safety.
Was this what our founders promised Malaysians when they fought for independence? Though they were technically Barisan National members, their intention was not to let BN rule, but to let Malaysians rule by choosing whoever they deemed fit to lead, through a free democracy that respects the rights of every Malaysian.
When our founding fathers aspired to build a nation with a destiny shaped by its citizens, they dreamt of a nation which will be governed through a free and fair electoral process. How can a people’s government manifest itself through a tainted electoral system that only reflects the will of a select few?
Was that the promise our founding fathers brought to Malaysia when they achieved independence? Today, we live in a country where the call for a free and fair electoral system reverberates across our land.
Seeing, as Najib claims, we have the “best democracy in the world”, one might regard that call a logical one. It is unfortunate, however, that the call remains ignored and deemed unpatriotic by the powers-that-be.
Our founding fathers achieved Merdeka for the people and not exclusively for themselves. Their aim was to uphold the sovereignty of the people and not to protect the rule of a select few. Their promise was not to allow Malaysians to be controlled, but to control their destiny through a government elected freely and fairly.
Reject the theme
Through a free and fair electoral process, our founding fathers envisioned a land with regulations that respect and uphold the sovereignty of the people. Their aim and promise was to build a nation with laws that serve to preserve our nation’s beauty, identity, cultures and creeds, and the protection of its citizens.
Today, we regrettably live in a nation where laws are bent to serve the needs of a select few, and where “repression” is often mistaken for “protection”.
Why is it that abuses of power continue to be ignored by the authorities? Why are some racist bigots left off scot-free, while others who defend their rights get hauled up to court? Why are natives forced out of their lands, only to make way for the massive deforestation of our virgin rainforest?
At present, there seems to be more interest on repressing “libel” in cyberspace than repressing criminal activity on our streets. We live in a Malaysia where many are repressed by the law, while others remain untouched by it. Was this what our founding fathers promised us when they fought for Merdeka?
The analysis above is clear, and the answer remains pretty simple. It is seemingly evident that “Janji Ditepati” was a theme coined up by inept citizens. These citizens have managed to display a blatant inability to comprehend the dreams our founding fathers envisioned when fighting for Merdeka.
Therefore, let us reject this theme as it remains a disgrace to their memory, making a mockery out of their struggle.
Instead, in the true spirit of Merdeka, let us continue to honour their memory and commemorate the struggle by working towards achieving their Merdeka dream in our own ways – for the betterment of our beloved nation. Selamat Hari Merdeka.
The writer is an 18-year-old Malaysian who is set to pursue legal studies in the UK.