PETALING JAYA: It’s not every day that a book is born out of an online friendship, but this was the case for writers Mazlianie ML and Fazar Arif, who met on Clubhouse during the pandemic.
The pair said that a mutual interest in the Malaysia Agreement (MA63) led them to meeting in person later.
This meeting held at Fazar’s house in Kota Kinabalu, would sow the seeds for their collaboration on their children’s book titled “My Country And I: The Malaysia Agreement 1963”.
“Mazlianie told me that I was the only person she spoke to about this idea that she had. I was also thinking about how we should do something to commemorate the 60th year of Malaysia,” said Fazar, 60, who is also the founder of Sabah-based NGO Pergerakan Orang Wanita – Empowerment and Revolution (POWER).
The idea would sit on the backburner until the duo met once more in Kuala Lumpur where the book rapidly took shape.
Published by Gerakbudaya Enterprise, this 28-page children’s book discusses the birth of Malaysia.
Set to mark the 60 years of the nation on Sept 16, the book shares the story of how four separate entities agreed to come together and sign the Malaysia Agreement 1963 that would later be considered the so-called birth certificate of Malaysia.
Explaining its importance to the next generation of Malaysians, the book touches on topics such as appreciating the rule of law, negotiation and tolerance in layman’s terms.
The writers – who both hail from Sabah – hope that the book can generate dialogue across generations on the Malaysia Agreement 1963 and how it impacted Malaysians of all ages.
Mazlianie, 42, who also illustrated the book, noted that striking the balance of keeping both child and parent engaged was not an easy task.
“Some of the adult audiences mentioned that they would like to have more beef in the story. On the other side, the children are trying to grasp the words we use in the book itself,” she said, referencing her six-year-old son who asked what the term “amendment” meant.
“It’s good in a way that it triggers them and makes them curious, but at the same time, you also need to address the desire of the mature audience where they want to know exactly what happened in detail.”
She said they tried to strike a balance between keeping the content simple but with substance.
And where does this substance come from? Well, each and every page of the book was written based on in-depth research and supplemented by colourful illustrations.
While children’s books typically discuss moral values and the concepts of good and evil, “My Country And I” is written in such a way that the perspectives of all parties involved in the agreement are included in the storytelling. The authors also provided a bibliography so further reading could be done.
By and large, 1957’s Merdeka can be seen as being emblematic of the British empire’s rapid post-war decolonialisation. Fellow Commonwealth countries, such as Myanmar (in 1948), Ghana (in 1957) and Kenya (in 1963), to name a few, were going through similar changes.
However, Malaysia’s formation in 1963 is unique in that four independent entities – the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (now known as Sabah) and Sarawak – sought to establish a new, larger entity together instead of splitting up into smaller countries.
This narrative of unity makes Malaysia Day all the more unique – something the writers hope will come across in the book.
“You’ve got the story of the Federation of Malaya, where it was already independent and how it blossomed into Malaysia.
“You’ve got the story of North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore – how they were colonies, and then how they came about in forming Malaysia.
“You’ve also got the story of the United Kingdom and how they have released their sovereignty and jurisdiction on these colonies. I would say it’s an all-encompassing story book, which tells the stories of all sides. Nobody’s left behind,” said Fazar.
“My Country And I: The Malaysia Agreement 1963” will be launched on Sept 16, 2pm-4pm at Gerakbudaya Petaling Jaya.
To purchase the book, click here.