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Friday, 3 August 2012

Malaysian too distracted to be patriotic?

It may be the National Day month but most people are more preoccupied with the upcoming general election.

EVERY August, many of us look forward to the entire nation being awash with feelings of warmth and patriotism as we celebrate our National Day on the last day of the month.

Aug 31 was, until 2010, celebrated as the National Day as it was the day Malaya gained its independence from the British colonial masters, but this caused many Sabahans and Sarawakians to feel left out because their independence did not come until Sept 16, 1963.

Thus, the Government from 2010 declared that Sept 16 would also be a national holiday as it was the day Malaysia was formed – a move many Malaysians on the Borneo side of the country felt was long overdue.

So instead of a one-day National Day celebration, we now have a month-long one from Aug 16 to Sept 16. During this time Malaysians are encouraged to fly the Jalur Gemilang.

This is something that I have been doing regularly even before the call from politicians because I am a very patriotic Malaysian and unlike others I only declare myself as a Malaysian and nothing else.

However, this year I find it very difficult to bring myself to fly the flag. The amount of quarrelling and finger pointing that is going on at the moment makes it very bitter to express my patriotism.

Yes, there will be many of you who will say that the finger pointing and political posturing that’s going on at the moment are also a show of nationalism.

I do not disagree that being politically partisan is part of our democratic process but I cannot help but feel that the political temperature has gone too high for anyone to show his or her loyalty and love for the country.

From the way every act connected with the celebrations of Aug 31 and Sept 16 have been criticised and attacked on the Internet, any neutral but patriotic Malaysian will question themselves if they are being nationalistic or bias towards one side.

The way the criticisms flew when a certain logo was suggested for this 55th celebrations left many quarters stunned. It’s only a logo but yet the venom with which the attack was carried out was frightening.

Would the act of flying the Jalur Gemilang be mistaken as a symbol of support for one side or the other?

Yes, the way the Government had planned the National Day celebrations may not have been very bi-partisan with most of the programmes seemingly be centred around the achievements of the Government of the day.

Yes, the so-called 55th Merdeka song “Janji ditepati” reads like a roll call to the achievements of the Barisan Nasonal government.

But that’s what all the other 54th celebration songs, logos and themes were about – singing praises of such achievements and the 55th anniversary celebration plans are not very different.

The difference, I feel, is the heightened tension in the country stoked by the high expectation of an impending general election.

People are now too busy guessing when the general election will be held to be bothered about anything else.

Recently, there was a rumour that it would be held in September because “someone told someone” but according to the same media a few days later, it has again been “postponed” to November it seems.

Why? Because two Sabahan Barisan Nasional politicians had left their party positions to co-operate with Pakatan Rakyat.

The “jumping” of the two had been expected for over two months.

Nothing done these days is not seen to be connected to the GE 13. It does not matter whether it is the shortage of water or the call for the protection of certain environmentally sensitive places.

The problem is that politicians have been quick to jump on the bandwagon to use these issues to attack their opponents and instead of these matters being resolved, they get muddied by politics.

Politicians, regardless which side of the divide they are from, are extra sensitive during this run up to the general election. Every statement, newspaper report or social media comment which they deem as not favourable to them as made by people with an agenda against them.

Even supposed defenders of press freedom want to gag the media in case their reports do not favour their side.

The country is highly charged. Recently, it was reported that an elderly couple in Pasir Emas, Kelantan was divorcing after 14 years of marriage, the husband allegedly could no longer convince his wife to join his political party.

The 78-year-old man reportedly accused his 61-year-old religious teacher ex-wife of deviating from Islam for not supporting his party. The wife was supposed to have supported Umno while the husband was an ardent follower of PAS.

If political differences can destroy a marriage then what chance has our National Day celebrations got?

As it is, I am the only person in my multi-racial neighbourhood who bothers to fly the Jalur Gemilang come every August. I put this down to the apathy of my neighbours and the lack of patriotism due to ignorance.

They do not realise that the expression of patriotism by flying the flag is the best way to show that we are Malaysians and that nothing can take that away from us regardless of our religious or cultural backgrounds.


> Executive Editor Wong Sai Wan will not bother to dig out the old Jalur Gemilang this year – he will go buy a new one – regardless if it’s the silly election season.

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