Celebrating Aug 31: Masing was merely stating a historical fact, critics told

Dato Sri Doris Sophia Brodie

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KUCHING, August 16: When Parti Rakyat Sarawak (PRS) president Tan Sri Dr James Jemut Masing recently suggested to Sarawakians not to celebrate on August 31, he was merely raising greater awareness of a historical fact that Sarawak’s Independence Day is actually July 22.

In stating this, PRS Women chief Datuk Seri Doris Sophia Brodie said it thus was wrong for critics to say that Masing’s call could untangle the web of unity, because the current level of disunity in the country was due to empty promises, distorted historical facts and confusion among the people over the years.

Doris said Sarawak was accorded self-governance on July 22, and as such Masing was right to propose that there was no need for Sarawakians to overdo the Aug 31 celebration or for schools to get so pumped up in flying the Jalur Gemilang.

Dr Teo Kok Seong, the principal research fellow at Institute of Ethnic Studies, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM), had commented that Masing’s statement was “not healthy” and could “disrupt national integration”.

Political analyst Dr Jeniri Amir equated not celebrating Aug 31 to “not acknowledging nor accepting your husband’s or wife’s birthday”.

To Teo, Doris has this to say: “How can Dr Teo Kok Seong claim that the statement by Masing can cause breakup of Malaysians when history said that Aug 31, 1957, is indeed the Independence Day for Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, while Sept 16, 1963, is the day when the establishment of the Malaysian Federation took place, joining Malaya, North Borneo and Sarawak to form Malaysia?”

To Jeniri, she remarked: “I remember a quote by George Orwell that ‘the most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history’. By this quote, the bottom line is history cannot be distorted: it must be taught accordingly so as not to cause derailment of thoughts and mindset, especially among the younger generations.”

To back up her point, she cited an observation made by Masing. The deputy chief minister had observed that one particular school committed a historical error when it trumpeted that this Aug 31 would be “61 years of independence”.

Doris opined that to continue promoting Aug 31 as Sarawak’s Independence Day was akin to wrongly educating the people, especially children, and thus put the state’s priority in the wrong place.

She agreed with Masing’s suggestion that Sarawak should just send delegates to Peninsular Malaysia to rejoice in their celebration on Aug 31. Likewise, people in Malaya and Sabah should send delegates to Sarawak to celebrate Sarawak’s Independence Day on July 22, full stop. — DayakDaily