Sapa: Meaningless for Sarawak to celebrate Aug 31

Peter John Jaban (file photo)

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KUCHING, Sept 2: Sarawak Association for People’s Aspiration (Sapa) has insisted that Merdeka Day celebrated every August 31 is meaningless to Sarawakians.

Sapa publicity and Information chief Peter John Jaban in a statement today stressed that it was meaningless as the date does not have any historical significance for them.

“As Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad commands Sarawakians to think as Malaysians, perhaps he should instead be asking why Sarawakians do not feel like Malaysians in a country which continues to assert the dominance of the Malayan story in the history of Malaysia,” he said.

Peter said that many Sarawakians have constantly voiced out their discontentment against the persistent narrative that August 31 is National Day or ‘Hari Kebangsaan’.

He said social media feeds and the talk in the coffee shops have increasingly questioned the relevance of this date to Sarawak as part of a wider awakening to the circumstances of the formation of Malaysia and the passage of history which leads up to it.

Yet, he added, there appeared to be no move on the part of the authorities to alter their rhetoric about this date.

“Malaysia only came into being on Sept 16, 1963. While the founding fathers had intended to sign the Malaysia Agreement 1963 (MA63) on August 31, the reality is that they did not. There was no Malaysia or new nation on Aug 31, 1957. Hence, it is meaningless to celebrate August 31 as ‘National Day’ for Sarawakians as the date does not have any historical significance for them.

“The National flag was only officially hoisted on Sept 16, 1963, not Aug 31, 1957. National (Kebangsaan) means ‘relating to, or characteristic of a nation; common to a whole nation’.

“Therefore, August 31 is simply ‘Hari Kemerdekaan Malaya’ and ‘Hari Kemerdekaan Sabah’ (Aug 31, 1968), and the rightful National Day or Hari Kebangsaan Malaysia should be September 16,” said Peter.

Although he assumed that many might feel that this was a small matter, and that the name did not change the substance of the celebration, he opined that Sarawakians have increasingly coming to see the rigid insistence on this misrepresentation as a continuing evidence that Sarawak’s story remained irrelevant in the country that it is part of.

“As every year passes and the dialogue remains unchanged, it tells us that our contributions and our very existence are of no interest in the national narrative. If we are not represented in the history of Malaysia, how can we think as Malaysians?

“Even worse, many Sarawakians are coming to suspect, rightly or wrongly, that this is part of a sustained and deliberate attempt to write us out of the history books as a means to write our rights under the MA63 out of the constitution,” he said.

He claimed that the continued description of August 31 as National Day would only serve to convince Sarawakians that the old political mindsets which have prevailed in Malaysia for over five decades have not changed.

“But Sarawak has woken up to its own history and after years of adjusting our own history and mindsets, we now ask that the government of Malaya start changing theirs and demonstrating that they are serious in their response to a newly ascendant Sarawak identity within Malaysia,” said Peter. — DayakDaily