Making Merdeka and Malaysia Day relevant to all

Malaysians celebrated the 58th edition of Malaysia Day on Thursday.

Although Malaysia Day is a momentous occasion, it was only declared a national public holiday, 11 years ago.

In her column in Malay news portal Getaran this week, Twentytwo13’s Pearl Lee said that it was unfortunate that Merdeka Day did not get much attention from those in Sabah and Sarawak, while those in the peninsula often overlooked Malaysia Day.

And this, she said, was due to the lack of understanding of Merdeka in 1957, and the formation of Malaysia in 1963.

The formation of Malaysia in 1963, was the result of the union of Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore with the Federation of Malaya. Singapore, however, separated from Malaysia to become an independent state in 1965.

“If Merdeka Day is when we celebrate our independence from the British, Malaysia Day is the formation of the country that we know today,” she penned.

Yet, many did not fully understand the essence and significance of these dates.

As a result, Pearl said, those in the peninsula felt that Merdeka was a much more momentous occasion, while those in East Malaysia were much more inclined towards Malaysia Day.

“Akin to one country, with two national days, this should not be happening,” said Pearl.

Pearl was of the view that although children learnt history in school, it is still very much viewed as “just another subject”. Not many steps have been taken to ensure children truly appreciated the nation’s independence and the formation of Malaysia.

“As a result, and to a large extent, both days have just become a day when we see the Jalur Gemilang being put up all over the country, and it is also a public holiday. That’s it.”

The centrepiece of Merdeka Day, Pearl said, should not just be on the Merdeka Day parade. Instead, it should be celebrated by infusing historical and traditional elements to acknowledge those whose sacrifices enabled us to gain independence.

“Malaysia Day, meanwhile, should be a day of joy – akin to a birthday, as it is the day when a new nation was born.”

Pearl said much can be done to ensure Merdeka and Malaysia Day were relevant to all, and for generations to come.

Happy Malaysia Day.

To read the column, log on to

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