We don’t need a Merdeka theme to feel patriotic, says academician

Amid all the fuss over this year’s Merdeka and Malaysia Day slogan, an academician asks: “Why do we need a theme to celebrate our ‘Malaysia-ness’?”

Professor Emeritus Datuk Dr Teo Kok Seong said slogans and themes to celebrate our independence became a ‘thing’ from 1970, and are now a tradition. He feels it is a waste of time and money.

“Will the theme make me more Malaysian? Will it make me more patriotic? The answer is no,” said Teo, principal fellow with Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia’s Institute of Ethnic Studies.

“Why can’t we just wish each other Selamat Hari Kebangsaan/Merdeka and Selamat Hari Malaysia? Why even mention the number of years of independence?

“I know how I feel about Malaysia. How much I love it. Nothing will change that. Certainly not a theme dreamed up by politicians.”

Teo said that when themes become politicised, they will divide the people.

This year’s Merdeka theme is ‘Malaysia Madani: Tekad Perpaduan, Penuhi Harapan’ (Malaysia Madani: The Commitment to Unity Fulfils Hope).

However, on Aug 19, Perikatan Nasional Youth launched its own logo and theme for the upcoming Merdeka Day celebrations on Aug 31, with one of its leaders, Ahmad Fadhli Shaari, saying Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan, and Terengganu, which are under Pas, would likely use the newly-launched logo and theme.

Terengganu Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Ahmad Samsuri Mokhtar later said that the state would be using the federal government’s National Day logo and theme instead.

Parti Pribumi Bersatu Malaysia (Bersatu) deputy president, Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu, told Twentytwo13 yesterday, that the Merdeka celebration is bigger than any logo or theme. Bersatu is part of the PN coalition.

Ahmad Faizal said the issue was not about the logo and theme by the federal government, but rather their frustrations with the ruling administration and the rising cost of living.

“This is not the first time the opposition had decided to have their own logos and themes,” said Teo, whose area of expertise is nation-building, national unity, and integration.

“Back in 2012, Pakatan Rakyat (now Pakatan Harapan), then the opposition, launched separate Merdeka themes and logos for Kedah, Penang, Selangor, and Kelantan.

“That is why I do not agree with slogans when a simple, ‘Selamat Hari Kebangsaan’ would suffice.”

Teo, however, said that if the government insisted on having slogans, it should be devoid of political messaging, and last for at least two years, to minimise wastage.

He said that from 2000 to 2005, there was only one slogan – ‘Keranamu Malaysia’ (Because of you, Malaysia). Before that, in 1988 and 1989, it was ‘Bersatu’ (United).

In 2015 and 2016, there was ‘Malaysia, Sehati Sejiwa’ (United, Unified Malaysia), while in 2020 and 2021, it was ‘Malaysia Prihatin’ (Concerned Malaysia).

“It is a waste of money to print buntings, posters, T-shirts, and other paraphernalia with the latest slogan or theme, every year,” said Teo.

“We can reuse the paraphernalia, and it is best not to have any numbers – like 65 or 66.

“Most importantly, if there is a slogan, it should unite the nation and not have any political undertones.”

Former deputy national unity minister, Datuk Seri Ti Lian Ker, said a national celebration that causes a tear in the social fabric does not augur well for national development and unity.

He said this year’s Merdeka slogan sounded more like a party message than a unifying, national one.

“The problem is, instead of governing, some ministers continue acting like party leaders,” said the MCA vice-president.

“At the ministerial level, you should discharge your duties and responsibilities for the larger interest, not along party lines.

“They should put on their government hats, not their party hat, and think about what benefits the nation.”

Ti agreed with Teo that a simple ‘Selamat Hari Kebangsaan/Malaysia’ is the way forward.

“Otherwise, we will get slogans that sound more like party messages,” he said.

“By right, any state or national celebration should be above party politics. But sadly, we have seen this over the years, under different administrations.

“I hope the government will look into this next year.

Tagged with: