Happy 61st Birthday Malaysia.
This year’s independence celebration in Malaysia will not be another “normal” parade in Kuala Lumpur. Year in year out, on the 31st of August the city council sets up tents and a massive double story stage construction opposite the old Selangor Club Field (Padang) – Today known as Dataran Merdeka. Most streets and major roads in KL (and other cities) are decorated with Malaysian flags of varying sizes. Even lamp posts carry plastic replica of the “Bunga Raya” – the hibiscus, our national flower.
The celebrations begin with a parade of our national flags flown past by helicopters. Then the marching starts, it involves a steady stream of proud military bands playing various tunes. The music is followed by flag waving teams representing multiple associations and bodies in our society. Malaysia is a cosmopolitan country, which is proud of its diverse cultural inheritances. Each minority is represented by a group dressed in their traditional costumes, displaying various colours, designs and accessories. All will walk past the stage waving our national flag.
This has been going on for many years, on the outside visible to the naked eye, the procedure may resemble the ensemble of previous parades. What is going to be different this year? The first time in 60 years the people leading the nation are not from the political party Barisan National. All the prominence standing on the stage, saluting the marching past, are NO UMNO party members.
Can you recall the annual 8th May parade held in Moscow. All sorts of groups from the defence force to communist kolkhozes parading to the communist party members, who have only aged but not changed. Well UMNO partisans siting on the podium in Kuala Lumpur had a similar structure. They have their position, aged and never change. Now things are different.
Malaysians of various walks of life, watching and celebrating the 61st Birthday party, life in KL, at home, in pubs and various locations will have a spark of achievement in their hearts. This ray of self-achievement, was never thought possible.
On the 9th of May 2018 Malaysian citizens of all walks of life and eligible voters, came together and set out to achieve only one target. Change! Replace the ruling party after some 60 years.
The lead-up to the General Elections had may a stories to tell. Malaysians were exposed to the biggest corruption scandal in the history of our young nation. Opposition parties had no coverage of their campaigns on mainstream media and opposition politicians were harassed with all sorts of threats. The showing of party symbols, like flags and banners were the only way for the opposition to show its presence. Even so during the cover of night, some local councils ordered their staff to remove all opposition flags. Even pictures depicting Dr. Mahathir Mohamad were literally cut out, as a symbol of hatred and defiance from the then ruling political party Barisan National.
Whistle blowers exposing deep rooted corruption scandals (FELDA, MARA, etc.) covering many Malaysian governmental bodies, were threatened to be thrown into jail. Media publishing facts and information on Barisan Nationals disaster projects with China, were given a muzzle by executers of the law. The police and governmental anti-corruption heads slammed down on press and media. They used their executive powers to silence free information.
Now this is something typical Malaysians – we are at heart nice people. We respect authorities – it all starts at home by being obedient to our parents, when we are at school, our teachers are our lighthouse figures. This respect is inborn and inherited through our culture.
When the civil authorities went around pulling down flags and posters supporting Pakatan Harapan, Malaysians did not put up a stand and query their actions. There were hardly any mentionable back-lash to such unfair treatment. The only thing that most opposition supports did, was to film these actions on the mobile phones and spread the news. WhatsApp and Facebook were common media used to keep friends and relatives informed.
Another factor that is pretty unique to Malaysia, is that, we are very sociable people. Growing up in a country with multiple races, we cannot avoid seeing, meeting and communicating with people of differing heritage. We do not have any barrier or resentment to approach a foreign looking person.
This characteristic brought people of all race and varying religious background to contact each other and communicate their thoughts and feelings towards the unfair treatment of the then opposing political party. The run-up period to the elections recorded probably the most postings in Facebook by Malaysians abroad and at home. Posting were reposted again and again. WhatsApp messages were sent here and there covering all groups on our smartphone. Most Malaysian have used more time of the day, reading and passing on news, statements, videos on the run-up to elections, then they would normally. At one stage or another, false-news was circulated too. Interestingly some people realise that certain quarters in UMNOs organisation was injecting news into social network, dementing Pakatan Harapan. On realising this, messages were sent per WhatsApp, to make people be aware of unjustifiable reporting. Group members were informed not to spread news that could jeopardise the cause to topple Barisan National.
On Election Day, many were vigilant not to allow migrants owning a Malaysian identity card to vote. There were small skirmishes but no vigilantly groups taking the law into their own hands.
Then came the much delayed announcement of the results.
Congratulations Malaysia, you have changed a dominant, powerful and corrupt system, without firing a bullet, without damaging property and without a loss of life. No violence, no destruction and no demonstrations were reported. You have used the power of Collectivism and your power of Vote to make change happen.
Enjoy your 61st Birthday by shouting out loud “Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka”