In the past, it was deemed unpatriotic for me to say that Merdeka meant nothing to me.
For the uninitiated, 'Merdeka' means 'Independence' and refers to the day when the British handed over rule of Malaya to UMNO, or more specifically Tunku Abdul Rahman.
I have nothing against Tunku Abdul Rahman, and I personally believe that his western ways were instrumental in influencing the British to give up control of Malaya.
Hence, every Merdeka Day, we are shown video clips of him declaring 'Merdeka' a number of times at the grand stadium.
It is a poignant moment -- don't get me wrong.
And for those who were alive (I certainly wasn't), it meant the end of British plunder and pillage of our rubber, tin and other natural resources.
That is probably meant to be significant, but the unfortunate truth is that it only meant the end of British rule and the beginning of UMNO plunder and pillage.
And for the past 55 years, we have been bled of what rightfully belongs to us.
By this, I don't just mean our natural resources like Oil & Gas, timber etc, but our right to harmony and equality.
Every race feels slighted and taken advantage of. The Malays believe the Chinese and Indians have cheated them of their land and economic standing.
The Chinese and Indians believe the Malays are unfair in the way they are given racial privileges.
The Indians, especially the rural and urban poor prefer to live under their own shell and shy away from official requirements like registering births and applying for Identification Cards (IC).
Without these, they have been denied proper education and jobs, leaving them on an unequal footing with the rest of the Malaysians.
And as for the Sabahans and Sarawakians -- they have been denied an equal status with the rest of us. They are collectively the two richest states in terms of natural resources and yet, in terms of living conditions, they are the poorest.
One issue that comes to light is the Native Customary Rights.
The Penan have been systematically sidelined -- having their land taken away from them for economical pursuits such as logging and mining.
As they are a minority and have no defenders (apart from the Bruno Manser Fund) to protect their rights, the BN-UMNO government (or to be more specific, their own Chief Minister, Taib Mahmud) bull-dozes into their lives and tears them apart.
As for the other tribes, they haven't had a better deal -- from either the UMNO government or even Pakatan Rakyat, unfortunately.
Baru Bian who contested in Ba'kelalan during the last state elections and Nicholas Bawin in Batang Ai are strong leaders in their own right. They are credible Dayak leaders from earlier parties like SNAP and PBDS.
However, instead of accepting them as allies, PKR only gave them the platform to contest after SNAP and PBDS were “deregistered” by the BN-controlled Registrar of Societies.
When it comes to Sarawak (or East Malaysia for that matter), who would know the people, issues and political climate better than the East Malaysians themselves?
But in the last state elections, these credible East Malaysian leaders were sidelined by shoddy West Malaysian candidates, with PKR expecting the voters to accept these foreign candidates with open arms just because they are the Opposition!
Have they gone down to ground level (and I'm talking about long before the state elections) to gauge what the real issues of the voters are? Do they understand the mind of the East Malaysian?
To begin with, do we accept them as equals, given that we are "celebrating 55 years of independence" when we have had only 49 years of being 'Malaysia'?
This Merdeka eve will be marked by street demonstrations, calling for free and fair elections. It is about Janji Demokrasi -- the promise of democracy that has been sidelined by the UMNO government.
If you ask me, this is what will make Merdeka day significant and meaningful, because it is all about calling for true freedom and independence from the evil warlords of UMNO.
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