IGNITING THE SPIRIT OF PATRIOTISM IN THE PEOPLE
Now is the time to instil love and compassion for the country, especially in the younger generation
TEN years ago when the country celebrated its 50th independence, I took to the streets with my office mates to participate in the Merdeka Day parade at Dataran Merdeka.
It was my second. The first time I took part in the Merdeka Day parade was a few years after I joined the company. It was for the fun of it. I remembered wearing a white T-shirt with newspaper cuttings printed on it.
I remembered being asked why I signed up for the parade. Family members and friends said they would rather stay at home and watch the parade on television.
The second time around, I was looking for a more meaningful way to remember the country’s 50 years of independence. My mother, for example, was at Padang Pahlawan in Malacca on Feb 20, 1956 when Tunku Abdul Rahman made the first announcement on the country’s independence. She will reminisce about this moment every Aug 31 while we watch the live television broadcast of the Merdeka parade.
I wanted to do something so that I would, later in the years, be able to tell the younger generation in my family that I was part of an Independence Day celebration.
Oh, I remembered that parade well enough. We had our practices at the Army Sungai Besi and Wardieburn camps under the mid-afternoon sun that could have easily fried our brains. Yes, we had a drill sergeant, who screamed and shouted at us for going out of formation. He expected perfection from a bunch of civilians, who never had to march in their life.
I remembered having to wake up before the crack of dawn to get to Dataran Merdeka on time for rehearsals and on the parade day itself. And on top of that, we had to endure the long wait before it was our turn to march past the main stage in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad building.
And, who can forget our team uniform? The Jalur Gemilang actually covered half of our anatomy. I thought we looked silly but there were other sillier, if not ugly, costumes on parade that morning. I certainly could not understand how the telecommunication companies could submit their employees to wearing futuristic looking costumes that could easily put the aliens to shame. But we all wore our uniforms with pride.
That year, I didn’t spend the Merdeka morning sitting in front of the television and watching the march past. Neither did I sleep in.
I recited the Rukun Negara, something I had not done since I left school, and sang the
three times. We sang songs together with thousands of other Malaysians, young and old, at the parade. I felt patriotic even if it was for a fleeting moment.
So, would this year’s Merdeka Day, celebrating 60 years of the country’s independence, be just another public holiday or a night of partying?
My fear is that if nothing concrete is being planned or done, we will sooner than later lose sight of why our forefathers fought for the independence.
In their 2015 paper on “Patriotism: Issues and Challenges in Malaysia”, Sitti Hasnah Bandu, Associate Professor Datuk Dr Abdul Razaq Ahmad and Mohd Mahzan Awang from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia said patriotism among the people in Malaya at the time before independence focused on the struggle for independence. National interest was regarded as more important than self-interest.
They also highlighted the many challenges to implement values of patriotism, especially among the younger generation. One is the lack of appreciation among the people of the history of the country. They do not know the history of the country let alone to sacrifice for the country. Consequently, there will be people who lack compassion and love for their own country.
I believe the months leading up to Independence Day is a fitting time to raise the spirit of patriotism among Malaysians, especially the younger generation. No nation can progress without the youth carrying that zeal for their country.
Last Saturday, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak launched the “Negaraku” initiative at a carnival-like event. The initiative is to instil a sense of love for the country.
It is also aimed at igniting the spirit of patriotism in the people, setting aside any differences and to stand united in achieving the goal to develop Malaysia into a more prosperous and successful country.
A news report said programmes and events would be