Now is the time to in­stil love and com­pas­sion for the coun­try, es­pe­cially in the younger gen­er­a­tion

New Straits Times - - Opinion -

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

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