|Merdeka and Malaysia Day Celebration - Two Happy Participants, Tasha (right) and friend.|
Your mama asked me to look out for you on TV on Friday 16 September. But there were so many happy looking Malaysian schoolkids hopping about, I just could not make you out. It was ONE big mass of kids enjoying themselves that day, that Merdeka and Malaysia Day.
So I wrote to your mama asking how you fared that day. This was her answer.
My dear Mak Ngah,
Am glad that she is having fun during her school days. Am not really sure that she understands the meaning of Merdeka in the sense that we want her to. But I'm pretty sure she understands the meaning of hardship, sacrifice and teamwork in preparing for that big day. She now knows that nothing comes easy. Their training started on the 3rd week of Ramadhan and most of the time she carried on with school in the afternoon.
One day, Tasha, you will understand the significance of Merdeka and why you did what you did on 16 September 2011.
When tok ngah was just a little older than you ( that would be during the dinosaur period, in your eyes!), our school, Crescent Girls' School was selected to take part in a Mass Drill to celebrate Singapore's National Day in 1959.
We were taken by bus to Jalan Besar Stadium for practice. We all had to wear white shirts and white shorts. I must say we girls had a lot of fun during practice and rehearsals. But tok ngah also recalled the many quarrels we had with the boys from Victoria School. The booing and the yellings did not stop until we got back on the bus.
But these words I shall never forget. EEK, ERR, SAN, SER, - OOK, LIU, CHIK, PARK, meaning one, two, three, four - five, six, seven, eight. The Mass Drill Instructor stood on a raised platform and taught us the various motions of the drill in Mandarin!! We were stunned when we first heard this. Why Mandarin? But ours is not to ask why. And the rhythm of numbers 1 to 8 in Mandarin would echo in the school canteen and classroom whenever we felt like it.
On 3 June 1959 Singapore was given self-governing status, Sir William Goode became the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara ( not Governor as before) and Mr Lee Kuan Yew was the first Prime Minister. During the general election of 1959 to elect 51 Representatives for the first fully elected Legislative Assembly, Mr Lee's PAP won 43 seats. Mr Lee's PAP won the majority in a coalition with the Communists to get rid of the British colonialists (tok Iain's people).
The last sentence in the above paragraph partly explained our query. Chinese schools and Chinese schoolboys were very active in the Communist movement then and Mass performances like Mass Drill were part of their 'extra-curricular' activities.
However this partnership was short-lived when Barisan Sosialis was formed in 1961. It was also in this year (a coincidence?) when talks began about a merger of Singapore with the Federation of Malaya, as part of Malaysia.
On 16 September (recognise the date?) 1963, Malaysia , made up of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, was formed.
Then on 9 August 1965, Singapore was separated from Malaysia and became an independent nation.
Not long after that, the PAP Singapore Government slowly but surely dismantled the Chinese language schools, as well as the Malay and Tamil language schools to create a one-system multi-racial school based on English. However, even the mighty PAP Government could not ignore the voice (or demands?) of the 70+% Chinese majority. It was not just EEK, ERR, SAN, SER, OOK, LIU, CHIK, PARK.
In the 1980s ( I can't be precise here), we woke up to this.
Then the Emperor put on another set of clothes - sometime about 5-6 years ago?
Above is the image of another new concept for Singapore : EASTERN ROOTS, WESTERN WINDS.
My dear Tasha, you must be wondering what on earth is tok ngah rabbitting about?
I shall quote what your mama wrote. "Am not really sure she understands the meaning of Merdeka in the sense that we want her to."
When you grow up - really, really grow up - your world and well-being will depend on how you relate Merdeka with responsibility and hard work for all Malaysians. The study of History, untainted and factual will be as essential as Accountancy and IT. To chart your future, you have to know the past.
The issues of race and language have always blighted Malaysia's polity and will always be manipulated by opportunists and troublemakers in this country - maybe, but hopefully not, until you reach my age!
Tasha's Day on 16 September 2011 should be the way for every day in Malaysia and not just for Merdeka and Malaysia Day.
Salam and Loads of Love,