I thought I knew all about our country’s history… well, until little YY got curious why there’ll be no kindergarten for her next Wednesday. My 5-year old asked: “What’s Malaysia Day, Mummy?”
I confidently replied: “It’s when Malaya became Malaysia, dear.”
As soon as the answer was out from my mouth, I knew that it wasn’t correct. Feeling that I owe my daughter an answer that did justice to her and every other Malaysian, I took out my phone and googled for help.
It was an eye-opener!
As a Malaysian living in Peninsular Malaysia, I have been celebrating Hari Merdeka on 31 August for the major part of my life (remember the yearly national parades?), so much so that 16 September was just another date in history to me. It was only in 2010 when Malaysia Day was declared a national public holiday by the Prime Minister that everybody suddenly realised that this was the actual birthdate of Malaysia!
16 September was the day when Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore joined together to establish the new federation of Malaysia (note: Singapore seceded in 1965). The States of Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia as many mistakenly think -- simply because before 16 September 1963, there was no Malaysia.
Thinking further, 31 August actually does not have much relevance to our fellow Malaysians in Sarawak as they obtained their independence (also from the British) on 22 July 1963. As for Sabahans, they had chosen to coincide their declaration of independence on 31 August 1963, so they share the same date with the Peninsular.
Showing my little YY a map of Malaysia on my phone, I said: “Sorry, dear, it’s actually when Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak joined together to form Malaysia.”
“Why, Mummy?”, my inquisitive little girl asked.
“Well, because everyone decided that we will be good for each other. One is strong, but if three of us come together, we will become stronger… one day.”
Happy Malaysia Day, everyone!