Friday, August 31, 2007

Merdeka Bumiku Malaysia

A Kadir Jasin

[NOTA: Saya akan ke suatu destinasi yang saya kurang arif mengenai kemudahan telekomunikasinya. Justeru itu, ulasan saudara dan saudari mungkin tidak diuruskan buat beberapa hari. Terima kasih.]

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BUMI yang kita pijak ini bumi kita
Begitu jugalah langit yang kita junjung
Biarpun kita berasa ada yang tak kena
Dan kerananya kita sedih dan murung
Namun apa daya
Kerana di bumi inilah kita berlindung
Dan di sinilah kita menabur jasa
Dengan harapan menuai bahagia
Kerana hujan emas di negeri orang
Hujan batu di negeri sendiri
Lebih baik di negeri sendiri
Maka keranamu dan untukmu Malaysia
Kami kibarkan bendera
Diiringi teriakan merdeka, merdeka, merdeka!

Memories Of Merdeka

[From Other Thots column, Malaysian Business Aug.16-31]

I was 10 years and seven days old when, with the cry of ‘Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!’, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra declared the independence of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu.

Standing in formation with a 100-odd other pupils of the Sekolah Melayu Pendang (Pendang Malay School) at the assembly ground, I could hear pretty clearly, amidst the crackling sounds of the medium wave live-transmission of Radio Malaya, the Tunku’s proclamation of Merdeka from Stadium Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.

Television was still many years away. So, while we could hear what went on in Kuala Lumpur, as told to us by the Radio Malaya broadcasters, we could not see it.

When the live broadcast ended, we staged our own lowering of the Union Jack and raised the national flag, which many years later would be christened Jalur Gemilang, accompanied by a spirited singing of Negaraku.

It was an emotional moment as I was old enough to understand the importance of the event. Since starting school in 1954, I was, like all other pupils, taught to salute the Union Jack and sing God Save the Queen.

So seeing the Union Jack being lowered for the last time and not singing God Save the Queen provoked a sense of loss and a feeling of sadness.

The Union Jack was not the only object of veneration that we saluted to or tabik in Bahasa Malaysia. We also saluted our teachers. Each time we did that, we had to shout ‘tabik cikgu’ at the top of our voices.

But our sadness at seeing the Union Jack gone did not last long. The light refreshment of lemonade, ais bandung, nasi lemak and biscuits convinced us that Merdeka was good. Even better, we got the rest of the day off.

At that age, I was more than familiar with the idea of Independence partly because our family was actively involved in the movement. My Malay school- and pondok-educated father was active in Umno and was one of the commanders of the village Home Guard unit.

Even my illiterate mother was sold on the idea of Merdeka because the talk of Merdeka and the good things it was supposed to bring become the household mantra.

But it wasn’t so for my grandmother. Having survived the Japanese Occupation and the terror of the Bintang Tiga (the Chinese-dominated Malayan People Anti-Japanese Army) a decade earlier, she was convinced that the moment the British walked out, the Japanese would walk back in.

She was wrong on most counts. Some years later, the progress that Independence brought to our remote rice-farming village saved her life.

One day during the annual flood, while dipping her hand into an earthen jar to scoop the rice for cooking, she was bitten by a cobra hiding inside. It was not unusual for snakes of all species and small animals to seek shelter in the house during floods.

Thanks to the newly constructed road, she could be rushed to the Alor Star hospital some 20 kilometres away, in time to be administered anti-venom serum. Had she been bitten a few years earlier she might have died because the motorboat trip down the Pendang River would have taken longer than she could survive untreated.

By the time the big guns – usually the Howitzers — fell silent and the convoys of Commonwealth soldiers stopped camping at our school football field, my grandmother was totally cured of the snakebite and she no longer feared the return of the Japanese.

Starting 1948, when the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) took up arms to fight the British and Emergency was declared, the big guns had been pounding the distant jungles to the north-east of our village day and night for weeks on end.

Their sound was loudest at night when silence and fear gripped the surrounding villages. Stories of attacks, kidnappings, extortion, tortures and even killings by the communists were rife.

In reality though, the big guns and soldiers who manned them, who came from such countries as the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Fiji, did not actually kill that many communist fighters and we were not really in mortal danger.

But the sound of the guns and the parade of military trucks, jeeps, armoured personal carriers and tanks gave us the feeling of security and boosted our morale.

As schoolboys, what we loved most about the war was being able to climb onto the tanks and armoured cars and share the soldiers’ rations of sweets, chocolates and occasional canned sardines and fruits. That’s how they won our hearts and minds.

Decades later — in 1989 — I saw the dreaded ‘enemies’ at close quarter when I covered the signing of the peace agreement between Malaysia, Thailand and the MCP in Haatyai, Thailand.

The ageing communist fighters did not look threatening at all. In fact, they were so friendly that they bowled the journalists over, much to the dismay of the top brass of the Special Branch who insisted that the media should not make heroes of them.

Last year I accompanied former Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin to the Thai province of Narathiwat to meet Abdullah CD and other former leaders of the MCP who are settled there following the 1989 agreement. Daim was researching the MCP for his memoirs.

The Emergency was withdrawn in 1960 but the guerilla warfare continued until the late 1980s, when former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad – some say at the behest of the late Tun Abdul Ghafar Baba – decided that a permanent settlement had to be sought.

According to stories, the leadership of the 10th Regiment of the MCP, better known as the Muslim Regiment for its overwhelming dependence on Malay and Muslim fighters, had sent a letter to Abdul Ghafar to congratulate him on the occasion of his appointment as Deputy Prime Minister in 1986.

Many leaders of the MCP’s 10th Regiment knew Abdul Ghafar well as they were once members of the Kesatuan Melayu Muda – the Young Malay Union – a radical anti-colonial movement established in 1938.

My village, like most farming villages in the country, has come a long way since that day on Aug 31, 1957. So did Malaya, which in 1963 became Malaysia.

In 1964, history of sorts was made in the Pendang parliamentary constituency – then known as Kota Setar Selatan – when a young medical doctor by the name of Mahathir bin Mohamad was sent to contest the general election as the candidate of the Alliance Party, the predecessor to the present day Barisan Nasional (BN).

Soon after winning the election by convincingly beating a Pas candidate, Mahathir quickly made a name for himself as a keen debater by joining forces with the late Syed Jaafar Albar to take on Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew in the Federal Parliament, although they were technically on the same side.

But that encounter lasted only briefly because by 1965 Singapore, depending on who tells the story, either left the federation or was booted out.

By the middle of the 1960s, more development projects came to our village – schools, a midwife clinic and the grandest of all, the Muda Irrigation Scheme, among the first mega projects to be launched by the Government. It was funded by a World Bank loan.

When it was inaugurated in the early 1970s, it transformed the life of over 100,000 rice-growing families in Kedah and Perlis by significantly increasing income and reducing poverty.

But once again my grandmother was horrified. She was afraid that tractors, power tillers and other modern farming implements that came with padi double-cropping would drive away her trusted ‘semangat padi’ – the spirit of the padi that she feted once a year in exchange for a bountiful harvest.

Above all, she was worried that the use of chemical fertilisers, pesticides and weed killers would spell doom to her much-loved angling fish ikan puyu (climbing perch) and haruan (snakehead). She didn’t much care for ikan keli (catfish).

She was, by tradition, an organic farmer. She favoured chicken’s dropping, cow dung, guano and lime over urea and phosphate.

She was partially correct. While her fear of being abandoned by the semangat padi was proven wrong – the harvest got better – by the time she passed away in 1982, the fish stocks were almost completely decimated and new types of pests started to colonise the padi fields.

Only in recent years have the fishes begun to return to the padi fields to spawn, as less poisonous pesticides and weed killers are used. And with them have come such water birds as cattle egrets, ruak-ruak (white-breasted waterhen), ayam-ayam (water fowls) and puchong (lesser egrets).

It was against this rural and highly conservative background that I grew up, most of the time against the tide because my father believed that we had to break loose of the tradition in order to break free of poverty and ignorance.

So in 1959 I sat for the Special Malay Class entrance examination and, upon passing it, gained entry to Saint Michael’s Primary School – a government-aided Roman Catholic school — in Alor Star.

That decision provoked the strongest protest from my Tok Guru uncle, Haji Hussain, who was totally convinced that I would become a kafir (infidel) in no time at all.

But sometime later, when he discovered that I had neither become a kafir nor abandoned the five daily prayers, he invited me to stay with him during the rainy season, when the unpaved road outside my house was too muddy to cycle on; his house was much closer to Pendang, from where I took the bus to Alor Star.

Merdeka has brought a lot of changes to my village, as it has done to other villages and towns throughout the country.

Whereas back in the 1960s I enjoyed the distinction of being among the first boys from my kampung to attend an English school and being shown the respect an English-speaking gentleman should, today nobody pays much attention when a village boy or girl receives a scholarship to study abroad.

Every other household in my village today boasts not one but several university and college graduates.

What has not changed is the politics. The Umno-Pas tit-for-tat rivalry that saw Dr Mahathir being ousted in the 1969 general election continues.

The Kota Setar parliamentary seat, now known as Pendang, alternates between Umno and Pas, with the latter winning more regularly.

Even during the last general election, when the BN achieved an historic victory, Pendang remained firmly in Pas’ hand.

All things considered, I think I can, without hesitation, reservation or qualification, shout ‘Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!’

Happy 50th Merdeka Anniversary to all fellow Malaysians.


Rockybru said...

your arwah grandma wasn't totally wrong - the japs did come after the union jack was lowered down. they came years later with their investment in electronics in penang and they went on to become a huge investor in Independent Malaysia!

but the japs never did colonize us again. even with dr M's look east policy, the japs could not conquer us Malaysians with their exemplary work ethics and discipline. our minds had been closed to such things.

today, some of us don't believe in hard work and don't know what having to work hard is. some of us don't know what work is! hoisting the flag for symbolics is considered a huge task for people like these.

we need to conquer back our minds , hearts and spirits against our own Malaysians who seem set to reduce us as slaves of their whims and fancies.

thank you.

p.s. ada Internet access di Pendang ke?


Sdr Ahirudin Attan aka Rocky's Bru,

I am not in Pendang. But when in Pendang I can blog using TMNet; slow and but sufficient for limited Internet uses.

Actually I am not even in Malaysia.

Surprisingly, in this "Third World" country, Internet access is good.

I found a couple of places where free wifi is available and at the hotel you can use wifi communication for about RM8 an hour -- which is hugely cheaper than the cut-throat rates at some of our four- and five-star hotel.

Sdr Red84, I will not post your comment.

As I have stated before, it's not nice to refer to somebody by the shape of his eyes, the colour of his skin or the amount of hair on his head.

Basing on your comment, I can tell you that BBC was not the only global TV station that thinks that militancy is growing in Malaysia.

China's CCTV9 had a fairly good coverage of the Merdeka parade at the Dataran.

But it concluded its report by noting that ethnic minorities are unhappy with their situation and Islamic radicalism is rising.

Thank you.

Anonymous said...

A Kadir Jasin,

Rightly so.
Don't tell me you are in Sarajevo.
My regards to you, your entourage, 'them' and the Sudanese

Tell them we had a wonderful 50th celebration and the country is still in one piece. But it was a wonderful day with many things to be thankful for.

Terima KASIH

My atok taught me the S.69:
she was not as lovely as yours' but no less wonderful.

Anonymous said...

Talking of look east policy and you can't stop wondering if we just have to look south at our next door red dot, they are so far ahead in everything and surely we can learn a thing or two from them. We can't just ignore them and continue to eat ubi kayu in Bolehland.

Bailey said...

happy 50th independance year, Datuk. =)

Anonymous said...

Salaam, Datuk

So, did China's CCTV9 do a "fair and balanced report" (to quote the famous slogan of Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel) on Malaysia?

I mean - noting that "ethnic minorities are unhappy with their situation" and "Islamic radicalism is rising". Cheeky, no?

Will Syed Hamid Albar protest this to his Chinese counterpart?

ibrahim yahaya said...

Apakah Pendang akan jatuh ke tangan BN kali ini?

Apapun selamat menjalankan tugas di mana saja Datuk berada dan selamat pulang ke tanahair apabila selesai segala tugas.

jibeng said...

Merdeka spirits holds true to every citizen of malaysia, since i am no leader to any particular group except maybe my family , i can only say on behave of myself what Merdeka truely means.

I am from post-merdeka generation, I have never fought for the freedom of my country nor did my father (come to think of it), as he was only born on 1957.

I only heard,read all the struggles from text books and movies, though sometimes i do think there is more to the story than what have been documented, I tried to connect to the whole notion of merdeka and sometimes i must say, felt a false sense of patriotism.

What is the best way to show your patriotism? I am clueless as i have no idea but i am truely blessed to be born a Malaysian.

So at the moment, the merdeka spirit is there, but i am not sure what is it anymore.

Anonymous said...


When I was kid, I would accompany my grandmother to the Lake gardens to see the Merdeka celebrations. We would walk from bangsar to the LG and do the same after the shows, usually past midnite. My grandmother was a member of Umno's Kaum Ibu and she would proudly display her Umno badge when we go out. My Indian neighbour would join in and often bring some food for us to nibble during the wayang kulit and 'bunga api.' Life was simple and friendship was genuine.

Somehow, at this year's celebrations, I feel a sense of distance during the celebrations. There's plenty of words. But no charismatic person to rally around. An Umno grassroot leader told me he almost fell asleep while watching the Merdeka eve live show on tv.

I took a drive around the city on Merdeka eve. Traffic was smooth. Perhaps many townfolks took the three-day break to go back to their kampongs or home towns. I stood at one corner and counter cars with mini flags. Out of about 100, there were 4, including mine. This does not necessarily mean those without flags are less patriotic but I would question why they don't take the trouble to put the flag. Don't care? No time? Won't make any difference? I don't know...

What abouit the TV ads showing children with their dialogue on friendship. There were also ads supposedly aimed at showing children aren't bothered about the racial factor. Were they real? Weren't the advertisements done where the children were coached on what to say? You mean, there weren't children conscious of their ethnic backgrounds? Aren't the commercials guilty of showing only the parts they want to show and hide some dark truths behind the sound bytes?

Sounds too much of the feel good thing to me. Maybe the general election is really round the corner! Then again, how real is this feel good thing? What about friends who sigh and lamented that their children have not been able to get jobs? And the ordinary folks saying 'barang2 are just too mahal' now. Maybe many people are spending more using their credit cards...

Whatever, enjoy your break sdra!

Anonymous said...

Orang Melayu di Kota sarang Semut kata kalau depa buh bendera kat kereta tahun ni, pak lah ingat dia popular esok dia naikkan petrol lagi lima kupang.

Orang cina di kota sarang semut kata, cukai tanah, cukai pintu naik 100%, lagi mau pasang benderaka?

Saya tak tau nak kata apa. Dulu dok kota sarang semut, la ni berhijrah ke kota besaq.

Anonymous said...

A merdeka celebration isn't even worth a tree planting day in Malaysia. Why waste so much money on a celebration when in fact the country had gone down hill when every one is moving ahead? Spore has a per capital of 6 time more than Malaysia and see you see we have something to praise?


Sdr Ibrahim Yahaya aka Tiger bertanya:

"Apakah Pendang akan jatuh ke tangan BN kali ini?"

Pertama sekali, seperti saya katakan, daerah terpinggir yang saya maksudkan itu bukan Pendang. Saya pergi ke luar wilayah Malaysia ke sebuah negara yang jauh terkebelakang daripada negara kita dalam banyak hal.

Mengenai Pendang, Sdr sendiri sedia maklum bahawa dalam politik tiada apa yang mustahil. BN boleh memenangi semula Pendang pada pilihan raya umum nanti. Kali terakhir BN memenangi Pendang adalah pada pilihan raya kecil 2002.

Tetapi pada PU 2004, walaupun BN mencacat kemenangan terbesar dalam sejarah, Pas merampas semula Pendang.

Pada pilihan raya kecil 2002, BN memang dengan kelebihan 283 undi setelah mencurahkan ratusan juta ringgit perbelanjaan semasa dan janji-janji dalam bentuk projek pembangunan.

Sdr KK, saya kibarkan bendera di rumah dan pejabat saya. Tidak seperti Sdr Kawan saya tidak kibarkan di kereta. Saya kibarkan bendera kerana negara dan Raja --- Keranamu Malaysia.

Saya tahu Kota Sarang Semut. Pada tahun 1960an dan 1970an hari-hari lalu KSS dalam perjalanan ke sekolah dari Pendang ke Alor Star dengan bas UTC. Sekarang jarang lalu sebab dah ada lebuh raya dan persimpangan di Kobah hasil janji pilihan raya kecil Pendang 2002.

Sdr Kawan, I was these too.. where the Rhu trees are with my children. Those were the days when things, including patriotism, were a lot more genuine and spontaneous. Tidak perlu diuar-uarkan oleh media massa arus perdana.

Today many establishments "celebrated" merdeka because there were "arahan" and not wanting to be accused of being unpatriotic. How do you explain flags at the car parks and not at shops and apartments?

Sdr Jibeng, patriotism is not about being born before or after Merdeka (1957). It’s not about time and age. It's about one's love for one's country. It's about motivation.

When Tun Dr Mahathir were flying Malaysia's flag around the world and Malaysia was respected, Malaysians felt a great sense of patriotism -- the sailed the ocean, scaled the mountains, swan the sees and did things they thought were not possible.

Patriotism is about having leadership that motivates love for the country and believing in one’s self through good examples. In another word he didn't sleep on the job neither did he sneaked out the country to seek medical treatment.

SO let us pray to God that he successfully undergoes his heart treatment at the IJN.

Dr Mahathir's undying trust in the ability of Anak Bangsa is another great example of Dr Mahathir's patriotism.

If a Malaysian doctor is good for the ordinary rakyat, he's good enough for Mahathir bin Mohamad.

He does not sneaked out of the country to seek medical treatment each time he is not feeling well. He stays here in Malaysia with Malaysian doctors, at Malaysian hospitals with Malaysian people.

That, Sdr Jibeng, is patriotism at its highest!

Kita doakan.

Ryzals said...

Assalamualaikum Y.Bhg Datuk,
Salam Kemerdekaan daripada saya. Saya yakin walaupun bukan berada ditanah air sendiri ketika ini, nilai JIWA MERDEKA yang dimiliki pasti berada pada kedudukan yang tertinggi, lagipun kita sudah MERDEKA 50 tahun. Jikalau pokok durian, sudah beratus kali kita dapat nikmati hasilnya, itulah ukuran KEMERDEKAAN jika dinilai dari segi masa.

Y.Bhg. Datuk, saya terbaca baru-baru ini di dalam akhbar perdana-Utusan Malaysia SATU ISU YANG PATUT KITA KETENGAHKAN HARI INI yang saya kira ada hubungkaitnya dengan posting terbaru datuk kali ini iaitu : NASIB PEMILIK RESTORAN KELANTAN DELIGHTS DI KLCC yang telah diUSIR SECARA TERHORMAT UNTUK DIBERIKAN SEWAAN KEPADA KOREAN DELIGHTS.


Budakboy said...

People in Bolehland eating ubi kayu? Is that true Namelee? Is this the same Bolehland where the national anthem is "Negara Kuku"?

In Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia, a plate of boiled ubi kayu with grated coconut, brown sugar and sambal tumis ikan bilis costs not less than RM5. At Aseana in KLCC Suria it's more expansive.

Yes, I too think we should learn from Reddotland. To keep our country clean we should move pig farms to say, Laos or Cambodia. Karam Singh Wallia of TV3 seem to think that the pig farms that's been creating a lot of discomfort to Malaysians in Malacca are actually owned by Reddotlanders.

Back to the 50th Merdeka Day celebrations. After a lapse of 33 years, I took part in the parade at Dataran Merdeka. I cannot but agree with the many commentators who felt that the parade was too much of a single party, single race affair. We could have made it more Malaysian. For starters, there was no Bhagra troupe. Chingay would have been an excellent inclusion.

Why don't we have patriotic songs in Mandarin and Tamil? Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying not having such songs makes for less patriotic Malaysians.

Wouldn't it be nice is we can sing "Jalur Gemilang" in Mandarin and Tamil? This could eventually lead to more use of these languages in our everyday lives.


Sdr Ryzals,

Berikut adalah respons saya mengenai isu yang saudara bangkitkan yang saya hantar kepada blog Datuk Ahmad A Talib baru-baru ini:

"You said: “High rental and some strange policy used by the management of KLCC Suria had forced the restaurant to close.

But Sdr I am sure a fighter and a good soul like Juhaidi will survive.

When I was his boss, I "punished" him for "offending" the King.

Of course I was the one who had to "mengadap" (with Tan Sri Gen (R) Mohd Ghazali Che Mat and Tan Sri Mohd Desa Pachi).

He took the punishment well and went on to become a very good reporter.

The closure of Kelantan Delight at KLCC is a classic example of the Bumiputera policies taking the back seat in this new era of GLCs and KPI.

This is free enterprise at its best or its worse.

Why should KLCC management bother about a Juhaidi, a Kelantan or a Kedah delight if others are willing and able to pay more for the space?

Even my doctors at Twin Tower Medical Centre are being "squeezed" literally.

This is capitalism at its best or its worse.

This is what you get when you impose KPI on public sector managers and demand higher and higher profits from GLCs. And when the Government is in business to compete with Bumiputeras.

Why should they bother about Bumiputera policies or corporate social responsibility when money is their god?

It would appear that as a business centre like KLCC flourishes fewer and fewer Bumiputeras are able to benefit from it.

This is a classic case of the marginalisation of the Bumiputeras. Since I am a part time businessman, I can say this with a measure of authority. GLCs are not interested to assist Bumiputeras!

It had happened at all major shopping complexes. It's now happening at government-owned KLCC.

And you may want to ask what guarantee do we have that it'll not also happen at IDR, Northern Corridor, Eastern Corridor and in all other mega projects.

Who are the second-class citizens now?

Thank you and I wish Juhaidi and his wife all the best at their new place."

Sdr Budakboy, the Reddotland
had a long time ago done away with all types of polluting agricultural activities, but not necessarily out of them.

It merely shifted them to all the "bodohlands" that are desperate for FDI and don't mind the pollution and health hazard.

The Reddotland does not grow bananas. Most are grown in Malaysia but were exported as "Produce of Singapore".

Thank you.

a.z said...

At the Merdeka Celebration event at Stadium Merdeka, the previous PMs eras were dubbed as follows;

Tunku Abdul Rahman - Bapa Kemerdekaan
Tun Razak - Bapa Pembangunan
Tun Hussien Onn - Bapa Perpaduan
Tun Dr. Mahathir - Bapa Kemodenan
Datuk Seri Abdullah - Bapa?/Era Kecermelangan

I bet Datuk Seri Najib might have many sleepless nights from now on because how can anyone top an era of excellence (chuckles)....

About Me

My photo
I was born in 1947 in Kedah. I came from a rice farming family. I have been a journalist since 1969. I am the Editor-in-Chief of magazine publishing company, Berita Publishing Sdn Bhd. I was Group Editor NST Sdn Bhd and Group Editor-in-Chief of NSTP Bhd between 1988 and 2000. I write fortnightly column “Other Thots” in the Malaysian Business magazine, Kunta Kinte Original in Berita Harian and A Kadir Jasin Bercerita in Dewan Masyarakat. Books: Biar Putih Tulang (1998), Other Thots – Opinions & Observations 1992-2001 (2001), The Wings of an Eagle (2003), Mencari Dugalia Huso (2006), Damned That Thots (2006), Blogger (2006), PRU 2008-Rakyat Sahut Cabaran (2008), Komedi & Tragedi-Latest in Contemporary Malaysian Politics (2009) and Membangun Bangsa dengan Pena (2009).