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1963, 1Malaysia, August 31, Borneo, Independence, Kuching, Malaysia, Malaysia Day, Malaysian, Merdeka, National Day, Sabah, Sarawak, Sarawak Politics, Sarawakian, September 16

Happy 48th Birthday Malaysia!

AS September 16, 2011 — this Friday to be exact — draws nearer and nearer, I am extremely excited because we will FINALLY, after 48 years, be celebrating Malaysia’s National Day on our nation’s actual birthday – MALAYSIA DAY!

Here is a day when ALL Malaysians can really celebrate together as 1Malaysia!

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should do away with National Day celebrations on August 31. No, as fellow blogger Rimau Atas Kerusi pointed out, although August 31, 1957 is the day of independence for Malaya and NOT Sabah and Sarawak, it was still “an important first step towards the formation of Malaysia”.

I have mentioned before, but I’ll repeat myself because many seem unaware of this, Sarawak’s Merdeka Day was actually July 22, 1963. Yes, that’s right. That’s when we became an independent nation for 56 days.

As a Sarawakian and Malaysian, September 16 is the day that is dear to my heart. That’s the day that the independent nation of Sarawak, together with Sabah and Singapore, FORMED our new nation of the Federation of Malaysia together with Malaya (now known as Peninsular Malaysia). This was a decision Sarawak’s leaders and people made to solidify and strengthen our future within an independent Federation.

September 16 is Malaysia Day because there was NO Malaysia before September 16, 1963.

Our nation’s birthday was finally declared a public holiday last year. While many may have just celebrated having another day off work, what was really significant was the acknowledgement that September 16 is a very important day to our country.

Why does this matter? Because it acknowledges Sabah and Sarawak’s vital roles in the formation of our nation. We’re not just states in the Federation. We are part of the four – and later three after Singapore was kicked out – EQUAL partners that FORMED this nation!

A lot of times many mainstream media reports tend to forget this. There are radio public service announcements and television promos saying “Happy 54th Birthday Malaysia”. You also see advertisements saying the same thing.

This hurts the feelings of Sarawakians and Sabahans because it makes it seem that our roles in the formation of Malaysia were and are not important. Whenever someone says the two Borneo states “joined” Malaysia, it really makes my blood boil.

We were not latecomers to the party. There would have been no “party” – no Malaysia without Sabah and Sarawak.

So this Malaysia Day, let us all – Malayans, Sabahans and Sarawakians – celebrate our country’s birthday with much joy as 1Malaysia and look forward to many more such celebrations on September 16.

Happy 48th Birthday Malaysia!


My original post on July 17, 2011:

Preparing for Malaysia’s 48th Birthday


A history lesson from The Star:

A lesson on Sept 16


By Philip Golingai

The federation of Malaya, not Malaysia, was created in 1957. Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia – they formed the country together with the then Malaya and Singapore on Sept 16, 1963.

ON AUG 31, I spent my Mer-deka Day holiday tweeting history lessons. I found certain historical inaccuracies on my Twitter timeline as annoying as – to misquote a tweet from @ATM2U – seeing a straight man eat cupcake.

For example, one of Malaysia’s tycoons tweeted: “Independence day for Malaysia today.”

As a Sabahan, I just had to correct him even though he is worth a billion times more than me. So @PhilipGolingai admonished: “Sir, independence day for Malaya. Malaysia was formed on Sept 16, 1963.”

Then someone – not the billionaire – tweeted: “Why Singapore not celebrating Malaya’s Indepen-dence day?”

History was definitely not her favourite subject.

I replied: “When Malaya dec-lared Merdeka, Singapore was under the British. On Sept 16, 1963, Singapore, Malaya, Sabah & Sarawak formed Malaysia.”

My colleague @ChiaYingTheStar (Lim Chia Ying) tweeted: “How can a tv station say Happy Birthday to M’sia on Aug 31?? My gosh, no wonder kids can never learn real facts?”

On Merdeka Day, Faridah Stephens, daughter of one of Malaysia’s founding fathers, Tun Fuad Stephens (Sabah Chief Minister), reminded her Peninsu­lar Malaysian friends of our country’s history.

“(Some of) my friends wished Happy 54th Birthday Malaysia. They always say Malaysia. But it is not Malaysia’s independence but Malaya’s,” she lamented.

On Facebook, Faridah watched a video clip of Negaraku sung in Chinese. The rendition was “beautiful” but the ending of the video was a “dampener”.

Alamak, I thought, when I saw ‘Happy 54th Birthday Malaysia’ at the end,” she said.

How did her friends’ respond to her reminder?

“Some people went quiet,” she said, laughing heartily.

Some Malaysians mistake Aug 31 for Malaysia’s birthday, according to Faridah, because “we tend to be West (Peninsular) Malaysia-centric”.

“Many forget that Malaysia did not exist until 1963. Malaysia was not created in 1957. Sabah and Sarawak did not join Malaysia, they formed the country,” she said, adding that “I’m just stating a historical fact.”

To get my historical facts right, I called my old classmate, then a history buff, at La Salle secondary school in Tanjung Aru, Sabah.

“Why are there Malaysians who confuse Hari Merdeka as Malay-sia’s birthday?” I asked Danny Wong Tze Ken, a history professor in Universiti Malaya.

Wong lectured me on the birth of Malaysia. Here’s a summary: On Aug 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya was established. It was expanded into the Federation of Malaysia on Sept 16, 1963. The country became larger with the inclusion of Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah. And in 1965, Singapore left.

“If you think of the day for independence for Malaysia, then Sept 16, is logical for Sabahans and Sarawakians as that was when both states achieved independence, in 1963. But for the people of Peninsular Malaysia clearly it was Aug 31, 1957, as that was when Tunku Abdul Rahman declared Merdeka,” Wong ex-plained.

“So when is Malaysia’s birthday?” I asked.

“The best answer is to take the case of the United States. Their independence day is July 4, 1776, even though at that time there were only 13 colonies. Although the rest of the United States was incorporated only later, all the 50 states observe July 4 as Indepen-dence Day,” he said.

“So when is Malaysia’s birthday?” I asked again.

“As a newly formed Federation of Malaysia the birthday of Malaysia will be Sept 16 whereas the Independence Day of the country remains on Aug 31,” he said.

Wong said over the years, Sept 16 was no longer celebrated as Malaysia Day.

“In Sabah it was celebrated as the TYT’s (Governor’s) birthday. And Sabahans wondered why that day was then celebrated as the TYT’s birthday and not as Malaysia Day,” he added.

“It was only last year that Sept 16 was declared a public holiday to commemorate the formation of Malaysia,” the historian said.

So, on Friday, if you are on Twitter, don’t forget to tweet “Happy 48th Birthday Malaysia!”



4 thoughts on “Happy 48th Birthday Malaysia!

  1. Since Sabah had became independence on August 31, 1963, in favor of the people in Sabah, why on earth the Philippines still wants to claim back this once independence country and becomes a colony of Philippines ?

    Posted by Cn | December 1, 2012, 01:56
  2. Tun Nusantara had good argument until Tun Nusantara mentioned JOINED Malaysia. AND, the REAL issue here wasn’t really about Aug 31 or Sept 16…it was about celebrating 48 years of Malaysia Merdeka or celebrating 54 years of Malaysia Merdeka. If you want to call this year the 48th year of celebrating Malaysia, you think Sarawakians are going to make a fuss?

    It would have been superb if we could have ALL filed our papers in time in ’63, as Tun Nusantara pointed we didn’t. So instead of having the same birthday as the independence of Malaya, we’re stuck with Sept 16, for better or worse. I don’t know about the rest of Sarawak but iit does feel nice to celebrate our National Day on Sept 16 this year doesn’t it?

    Salam Muhibbah and God bless ALL Malaysians!

    Posted by rimau atas kerusi | September 18, 2011, 15:38
  3. FYI, Sabah & Sarawak had BOTH completed their ‘papers’ by the 31st of August, 1963 dateline set. Only s’pore was late (& by 2 weeks!) where they submitted their papers on the 14th of Sept., Friday. Thus, the following Monday the 16th date, was used.

    Tun Temenggong Jugah, Tun Fuad Stephens, etc. in North Borneo then, were all excited to JOIN Malaysia & had kept the 31st August date in mind, ie. as agreed by ALL… That was why to all the leaders then, who themselves signed & of course, Understood the terms & conditions; to them, 31st August is THE Day, OUR day, ALL MALAYSIANS’ Day…

    It’s just Only NOW in the new ‘Mudah Lupa’ Millennium that Everyone seems to be “taking advantage” of stuffs, including the Mudah Lupa “leaders” + rakyats , too. ‘People’ are just ‘creating’ stuffs up just to ‘look good’ to the rakyats like, they are THE ‘fighters’. Pakatan dap only now ‘care’/’concerned about East Malaysia (to get VOTES), fya…

    God Bless the original bumiputeras of Malaysia & God Save Malaysia.
    Thank you, Salam MUHIBBAH.

    Posted by tunnusantara | September 17, 2011, 02:57
    • Yes Tun Nusantara, God bless Malaysian Bumiputeras. May He also bless ALL Malaysians, no matter what their ethnic origins.

      As for the deadline of August 31, please note that I did NOT say that the day is not significant. As a Sarawakian, as an East Malaysian, it is September 16 that means more to me because there was NO Malaysia before then. You yourself point out that Singapore’s papers were not filed and hence the date September 16 was used. That’s when our nation came into being 48 years ago.

      Indeed Tun I agree about the mudah lupa times we live in. Facts always get distorted and hence Sir, I must insist that Sabah and Sarawak did not JOIN MALAYSIA. We joined MALAYA to FORM Malaysia. That again is a very important fact we must NEVER FORGET if we are ever to be 1Malaysia.
      Salam Muhibbah! May our nation continue to thrive in the next 48 years and more to come!

      Posted by Parochial Sarawakian | September 17, 2011, 09:11

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