Approximately 6 weeks ago, a Malaysian who has resided here for more than a decade informed the Malaysian community (which comprises of 90% students) that the local council has agreed to let the Malaysians have their merdeka celebration at their premise. They have even been generous enough to support the event by allocating some budget.
However, the enthusiasm has been given a cold shoulder by the Malaysian community. These are among the reasons:
- Most of the undergraduates have gone home for the summer holidays and they are the ones who can help with such a celebration. Ergo, not enough man power.
- The remaining ones are mainly slightly more than a dozen postgraduates, of whom 90% are in their final stages of their thesis write-up: analysing data, writing up, preparation for viva, the works. These people cannot commit themselves to such tedious preparation when their main worry and priority at the moment is their doctorate thesis.
- The well-intentioned organiser (I am sure), somehow came up with an extensive list of agenda, complete with the names of people in charge without consulting those panic-stricken individuals (me excluded - I don't panic! LOL!) and put them up on the group mail. Among the proposed activities were: fashion show of each state's traditional clothes (er, where would one GET such an attire?), kompang show, choir performance and traditional tasters (to be prepared pot-luck). One fourth year doctorate student was given the task to order boxes of those mini flags with candy in the tube, though the budget for this is not clearly defined.
In response to the suggestions and duty allocations, one student became rather outrageous. He questioned the need for such celebration - for whom is the celebration intended for? Is it for the Brits, who care not about the other ex-British colonies? To whom are all the hard-work and long hours of practice aimed for? Who benefits?
Perhaps the activities should have been designed more appropriately - not too straining and demanding on the lives of the post-graduate students. Instead of more than a dozen attires to model for the fashion show (aah, there's not only the question of clothing, but also the MODELS themselves), maybe young children could be made to model just whatever traditional clothings they have? Most importantly, the allocation of tasks for each individual should have been done more tactfully - personally approached, rather than listing them all and only informing via the group mail.
It is a shame because the result of something with good intentions have been shattered. I would think that celebrating a country's independence is mainly for the nations of the country, and not so much for others. Just imagine, the children who come here to follow their parents spend 3-4 years away from home, and some others who have resided here, have been away from the land called home for most of their young lives. Do they know what the history of Malaysia is? What it means to be a British colony? Though not entirely important, do they know the national anthem or hum to the tunes of the late Sudirman's 31 Ogos or Dr Sam's Saya anak Malaysia? Something mostly taken for granted back home, I would think.
I have always considered myself a rather patriotic person. Yes, those activities in my school days and also when I was a teacher must have did some good. I have no objections against celebrations of the country's independence because I believe that it does in some way allow individuals of all ages to at least reflect on the past and present, and hopefully try to make things better for the future. Well, at least it creates some sense of belonging to the country for the younger generation.
However, having said this, celebrations should always be moderate - no need to spend hundreds, or thousands, whatmore millions, for skirtings, flags, banners, balloons, fireworks, parades, etc. It's the message that's important, not the glitters.
Although the true sense of being independent is more than the physical outlook, many actually forget this. Beauty isn't skin deep, as they say...
For now, my kids are happily singing those Merdeka tunes - an activity during the summer school holidays. They have hung the big Malaysian flag in their room (I managed to chuck in my luggage when we came over when Mr D wasn't looking). Might make a Merdeka cake for the fun of it as I bake a cake almost every other day! Ooh, a fellow-blogger will be coming over on Merdeka day, so we can perhaps have a mini-celebration then... with reflections, of course!