National Day (August 31) Is Meaningless To Sarawakians

Peter John addresses a rally in Kuching.

COMMENT:Sarawakians continue to voice their discontent at the persistent narrative that 31 August is National Day or Hari Kebangsaan.

Social media feeds and the talk in the coffee shops are increasingly questioning the relevance of this date to the state of Sarawak as part of a wider awakening to the circumstances of the formation of our nation and the passage of history which lead up to it.

Yet, there appears to be no move on the part of the authorities to alter their rhetoric about this date.

As Dr Mahathir commands Sarawakians to think as Malaysians, perhaps he should instead be asking why Sarawakians do not feel like Malaysians in a country which continues to assert the dominance of the Malayan story in the history of Malaysia.

Malaysia only came into being on 16/9/1963.

While the founding fathers had intended to sign the Malaysia Agreement 1963 on 31 August, the reality is that they did not. There was NO Malaysia or NEW nation on 31/8/1963.

Hence, it is meaningless to celebrate 31st August as ‘National Day’ for Sarawakians as the date does not have any historical significance for them. The National Flag was only OFFICIALLY hoisted on 16/9/1963, not 31/8/1963.

‘National’ (Kebangsaan) means “relating to, or characteristic of a nation; COMMON to a WHOLE nation.”

Therefore, 31st August is simply ‘Hari Kemerdekaan Malaya’ (31/8/1957) and ‘Hari Kemerdekaan Sabah’ (31/8/1963) and the rightful ‘National Day’ or Hari Kebangsaan Malaysia should be 16 September.

Many might feel that this is a small matter and that the name does not change the substance of the celebration.

However, Sarawakians are increasingly coming to see the rigid insistence on this misrepresentation as continuing evidence that our story remains irrelevant in the country that we formed.

As every year passes and the dialogue remains unchanged, it tells us that our contributions and our very existence are of no interest in the national narrative.

If we are not represented in the history of Malaysia, how can we think as Malaysians? Even worse, many Sarawakians are coming to suspect, rightly or wrongly, that this is part of a sustained and deliberate attempt to write us out of the history books as a means to write our rights under the Malaysia Agreement 1963 out of the constitution.

The continued description of 31 August as National Day only serves to convince Sarawakians that the old political mindsets which have prevailed in our country for over 5 decades have not changed.

But Sarawak has woken up to its own history and after years of adjusting our own history and mindsets, we now ask that the government of Malaya start changing theirs and demonstrating that they are serious in their response to a newly ascendant Sarawak identity within Malaysia.

“31 August 1957 bukan tarikh kemerdekaan negara kita.”

Its Sarawak hanya merdeka hanya atas nama.
31 August is Hari Kebangsaan apa.
Bangsa apa?

16 sept 1963 should be Hari Kebangsaan or Malaysia day. Not 31 August..
31 August is Hari Kemerdekaan Malaya dari jajahan British sahaja.

*Peter John Jaban is Publicity and Information chief of Persatuan Aspirasi Rakyat Sarawak (SAPA)