It looks like the jury is back and the verdict is a unanimous ‘FLOP’. The Merdeka celebrations organized by Prime Minister Najib Razak’s UMNO party at the Dataran Merdeka, the National Stadium in Bukat Jalil and in almost every state were a “sham”.
Critics said not only were the theme and logo inappropriate and not meaningful to the people, both were ridiculed and parodied until the entire Cabinet was forced to defend their validity. The lyrics of the theme song was pure UMNO propaganda and the participants at the parade were compelled to take part. Most were from the various government departments and grumpy at being ‘forced’ to join in, while those who escaped heaved a huge sigh of relief.
No wonder, the widespread complaint that the events – which cost taxpayers a pretty penny – were a “sheer waste”. It does appear only selected UMNO-linked vendors and suppliers benefited. Even the procession, which was meant to be the highlight of the 55th Merdeka celebration, turned out to be mundane.
Why wasn’t there much to celebrate? The answer is simple – because it was an UMNO’s event rather than a people’s celebration. The majority view was that it was not organized as a national event aimed to instill real patriotism in the people but was more of being Najib’s last effort to improve his image ahead of general elections that he has hinted may be as soon as November.
Why were the non-Malays ‘kept out’?
At a glance, one could only see a sea of Malay faces and it was hard to find any non-Malays in the crowd without making an effort to do so. In particular, the celebration at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium was very worrying because of the glaring lack of other ‘colours’ at an event that is meant to highlight everyone’s space and contribution in this nation.
But where were the non-Malays? Sad to say, those who came to the UMNO events were in a pitiful minority.
Can UMNO blame the other races for being cynical and for not wanting to be there or participating in a “national event” that it is guilty of turning into its own private celebration – an occasion to glorify the United Malays National Organization?
It is also very telling how the other component parties in the BN have been completely sidelined in this year’s Merdeka. And true to form, not a single one of them from MIC, MCA to Gerakan dared to say a word. Gerakan president Koh Tsu Koon will be long remembered for closing his eyes and praising the theme Janji DiTepati or Promises Fulfilled as being most appropriate despite a raging national debate questioning the theme’s legitimacy.
No surprisingly, Merdeka 55 hit a wall of sarcasm. Information Minister Rais Yatim was asked by netizens why he didn’t include the seven contingents of the freshly minted “Malaysians” meant to ensure that UMNO-BN wins in the coming general election with representatives coming from Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines, Pakistan, Myanmar, Nepal in an apparent dig at the UMNO-BN’s alleged citizenship for votes scam.
Are the non-Malays not patriotic?
Patriotism comes naturally in every true citizen who loves his or her country, and is perhaps the most meaningful to those who were born there. Same goes for those who care and want to make things right for the future generations.
But the same does not apply to the apple-polishers and the UMNOputeras who dominated the August 31 events. These are the ones with vested interest and their show of “patriotism” may well be just that – a false exhibition.
In our national anthem, we proclaim that Malaysia is “Tanah tumpah darahku” (the land that I spilled my blood for) but if so, why leave out the other creeds, ethnic groups and races?
Why disassociate them from the celebrations? Did they not contribute to this country’s develoment and economy? Such insensitivity is perhaps why UMNO is often called a racist party and it looks like till now, it still doesn’t understand why it has been so labelled.
Stark contrast at the Pakatan celebrations
Very few people flew the national flag or “Jalur Gemilang” on their cars and vehicles this year. Even the Mat Rempits (motor bike gangs) refused to parade the flag on their motorbikes this year!
The ordinary rakyat (people) from the non-Malay race, creed, and ethnic groups can sense they have been snubbed in the UMNO Merdeka celebrations. Intuitively, they know they would not be truly welcome or be made to feel at home in the UMNO environment.
Hence they flocked to Pakatan Rakyat celebrations in Selangor and Penang, where it was like being in a another world. So stark was the contrast in the informal atmosphere, the friendliness and the tangible camaraderie that the participants, VIPS and above all, the attendees felt for each other.
The sight of Opposition Anwar Ibrahim being greeted by thousands of cheering Malaysians at the Selangor celebration was an eyeopener and indicator not only of his popularity. It also showed the people feel that he is the most appropriate leader to be the next Prime Minister.
Is this why Prime Minister Najib Razak is so busy trying to ‘frame’ Pakatan leaders for allegedly wanting to change the national flag? Is this why he has accused the Selangor state government of ‘stabbing’ the Sultan in the back and inviting Anwar as the guest of honor? Is Najib trying to sour the Pakatan’s huge success to cover his own failure?
The fact is no one can blame the non-Malays for not showing up at the UMNO events. It is not their fault but UMNO’s own fault for insisting on practising communal politics and racial favoritism. The non-Malays have been sidelined not only in this year’s events; they have been sidelined for 55 years!
UMNO-BN have failed to integrate all the races in the country and despite the 1Malaysia slogan that Najib claims is living proof of the BN’s ‘multiracialism’ and promoted at every government function, the 55th Merdeka celebration proves otherwise. It showcases Failure with a capital ‘F’.
Meaningless one-way, non-inter-active shows
It was clear from the procession at the Dataran Merdeka on August 31 that the singing, dancing, trooping and all else had been carefully staged. A lot of time and effort was spent by these participants at rehearsals and such. But while they may be sincere in entertaining the nation, accepting only a token allowance for their hours of practise in the hot sun, the VIPs on the stage watching them and grabbing all their glory were much less altruistic.
By comparison, these VIPS have benefited so much more from the nation; they have millions salted away in their personal bank accounts and yet their contribution on Merdeka Day was merely superficial.
And after the event is over, these VIPs will usually have special dinners at expensive restaurants and hotels to celebrate amongst themselves; chat about new opportunities and ways to make money – again at the nation’s expense as their critics will claim. Some of these VIPs could even be anticipating a long weekend with their mistresses and toy-boys.
What an irony! Should they not be the ones to lead and participate in the event rather than sit on their backsides and watch from the stage. That honour should only be given to the Agong. And yet Najib accuses the Selangor state government of being discourteous and disloyal to the Selangor Sultan!
As for the plucky participants, they have no choice but to be satisfied with the small benefits they were given. They had already lost one day of public holiday and have to be content with a token allowance, bottle of mineral water and a “ta-pau nasi bugkus” (packed rice) each for lunch and perhaps dinner.
For your information, Rais – the real warriors are …
As for the attendees who came to the UMNO Merdeka celebrations, Rais colorfully claimed they were the real “warriors”! Can you believe the awful cheek of this former Law Minister, who should really know better than to speak so flippantly?
For Rais’ information, the attendees should have been the whole of Malaysia and their views should been consulted and they should have been kept involved throughout the entire preparation and celebration.
But no – in the UMNO organised Merdeka events, the attendees are merely wallpaper. They are there to make up the numbers so that the UMNO-BN media can take photos and proclaim in the papers the next day that ‘so many thousands’ came to support Najib at the Merdeka celebrations!
We should not be impressed by the UMNO Merdeka stage shows. These were a waste in every sense. With the funds at their disposal, why can’t UMNO leaders come up with better better ideas that truly unite the people. If they had done so, they would have received a standing ovation from the people across the nation and not just from their newspapers Utusan, NST and the Star.
For a party with such a history, to be gratified and consoled by the flattery of its press is surely the saddest indictment of its political usefulness and a sure harbinger of the downfall that has already begun and will be finalized at the 13th general election.