TOMORROW (Sept 2) marks the anniversary of the signing of a very significant piece of paper in Malaysian history.
It took place thousands of kilometres away, yet it was as significant
here as it was where it was signed. It was significant in the United
States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. It was
significant in many parts of the world, especially in the Pacific.
Tomorrow marks the 68th anniversary of the surrender of Japan in World
War 2, aboard the battleship USS Missouri, anchored in Tokyo Bay
surrounded by more than 200 Allied vessels.
And while the main players on both the side of the Allies and that of
Japan were the focal points of the ceremony, there were many among those
seated on the sidelines who were of equal importance, having been
prisoners of war under the Japanese. Among these was one Lt-Gen Arthur
Percival, the man who surrendered Singapore in February, three years
earlier, after the Imperial Japanese Army had swept down the Malayan
Peninsular in double-quick time.
Whether he was the one to blame for the capitulation of Malaya or not,
Percival was perhaps the most important "representative" of this country
at a significant event, even though he most likely did not even begin
to think so. At the hands of the Japanese, many Malayan heroes lost
their lives, whether in combat or during 31/2 years of brutal
occupation. Then there were those who had suffered in the hands of the
And there were many such souls, the most obvious being Lt Adnan Saidi, killed on Feb 14, 1942, while defending Singapore.
And while we forgive our once "masters", we should never forget those
who sacrificed their lives in defence of our freedom. Nor should we
forget those who lived on despite their struggles for the same goals,
whether in times of war or times of peace.
Where would we be without those who fought on during the Japanese
Occupation? Where would we be without those who resisted a war of terror
conducted by Communist insurgents? Where would we be without those who
defended our freedom during the Confrontation?
Most recently, this country suffered an armed intrusion. And while this
was a localised affair which would never have grown to such a size that
it would threaten the entire nation, the contribution of the country's
security forces during this time is of no less import.
After all, Sabah and her Bornean sister Sarawak are as much a part of
Malaysia as any state in the peninsula, and an attack on either is an
attack on the entire country.
With the intrusion by Sulu gunmen and the loss of 10 security forces
personnel so recent in our memories, it is fitting that the government
came up with the theme "Malaysiaku berdaulat: Tanah tumpahnya darahku"
for the 56th Merdeka celebration.
Merdeka, after all, is not just about achieving freedom; it's not just
about the people who peacefully negotiated our independence from our
former colonial masters. It's about the struggles of a nation and its
people in keeping that freedom.
It's about the soldiers in our army and the sacrifices they make. It's
about the sacrifices of other members of our security forces, like the
police, the Royal Malaysian Navy and the Royal Malaysian Air Force. It's
about the sacrifices of Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency
It's about the sacrifices of the former members of the Home Guard. It's
even about people like former police sergeant Arthur Albert Waters, a
Briton who loved Malaysia so much he stayed on after serving in the
police here, dying just days before Merdeka this year, at the age of 92.
It's about the sacrifices of civilians such as Gurchan Singh, the Lion
of Malaya, who published communiques giving the true picture of the war
during the Occupation at the risk of execution, or his many "agents" who
helped him spread the news, some of whom were executed or tortured.
It's about people like Sybil Kathigasu, known as Malaya's Florence
Nightingale, providing medical supplies during the Occupation, who also
suffered torture, and those countless unnamed souls who helped prisoners
of war on death marches.
From Merdeka Day to Malaysia Day this year, at the very least, remember
these heroes, both known and faceless, and remember that we live in a
peaceful country because of them. Remember that they loved this country.
Perhaps then will we appreciate not only the sacrifices of those who
have gone before us, but learn to appreciate and love, even more, this
beautiful land we share.