Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Merdeka is about nation's struggles

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 dreaded Kempetai.

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 personnel.

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.

No comments: