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MERDEKA ESSAY: What is Merdeka? By Eugene Chua K.H. August 31, 2008 Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

Merdeka! Merdeka! This resounding proclamation of joy rang out over the Merdeka stadium fifty one years ago, representing freedom and hope to all the people of Malaya, and subsequently Malaysia. What does this word mean today, after so many years? I think that Merdeka means that we get to call ourselves, Malaysians, a people with a nation of our own. Those of my generation are said to be unmindful of history, unappreciative of the sacrifices made, the struggles faced and overcome, in order to enjoy the freedoms of a democratic country and the economic comforts that the first people during that first Merdeka did not enjoy, nor could they have imagined. Yes, Merdeka! But what is Merdeka, when a young man and his friends, out for supper at a local stall, receive no service at all, and instead get hostile looks from the other patrons? What is Merdeka for a young boy who gets singled out and called all manner of terrible names by his teacher in front of his fellow young impressionable students, all because his skin colour is darker? What happens to Merdeka, when a student leader from one of our leading universities sends out a memo, vetted by the universitys student affairs department, telling one group of students that they should be prepared to stand against other students and fellow Malaysians? I thought that Merdeka means freedom, freedom for individuals to have meals with fellow Malaysians without being distanced, freedom to learn and study in school under the care of his teacher. I thought Merdeka means freedom to fulfil our potentials as individuals for ourselves, our fellow Malaysians and our beloved country. So, what is Merdeka then? I receive Merdeka when I receive kuih raya from family friends who are celebrating their religious festivity. I know Merdeka when my parents were invited to a wedding of someone of a different culture and religion, and where people mingled without thinking that they should avoid each other, and where the best photographer in town, a friend of the grooms father, thought the couple look lovely together without thinking that they were different from him. I smell Merdeka when I smell all kinds of different styles of food prepared at various food stalls. I hear Merdeka when people who go to temples or churches stand alongside people who go to mosques during the Johor floods. I see Merdeka when two young innocent school children have no fears or worries of falling in love with each other, where two best

friends think that the word race is about fast cars and not the differences in their skin colour. But, I had to pause to think again about Merdeka, where after extending a hand of kindness, I was asked incredulously whether I was of their race or another. It hurt slightly, but hurt it did. Because the answer to that question shouldnt have mattered. Because they did not expect kindness from me, as I come from another race. I wondered about Merdeka when someone is called a traitor of his race by the university chancellor for thinking of inviting a meagrely small number of students of another race to study with fellow Malaysians of another race. Im no longer sure that there is Merdeka when those painful racial incidents were reported in the papers over the past months. I do not know what has race anything to do with Merdeka, when people cheered together fifty one years ago without thinking of races. But I do know this, that I will not allow those ugly incidents in the past and those that are likely to happen in the future, to make me retract my hand, because I will continue to extend my hand, in respect, in kindness and in love, to my fellow Malaysians. Will you hold my hand then,my fellow Malaysian, and help keep Merdeka alive?

MERDEKA ESSAY: A Merdeka upside down? By Dr Azly Rahman August 31, 2008 Education is the solution. I believe we need a radical overhaul of everything, philosophically speaking. We have the structures in place but we would need to replace the human beings running the system. "Our Nation, Malaysia is dedicated to: Achieving a greater unity for all her people; maintaining a democratic way of life; creating a just society in which the wealth of the nation shall be equitably distributed; ensuring a liberal approach to her rich and diverse cultural tradition, and building a progressive society which shall be oriented to modern science and technology. We, the people of Malaysia, pledge our united efforts to attain these ends, guided by these principles: Belief in God Loyalty to King and Country Upholding the Constitution Sovereignty of the Law, and Good Behaviour and Morality" - From the Rukunegara, circa 1970 The words above constructed and proclaimed in 1970, after the bloody riots of May 13, 1969, contain internal contradictions if we are to analyse them today. As we approach Aug 31, our independence or Merdeka Day, we read the following stories: - an irate prime minister mulling action against a blogger for flying the Malaysian flag upside-down in cyberspace;

- a by-election campaign in Pematang Pauh in Penang, that shows up the ugliness of smear campaigns focusing on race, religion, and personal issues instead of presenting solutions to national crises; - an aborted Bar Council forum on conversion to Islam, disrupted by groups claiming to represent the survival and dignity of Malaysian Muslims; - an angry Vice-Chancellor of an all-bumiputera university threatening to sue the chief minister of Selangor for the latter's suggestion that Universiti Teknologi MARA be opened to non-bumiputera; - a teacher in Selangor reprimanded and transferred for hurling racial slurs at her Malaysian school-children of Indian origin; - the continuing and intensified work of the prime minster's propaganda outfit, Biro Tata Negara, in ensuring that the ideology of Ketuanan Melayu remains funneled into the minds of Malay students, educators, and civil servants; - the continuing refusal of the Ministry of Higher Education to grant freedom to students to gain concepts and skills of political consciousness by its refusal to radically revise the University and University Colleges Act; - an increasingly cacophonic and toxic relationship between the Executive, Judiciary, and Legislative as a consequence of the 22-year rule of the previous Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad; - a hyper-modernised country trapped in the excesses of nationalism and globalisation at a time when the global food and energy crisis is taking a toll on the economic and political lives of nations. After 51 years, what do we have? These are among the snapshot items of Malaysia circa 51 years of Merdeka or independence. The composite image of divide and conquer left by the British colonials continue to be artistically refined into subdivisions of divide and conquer, aided by the propaganda machine of the ruling class. What can now be seen in Malaysia are images of the little brown brothers becoming the new colonisers and transforming themselves into 'emperors in new clothes'. If the words of the 1970 proclamation are to be our benchmarks of Merdeka, we must ask these questions:

- How have we fostered unity amongst the nation when our government promotes racism thorough racialised policies and by virtue that our politics survive on the institutionalisation of racism? - How have we maintained a democratic way of life, when our educational, political, and economic institutions do not promote democracy in fear that democratic and multicultural voices of conscience are going to dismantle race-based ideologies? - How are we to create a just society in which the wealth of the nation is equitably distributed, when the New Economic Policy itself is designed based on the premise that only one race needs to be helped and forever helped, whereas at the onset of Independence, poverty existed amongst Malaysians of all races? - How are we to promote a liberal approach to diverse culture and tradition when our education system is run by politicians who are championing Ketuanan Melayu alone and ensuring that Malay hegemony rules at all levels and spheres of education, from pre-school to graduate levels? - How are we to build a progressive society based on science and technology when our understanding of the role of science and society do not clearly reflect our fullest understanding of the issues of scientific knowledge, industrialisation, and dependency? A failed Malaysia? Across the board, the country is in distress. Education in shambles, polarised, and politicised. The economy is in constant dangerous flux. The judiciary is in deep crisis of confidence. Public safety is of major concern due to declining public confidence in the police, and politics remain ever divided along racial and religious lines. This is the Malaysian depiction of Dorian Gray, one that shows the image of a "vibrant nation of progress and harmony, racial tolerance and a robust economy" but behind that is actually a deformed Malaysia, a mere continuation of the past's feudal and colonial entity. Broken promises The colonised have become the colonisers. The state has become a totalitarian entity using the ideological state apparatuses to silence the voices of progressive change. The nationalists have nationalised the wealth of the nation for themselves and perhaps siphoning the nation's wealth internationally.

This is the picture of the broken promise made by those who fought for independence; the vices of the early radical and truly nationalistic Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazans, Sikhs, etc, of the early Merdeka movement. How then must Malaysians celebrate their 51st Merdeka? By flying the Jalur Gemilang upside down? Or to do better than this by putting justice in place, by engineering a multicultural jihad against all forms of excesses of abuse of power and to de-toxify the nation entirely, and then next - begin Year Zero of our cultural revolution by using a gentle enterprise called peaceful education? Education is the solution. I believe we need a radical overhaul of everything, philosophically speaking. We have the structures in place but we would need to replace the human beings running the system. We have deeply racialised human beings running neutral machines. We have ethnocentric leaders running humane systems. We have allowed imperfection and evolving fascism to run our system. We have placed capitalists of culture behind our wheels of industrial progress; people who have the dinosaur brain of ketuanan this or that. We have created these monsters and have unleashed them to run our educational, political, economic, and cultural systems. We have Frankenstein-ised our Merdeka. We need to re-educate ourselves by reinventing the human beings we can entrust to run our machines. We must abolish the present system and create a new one; just as how we created our new cities Putrajaya and Cyberjaya the symbols of our oriental despotism and Asian capitalistic decadence. We must be aware that class in the broadest and most comprehensive sense of the word is what we are dealing with and through class and cultural analyses, we can arrive at a different path to a new Merdeka. This Merdeka, the rakyat, armed with wisdom of a new era, must now speak softly but carry a big stick. Our struggle for Merdeka has only just begun.

The Merdeka Celebrations Fly Pass

On 31st August 2008, when Malaysia celebrated the Nations 51st Independence day, APFT participated in the Merdeka fly pass. Two young cadet pilots were chosen to be copilots with their instructors to fly two Diamond DA 40, in the formation. For the two young men this experience was a once in a lifetime experience, as they might not be having the opportunity again in future Merdeka celebrations. They put their experience and thoughts on paper to share with us.

By Tengku Muhammad Hafizuddin (Batch 8/07) What is merdeka? For 51 years we have been celebrating our independence, and Im proud to be a Malaysian. We live in a free country where all races can live together under one nation peacefully. After 20 years celebrating Merdeka, this years Merdeka celebration is a special one for me, maybe I can say it is out of norm. We usually celebrate Merdeka by just doing the count down & watching all the colourful fire works but 2008 is a special one for me. I was fortunate enough to be given the chance by Asia Pacific Flight Training to be part of the Merdeka fly pass team. This is special mainly because only two cadets were selected out of the whole school.

There was a lot of preparation that went into making this Merdeka fly pass a success. Merdeka fly pass formation leader was Captain Rahim. Two Diamond 40 aircraft were involved for the fly pass, therefore a set of crew was assigned for both aircraft. The crew for the first aircraft is Captain Rahim and myself and for the second aircraft, Captain Ramlan and Jackie Thian. Before leaving Kota Bharu, there was a lot of paperwork and flight planning that needs to be completed. When we finally left Kota Bharu for Subang, we did a low miss approach before setting course to Subang. The flight time of the flight to Subang was 2 hours and we cruised at 2000 feet.

We spent four days in Subang preparing for the fly pass. For the actual fly pass over Dataran Merdeka, five fixed wing aircraft and one rotary wing were involved. For four days the formation team practiced to perfect the demonstration for the 31st August celebration. The formation team needs to be coordinated to ensure the fly pass was a success. The best part of the fly pass is being able to fly lower than the buildings in Kuala Lumpur. Being used to fly in Kota Bharu, it is truly an awsome sight. 31st August 2008 was our D-day, and we woke up around 6 oclock fully prepared for the fly pass. We had our breakfast and headed for the Subang airport. We took off from Subang at 0800hrs and initially kept on hold at Bukit Jalil. For our formation, 1 Eagle 150, 1 Cessna 152, 1 Cessna 172 and two Diamond 40 including a Robinson R44 chopper were involved. When we were cleared to Dataran Merdeka, even from a distance we could see the Malaysian flag waving gloriously. It was truly a patriotic backdrop for a special day. I was overwhelmed by the sight of thousands of Malaysians coming down to Dataran Merdeka to celebrate our independence.

After completing the fly pass, we flew back to Subang to refuel before going back to Kota Bharu. It has been a once in a lifetime experience that I have had the pleasure to be a part of. I have learnt a lot from participating in this fly pass.