Remember the 16th September 1963 | Malaysian Sentinel : Malaysia's Politics from a Malaysian Citizen Blogger

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Remember the 16th September 1963

The 16th of September came and went and this year it would be remembered for all the wrong reasons. Most eyes and ears were waiting for news of a government take over by the opposition coalition lead by Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim. It came and went and everyone went about their lives.

16th September came and went and all the people remembered was the politics of the day. Yet for Sarawakians, 16th September is the day Sarawak joined Sabah, Singapore and the Malay Peninsula to form Malaysia.

16th September came and went and it was not even a public holiday. Instead, even the whole issue of a public holiday was turned into a political argument between the Barisan Nasional and Pakatan Rakyat. My humble opinion, it should have been a holiday because on that day a nation was born. A nation we call Malaysia which has been steadily making it’s mark on the world state. There should be no argument whatsoever on the status of the 16th of September, neither should it be turned into a political trump card.

16th September should be remembered as the day Malaysia was born and it came with a price. For when wind of Sarawak’s decision to join the collection of independent states to form Malaysia reached Indonesia, they retaliated with an armed response. An episode in history called The Confrontation. Lives were lost on Sarawakian soil to protect the decision to form Malaysia and this fact seemed lost to most Malaysians. Sacrifices were made and great deeds were sown in order for Sarawak to partner along side Sabah, Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, to form Malaysia.

Many in Sarawak feel that 16th September should be given equal standing as the 31st August. Commemorated for the fact it was the day Malaysia made its debut onto the world stage. The whole process of fighting for independence is alien to a normal Sarawakian for Sarawak in those days did not take part in protesting against the formation of the Malayan Union neither did we take part in an arms struggled against the British. In fact if examined properly, Sarawak was ruled by an Englishman but never was part of the British Empire. Sarawak could be called an independent state much like the city states of ancient Greece. Thus, the decision to form Malaysia along with Sabah and Singapore was made with the understanding that Sarawak would still retain a fair amount of autonomy. This is a fact, in most cases, relegated to a mere footnote in history books.

Sarawak has been in Malaysia a good 46 years and most still remember life before the formation of Malaysia. The remnants of the White Rajah are evident in those above the age of 46 years. I have met pensioners in their 60s who speak impeccable British English. Walk through Kuching city and you will find colonial buildings and mission schools dating to 1843. Fort Magrita still stands guard over the Sarawak River overlooking the Waterfront and alongside the new August House.

46 years of being a partner in Malaysia and Sarawak still has kept it’s identity. Bahasa Malaysia is spoken alongside Sarawakian Malay, Iban, Bidayuh and Hokkien. It is a known fact that Chinese shop-owners plying their trade to the locals can often time be heard speaking Malay, Iban or Bidayuh. This is typical Sarawak where communal respect is very much woven into the fabric of living in Sarawak.

16th September came and gone and this year it was remembered for all the wrong reasons. Focused for political matters and not for the fact it was the day a nation was born. It is the birthdate for Malaysia and it should be commemorated as such. Give credit to the ordinary Sarawakian who is not mindful of the the politics of the day but instead only knows the simple fact, that on the 16th of September our fore fathers decided that for the interest of all communities living in Sarawak, we should join Sabah, Singapore and the Malay Peninsula to form Malaysia. It was a wise and good decision.

Hopefully, due credit will be accorded for the 16th of September in the coming years as we all mature towards a unified Malaysia.

p/s: My article that came out on and


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