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Sabah's journey through Malaysia

KOTA KINABALU, Tuesday 14 September 2010 (Bernama) -- Thursday 16 Sept will witness the inaugural Malaysia Day celebration, 47 years after the Malaysian Federation was born.

The date is an annual national holiday from this year and is known as Malaysia Day, celebrating the birth of Malaysia on the same date in 1963.

Prior to this the people in Peninsula celebrated Merdeka Day on Aug 31 while Sabahans and Sarawakians celebrated the formation of Malaysia anniversary on Sept 16.

Starting this year, Malaysians at both sides will see double celebration -- Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day.

Sabah has been given the honour to host the inaugural Malaysia Day celebration to be officiated by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. Since gaining independence through Malaysia, the state known as Land Below the Wind has undergone tremendous transformation and has developed in many aspects including in amenities, education, social and economy.

The former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Seri Salleh Said Keruak who is also the United Sabah Bajau Organisation (USBO) president dwells into Sabah's journey through Malaysia in an interview with Bernama's Bureau chief in Sabah, Newmond Tibin.

The following is the transcript of the interview:-

BERNAMA: Datuk, how far is the Malaysia Day celebrated on Sept 16 significant or important to Malaysians?

SALLEH: It is obvious, that the Federal Government takes into consideration the people's aspirations and the need for a harmonious living atmosphere when declaring Sept 16 as a national public holiday. Apart from that, recognising Sept 16 as Malaysia Day will help quell doubts that the Federal Government does not view the date as an important one.

Previously, some of the locals felt that they were being forced to celebrate Aug 31 as the independence day. This is only natural because based on history, it is clear that Sabah received independence through the Malaysian Federation only on 16 Sept 1963. Thus with the declaration that Sept 16 is a national holiday and the Malaysia Day will be celebrated, I expect no parties will try to bring up or politicise the Sept 16 issue.

BERNAMA: The declaration that Sept 16 is a national holiday and the Malaysia Day is the testimony that the government of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak is all out to promote the 1Malaysia concept that among others give priority to national unity, within the Malaysia Day context, how do you see this helping the efforts to strengthen unity?

SALLEH: It will definitely help in boosting national integration and understanding, learning to respect one another and understand the sensitivity of every race in the country for perpetual peace and harmony. The 1Malaysia concept and the Malaysia Day celebration will bolster inter communal bonds, and help the communities to see as a one big family.

This declaration will definitely strengthen integration and national unity of the people of Malaysia -- Sabah, Sarawak and Peninsula - as emphasized by the Prime Minister through his 1Malaysia concept.

In a nutshell, the date Sept 16 is significant because it officially binds all the communities in the country under one nationality - Malaysian. This is the manifestation of our leadership's commitment in the context of national integration, in line with the 1Malaysia concept.

BERNAMA: Datuk, what is your proposal to further enhance the understanding of the people in the country especially the younger generation on how important Malaysia Day is and the proposals to improve the way we commemorate the event?

SALLEH: I feel that the younger generation especially the students need deep understanding on the origins of Malaysia so that they don't get confused between the Merdeka Day and the Malaysia Day. These are two different dates and backed by their own history. This is the nation's history that can never be altered.

It is very important that the younger generation understand the history to avoid conflicting views that at the end only deviate the minds of our youngsters. The Malaysia Day celebration also provides the opportunity for the younger generation to reflect on the sacrifices of the earlier generation in establishing Malaysia and developing Sabah.

One of the programmes that should be widened is the Malaysia Day exhibition. The exhibition should not be held in the cities only but also extended to the outskirts probably in a smaller scale so that all levels of the society can appreciate better the Malaysia Day. In this regard, I welcome the move taken by the Ministry of Information Communication and Culture through the National Archives to hold a special exhibition in conjunction with the Malaysia Day celebration at the Kota Kinabalu community hall on Sept 16 that among others will highlight the artifacts belonging to the nation's father of independence, Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj.

By this way, the younger generation can learn of their history and civilisation. Though in general, the Malaysian history including the creation of Malaysia is taught in schools, maybe there are some who may have forgotten it. I propose that the Malaysia Day is celebrated in a big scale like the Merdeka celebration at every level - schools, government departments or agencies, celebrated for a month with interesting itinerary relating to Malaysia Day. I also propose that the Information Department compiles the details of historical development towards 16 Sept 1963 and
circulated free of charge. Other than this, the Malaysia Day posters should be increased so that the Malaysia Day celebration atmosphere will be felt all over the state.

BERNAMA: After Sabah gained independence through Malaysia almost 47 years ago, there are some who are unhappy with matters relating to the 20 point agreement (to protect the interest of Sabahans) including in respect of education and the special position of the indigenous people and the minorities. What is your comment Datuk?

SALLEH: It is undeniable that Sabah has developed tremendously and is still developing. For example in education. Previously most of the school buildings were made of bamboo and zinc. The children had to walk to school, barefoot.

Some had to drop out due to financial difficulties, moreover there were no universities, colleges or skill training institute in Sabah. But now, everything is there, the schools in the rural areas are more comfortable now. Students are provided with shoes, uniforms and 1Malaysia computers. Other than this, the poor families receive financial assistance to educate their children. Coming to higher education, Sabah now has Universiti Malaysia Sabah, a branch campus of Universiti Teknologi Mara, Institut Kemahiran Mara, polytechnics, private schools and skill training centre provided by the government.

The ethnic minorities in Sabah are not forgotten too, the government always looks into their plight. As for example under the 10th Malaysia Plan, the government has set the target to reduce the poverty rate among Sabah's ethnic minorities from 22.8% in 2009 to 12% by the end of 2015.

Special assistance will also be channeled to bumiputras in Sabah especially ethnic minorities through a new strategy adopted by the government to ensure their effective and continuous participation in the economy, this will help refute allegations that they are treated like second class citizens. Other than this, many of the Sabahans enjoy the privilege of holding senior positions in the federal public service after Sabah joined Malaysia. Nonetheless, we still want to see greater participation of the Sabahans in the federal civil service, and I'm confident that the present government will look into the views of Sabahan and make the adjustments in stages.

BERNAMA: Datuk, how do you view the development or the achievement attained by the people of the state since joining Malaysia?

SALLEH: The state is developing further and the people are enjoying development at par with Malaysia's rise in stature. For example infrastructure facilities including roads, rural electricity and water supply, assistance for the needy, poverty eradication and many more has been achieved through Sabah's participation in Malaysia. The government policies encompass everyone in Malaysia and no one will be sidelined from the mainstream development. This is important to ensure the country continues to prosper and its people live in harmony.

Other than that, we also see mega projects for Sabahans including the extension of the Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Sabah Development Corridor, Kota Kinabalu Industrial Park (KKIP), Palm Oil Industry Cluster (POIC) in Lahad Datu, Education Hub in Sandakan, and many more that will attract investors to the state. With an investor friendly state government led by Chief Minister Datuk Seri Musa Aman and the conducive environment in the state, I'm optimistic that Sabah has the potential lead the regional growth, especially within Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Philippines-East Asia Growth Triangle (BIMP-EAGA).

BERNAMA: Lastly, Datuk what is your advise for Sabahans in conjunction with the inaugural Malaysia Day celebration?

SALLEH: Maybe you are already aware that you should fly the Jalur Gemilang during each Merdeka anniversary, but some just could not care or just don't want to know about it. Therefore, I hope that the people of Sabah will fly the Jalur Gemilang and the Sabah flag during the Malaysia day celebration to show that we love our state and Malaysia.

The patriotic spirit is vital as it is the core of our resilience so that we don't fall prey to the negative elements. I also take the opportunity to remind the people on the importance of preserving our independence, don't succumb to those who have their own agenda. The reality is that, the Malaysia Day is very meaningful, not only for the Sabahans and the Sarawakians, but also for all Malaysians as we live under the 1Malaysia concept.

Lastly, I want to see Sabahans especially those residing in the capital city turning out in big numbers at the Padang Merdeka on Thursday (16 Sept) for the inaugural Malaysia day celebration. (By NEWMOND TIBIN/Bernama)

MySinchew 2010.09.14


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