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Celebrating Hari Merdeka in Cambodia for 27 straight years

Khmer Times Share:
Members of the Malaysian community in Cambodia led by Ambassador Eldeen Husaini Mohd Hashim celebrate the country’s Independence Day (Hari Merdeka) at the Malaysian Embassy in Phnom Penh. KT/Pann Rachana

Since childhood, celebrating Malaysia’s independence, Hari Merdeka on August 31 gave me goosebumps and until now after more than 55 years of having understood what it stands for, I still get the same goosebumps as the Malaysian flag, Jalur Gemilang is raised, the national anthem, Negara Ku is sang along with a plethora of other nationalistic songs.

It is something which I look forward to the whole year as this is celebrated in the Malaysian Embassy without fail since I first arrived in Cambodia. I had attended almost 20 of these events and it is a must attend event on my agenda.

Despite living away from Malaysia for almost 27 years, the Hari Merdeka and what it stands for makes me proud to be a Malaysian. Even at a very young age, my late father used to turn on the radio at about 5am and he tunes into the morning segment titled ‘Lagu Lagu March” or simply translated, patriotic songs and music played during military parades. That instilled the nationalistic sentiments and feelings in me. Since 1993, I have celebrated Hari Merdeka and the flag raising ceremony under nine ambassadors at various locations where the embassy is located until the current permanent location along Norodom Boulevard.

The Malaysian Embassy has been at the forefront of Hari Merdeka celebration in Cambodia in the last two decades. KT/Pann Rachana

To me, Merdeka is about patriotism, aptly described by Wikipedia as “Patriotism or national pride is the feeling of love, devotion and sense of attachment to a homeland and alliance with other citizens who share the same sentiment. This attachment can be a combination of many different feelings relating to one’s own homeland, including ethnic, cultural, political or historical aspects.”

Throughout these years, despite the political turbulence, upheaval, the sudden turn of events of unfamiliar collapse of government in 22 months, I remain loyal to the country and the government of the day.

Malaysians proudly wave their country’s flag during one of the Hari Merdeka celebrations in Cambodia. KT

Personally, I have no complaints as for 10 years of primary and secondary education, I received federal scholarships and free books. The Government of the day ensured I received an education.

Although there are many of us who put our own interests first, if we have little regard for others, we destroy the compelling reasons which holds the fabric of Malaysia’s multi-racial culture and system of government alive. These are the very thing that a nation holds dearest, and the thing that keeps it alive and so does it for us.

Having got involved with Malaysian politics at the age of 18 for a few months, I loathed the practices which and habits which shaped Malaysia’s politics, race, religion, caste and a litany of other issues. However, the Rukun Negara is the right frame which shaped my mindset and kept my loyalty to the flag and country.

Malaysia – the country where I will spill my blood to protect it, if called upon to do, is still my country, even though I am more of a non-Malaysian resident for the past 27 years.

It is still the place my children and family want to go to visit and shop. It is still their preferred place for them to further their education, although it is now quite cumbersome to pursue higher education there without proficiency in Malay. On that subject, the Embassy of Malaysia may want to consider starting Bahasa Malaysia classes for Malaysians who were born and reside in Cambodia. Language can also bond Malaysians here while at the same time, gaining insights on the happenings there in Malaysia and the various culture and rituals.

There is a big community of Malaysians in Cambodia. KT

These aspects of simple everyday life, taken for granted, can shape a better Malaysia and Malaysians, especially those who are living outside Malaysia.

Selamat Hari Merdeka, my fellow Malaysians. MERDEKA MERDEKA MERDEKA

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