Cabinet tomorrow should defer any decision to change the National Anthem for the 46th National Day on August 31 and conduct a proper process of national consultation so as to prevent the emergence of two national anthems
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Tuesday): The Cabinet tomorrow should defer any decision to change the National Anthem for the 46th National Day on August 31 and conduct a proper process of national consultation so as to prevent the emergence of two national anthems – the Tunku’s national anthem and Mahathir’s national anthem.
It was reported last week that the national anthem will be re-arranged with a new and more energetic beat; the lyric Negaraku will be changed to Malaysiaku, with a new music score, and that the new anthem will make its official debut on National Day on August 31.
A decade ago, the national anthem was given an upbeat marching tune and was first played during the National Day celebration in 1992, without first consulting the general Malaysian public, although there were Malaysians who felt offended at the “descecration” of the majesty and splendour of the original tune of the national anthem.
If there is to be a change of the national anthem, it should be the decision of the Malaysian people after a process of nation-wide consultation and survey and not the decision of a handful of people temporarily in power or of one person, three months before he steps down after being Prime Minister for more than 22 years.
Now greater changes are envisaged, with the lyric Negaraku to be changed to Malaysiaku, but the whole country is kept in the dark and would not know anything about it until National Day on August 31. This is not how democracy works, although it is how a feudal or authoritarian system of government works.
A lister of the DAP emailing group, Bungaraya, has very strong views on this subject and has written eloquently which is published by Malaysiakini in a letter entitled “Will ‘Negaraku’ be stripped of all remaining dignity” last Friday, where he made very pertinent and hard-hitting arguments which should be responded by the Cabinet, viz:
“I believe that the nation is just as curious as I am about why the government is pressing for a second change in just 11 years after the first one was made. Has the government lost its confidence in the ability of the original anthem to unite the nation and to instil patriotism? Or are we changing it just for the sake of change?
“I have always thought that national symbols such as the anthem, flag and monuments, are to be treasured and respected. These items have been passed down to us for conservation and not desecration. How are we supposed to teach our children to respect our national heritage, if it is not permanent enough for them to appreciate it?
“National anthems are not Hollywood movie theme songs that change from one sequel to another. Our national anthem, in its original form, is a masterpiece by itself and should be immortalised as such.
“Artists do not repaint Mona Lisa’s smile once every 10 years. Neither do composers rearrange Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony once every 20 years. Malaysia is only about to celebrate its 46th. year of Independence, but we are already witnessing the second revision of the national anthem.
“Why has this only been recently announced, when the plan is already in its final stages of approval? Why wasn’t the public informed earlier so that their views could be taken into account?
“In my opinion, rearranging the national anthem is a very serious undertaking, which almost amounts to altering the constitution of the country. In a democratic country like Malaysia, big decisions that affect people from all generations and all walks of life should be taken only after consulting and reviewing the will and consensus of the people.
“Malaysians have a tendency to believe that new things are better than older ones. We constantly discard time-tested concepts and ideas to embrace new ones without first assessing whether it is more superior or whether there is a need for it. This attitude clearly exhibits our lack of appreciation for originality and function.”
DAP calls on the Cabinet not to arbitrarily rush to change the National Anthem a second time in 11 years, and to defer all proposal to play the new National Anthem on the 46th National Day on August 31.
If the Cabinet is serious in wanting to have a second alteration to the National Anthem, it should conduct a full-scale process of national consultation to let Malaysians decide whether to endorse the new changes, keep the status quo or to restore the original 1957 Tunku’s version.
It will be very sad if the Cabinet rushes to change the National Anthem a second time on August 31 without respecting the views and wishes of Malaysians, resulting in the emergence of two National Anthems in Malaysia – one the Tunku’s National Anthem and the other Mahathir’s National Anthem.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman