As government has admitted that the national anthem has lost the “essence of national identity” with the change to marching rhythm in 1992, the original Negaraku should be played on National Day on August 31 instead of experimenting with a third version without seeking a national consensus first
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The Star today reported that the 46-year-old national anthem, Negaraku, which was given an upbeat marching rhythm 11 years ago, “will go back to its stately original tempo, albeit marginally faster”.
It quoted “a high-ranking Information Ministry source” as saying:
“It will still be the same Negaraku that we grew up with except that it will be slightly faster than the original one.
“The 1957 arrangement captured the essence of our national identity but after it was changed to a marching rhythm in 1992, this essence was lost. It appears to have failed to invoke that patriotic passion.”
In the third version of the national anthem, the lyric ‘Negaraku’ will be replaced by ‘Malaysiaku’ although the rest of the lyrics remained the same.
As the government has admitted that the national anthem has lost the “essence of national identity” with the change to marching rhythm in 1992, the original Negaraku should be played on National Day on August 31 instead of experimenting with a third version without first having a national consultation and consensus.
DAP Member of Parliament for Batu Gajah Fong Poh Kuan has informed me that
the 8 pm TV3 news in Bahasa Malaysia last night sought the response from the public by SMS to two positions as to whether the Negaraku should be changed after playing part of the national anthem, namely:
(A) . Wajar, mengikut peredaran masa
(B). Tidak wajar, ia adalah nostalgia.
This is a most flippant, friovolous and irresponsible way of dealing with a serious and important issue, and it clearly does not qualify to constitute any meaningful or proper public consultation or participation.
Firstly, the two positions offered are highly loaded and unfair, giving the impression that those who support change of the national anthem (whatever the change) are progressive people who keep abreast with the times while those who oppose change are just “nostalgic”, conservative and behind-times.
Secondly, there is no genuine attempt to seek the informed opinion and choice of the people as the new third version of the national anthem after re-arrangement and a new music score have not been played for the public to make a judgment.
If the TV3 item is the government’s attempt to seek public opinion and input on a third version of the national anthem in 46 years, it is a most flippant, undignified, irresponsible and unprofessional way to conduct public consultation on a serious national issue.
The reason the third version of the national anthem could not be played to let the people decide whether it is better to accept the new variation or to return to the original 1957 national anthem is simply because the new musical arrangements have not been finalized yet.
According to the “Information Ministry source”, four composers, including from the army and police force orchestras, had submitted their variations of the arrangements, and that the new version of the national anthem would make its official debut on the National Day on August 31.
This is a completely wrong way of addressing the question as to whether a national anthem of a democratic society should be altered, as it should be the product of a national consultation process lasting from three to six months and not be sprung as a surprise on the nation on National Day as if it is some sort of a “National Day present” – to be judged a decade later as a failure in having lost the “essence of national identity” as is now the case with the 1992 re-arrangement.
DAP reiterates that any decision to introduce a third version of the national anthem on the 46th National Day on August 31 should be scrapped until a proper national consultation process could be conducted as to whether there should be any change, and in the meantime, the original 46-year-old national anthem should be restored and played on the forthcoming National Day.
The Cabinet should give the DAP proposal serious consideration so that the 46th National Day will not be remembered in the future as marking a new national division instead of fostering greater national unity, dividing Malaysians between those who support the Tunku’s national anthem from Mahathir’s national anthem.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman