DAP to launch off a year-long nation-wide Tunku's birthday centenary commemoration in Kuala Lumpur on March 7 in honour of his memory, contribution and legacy as Bapa Malaysia and Bapa Kemerdekaan

Sibu DAP anniversary dinner
by Lim Kit Siang

(Sibu,  Saturday): There are two important dates in this month of February. The first one is February 8, as 100 years ago on this date, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Bapa Malaysia and the first Prime Minister of Malaysia was born.

In any other country, the birthday centenary of the father of the nation would be an important and grand affair with meaningful commemorative events up and down the country by both the government and the civil society in honour of his memory, contribution and legacy.

In Malaysia however, the government nearly forgot about Tunku's birthday centenary until the DAP publicly reminded the Cabinet about it a month before the anniversary, suggesting that the government spearhead a month-long celebration of Tunku's birthday centenary.

This led to a hurried and last-minute decision by the government to go through the formality of celebrating the Tunku's birthday centenary without any serious intention to spearhead a series of meaningful nation-wide commemoration events in honour of the memory, contribution and legacy of Tunku.

This may be why the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had not said a single word on Tunku's birthday centenary, although in the past two weeks he had commented on almost every subject, both national and international, under the sun.

The government has also not organized any month-long celebrations to commemorate Tunku's birthday centenary, although Pos Malaysia's commemorative postage stamp would be launched only next month - simply because the commemorative stamp could not be ready in time on February 8 as the government decision to commemorate the Tunku's 100th birthday was so hurried and last-minute!

Two weeks have passed, and the government's shabby treatment of the Tunku's birthday centenary is clear for all to see, which is most shameful and unfair to Bapa Malaysia and Bapa Kemerdekaan.

DAP will organize a year-long nation-wide Tunku's birthday centenary commemoration in honour of his memory, contribution and legacy as Bapa Malaysia and Bapa Kemerdekaan, starting with a Tunku's Birthday Centenary Remembrance Night in Kuala Lumpur on March 7, 2003.

Eminent and distinguished Malaysians will be invited to share their memories and thoughts on Tunku's contributions and legacy to the Malaysian people and nation and what lessons they hold for the future of Malaysia at the Tunku's Birthday Centenary Remembrance Night, which will launch off a year-long nation-wide commemoration of the birthday centenary of Bapa Malaysia.

The second important date in February was yesterday, 21st February, the International Mother Language Day (IMLD). In this case, I had publicly reminded the government to celebrate the fourth IMLD on February 21 as far back as last year, following up on Monday with emails to the Cabinet and heads of all State governments, including the Sarawak Chief Minister, Tan Sri Taib Mahmud, asking the national and state governments to recognize and observe the IMLD.

Unfortunately, the IMLD yesterday passed unnoticed for the fourth time and the fourth year by both the national and state governments - although there were two organizations in Malaysia which celebrated the IMLD yesterday, the DAP and Dong Jiao Zong.

The IMLD should be celebrated in a big way by Malaysians next year, and I hope to see not just two organizations celebrating the fifth IMLD on February 21, 2004, but hundreds if not a thousand IMLD celebrations in the country by the various communities (Malay societies; Chinese clans and associations; Indian, Iban and Kadazan organizations), educational and cultural bodies, and the entire civil society even if the Federal and state governments remain stubborn in refusing to recognize and observe the IMLD.

It is important that the IMLD should be celebrated by Malaysians not only because Malaysia had been one of the 28 countries which seconded the UNESCO resolution in 1999 to proclaim February 21 as an International Mother Language Day, but also because Malaysia's unique multi-lingual and multi-cultural heritage should make it an ideal candidate as a model to the rest of the world on the promotion and protection of linguistic rights, diversity and tolerance.

Furthermore, the UNESCO resolution and declaration proclaiming the IMLD should also become a guide and standard for both Malaysia's nation-building policy and national education policy, serving as a reference point for all deliberations and debates on these two important subjects - including the second Mahathir education review committee currently undertaking a comprehensive review to overhaul the national schools system.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman