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A tale of two Independence Days

Malaysia's run-up to its Merdeka celebration which saw the jailing of former PM Najib Razak stands in contrast with Singapore's move to repeal a law in an apparent surrender to international pressure.

Azril Mohd Amin
3 minute read

The celebration of Independence Day provides us with the opportunity to contemplate the character of our nation and rekindle our connection to Malaysia’s past while reflecting upon our future. This, I suppose, is how every country marks its Independence Day.

We remember the founding of the nation and the roads we have taken since, and envision a new one ahead, aspiring to fulfil the hopes of our predecessors and the dreams of our children while affirming the foundational values and characters of our people.

This year, we see two strikingly contrasting decisions and hence two strikingly contrasting Independence Days in Malaysia and Singapore.

As part of Singapore’s commemoration and celebration of its national day, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Long announced during the National Day rally the repeal of Section 377A of the country’s Penal Code, decriminalising gay sex between men.

To paraphrase the now obsolete law, Singapore has declared it permissible for “any male person, in public or private to commit or abet the commission of or procure or attempt to procure the commission by any male person of any act of gross indecency with another male person”.

The move does not appear to reflect the sentiments of the public, nor is it consistent with Singapore’s constitutional obligation to "protect, safeguard, support, foster and promote" the "religious, social and cultural interests" of the indigenous population.

Instead, the repeal of Section 377A was primarily sought by Singapore’s international, Western allies and trading partners as expressed most recently during a visit by a US congressional delegation, led by house speaker Nancy Pelosi.  

This is food for thought for Malaysia this Independence Day – our region and our country are facing unprecedented pressures from abroad.

From American gambits to contain China via the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue comprising Australia, India, Japan and the US and the trilateral security pact between Australia, the UK and the US (Aukus), to the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework right up to the demand for us to abandon neutrality over the Russia-Ukraine war, Malaysia feels the heavy hand of Western coercion.

More members of the US military are based in this region than anywhere else outside America. Aggravating matters are the spiralling global economic and energy and food crises, all of which are creating precarious situations for our country.

It would be easy, under the circumstances, for any nation to buckle under these compounded pressures and comply with the ideological agendas of more powerful countries. Succumbing to the ideological demands of the West, however, would contradict all that Merdeka represents.

No nation is independent if it cannot withstand foreign pressure, and no nation is independent if it cannot live by its own values.

Unlike Singapore, Malaysia is a land of rich resources, with inherent potential for unlimited prosperity. The ingredients of our success are homegrown, not imported or borrowed.

This capacity for economic sovereignty provides the backbone of our independence and enables our self-determination against the undue influence of outsiders. However, internal corruption and greed create cracks in our system and in our society through which foreign interference can seep.

When individuals prioritise their personal profit and advancement above the good of the nation, they care little about whom they partner, or the ills their new loyalties may bring to society.

That is why, in the lead-up to our Independence Day, the apex court's decision to uphold the conviction of former prime minister Najib Razak – easily the most monumental anti-corruption ruling in our nation’s history – perfectly exemplifies the founding spirit and principles of Malaysia.

It also sets the tone for our Merdeka celebrations. The decision has resuscitated our faith in the system and revived our trust that the country will operate in accordance with the core values of our nation.  

By holding fast to the traditional cultures and beliefs of Malaysia, we safeguard our sovereignty. By holding corrupt individuals accountable, we fortify the security and stability of our society.  

Our neighbour to the south marked its Independence Day by repealing its own law to legalise moral corruption. In Malaysia, we have reinforced the rule of law, affirmed the independence of the government from coercion, defied entrenched, selfish interest groups, asserted our nation’s deep-rooted beliefs and moral principles and punished corruptors. 
This is what true Merdeka is all about.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of MalaysiaNow.