If you could remember, the 16th of September wasn’t a public holiday 10 years ago. If it weren’t for human rights lawyer, Dominique Ng Kim Ho, we would have looked past this important celebration.
In an interview with Malay Mail, Ng said he started a civil movement to pressure the federal government to recognize September 16 as the Malaysia Day back in the 2000s but he related that the credit mustn’t just go to him only.
“The whole people of Sarawak must be given the credit. It was their pressure, not mine, that led to (former Prime Minister Datuk Sri Najib Razak) to make the announcement,” said Ng.
He added that it was former DAP politician, the late Sim Kwang Yang as the then Bandar Kuching MP, that brought up the issue in numerous press statements in the 1980s to mid-1990s.
“I remember during our days in the DAP he always issued press statements just before September 16 to remind the people that there was such a day as Malaysia Day.
“As a teenager, he was at the Central Padang on September 16, 1963 when the Federation of Malaysia was formally proclaimed, so he knew how important it was to have Malaysia Day celebrated every year,” he said.
Ng realized making public statements wasn’t sufficed to convince the federal government to act thus he gathered a handful of friends at Central Padang in Kuching to raise the national and state flags every year on September 16.
“Our first celebration was in 2005. We sang Negaraku and Ibu Pertiwiku and then raised the national and state flags.”
The celebration was followed through a reenactment of the Declaration of Malaysia with one of his friend, Wan Zainal, played as the first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman while Ng acted as the Sarawak chief minister.
They held up ‘National Day is not August 31, our National Day is September 16’ banner to act as a reminder to Malaysians that the country − Malaysia − was formed on September 16, 1963 stressing that Malaysia didn’t exist prior to that.
Sadly, the gathering at the padang was deemed illegal where an anti-riot squad was deployed to stop the celebration.
“I said to the officer to arrest me if he wanted to stop me. I told him there were about 6,000 people turning up at this padang on September 16, 1963. I also reminded him there would be more people turning up in future if Malaysia Day was officially recognised.”
Fortunately, Ng and his friends didn’t get arrested. The police kept a watch from a distance and their ritual continued every year.
Many politicians ridiculed their effort but Ng persisted because he knew the importance of the day. In 2006, when he was serving as Padungan assemblyman, Ng wore the full official uniform to the celebration and there were 100 people attended the event, including PKR members from peninsular Malaysia.
His perseverance paid off as the movement started to build up a momentum in 2008. It even gained attention from then Sarawak chief minister Tun Taib Mahmud, Najib and federal leaders.
Elated, the Malaysia Day was finally recognized. In its first celebration in 2010, it saw 10,000 people present at Central Padang, the same location which the police attempted to stop Ng and his friends from carrying out the celebration five years prior.