Amidst all the flags, the procession, the RM100 million celebration, the shouts and screams of "Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka", perhaps we should just look back at what our Father of Independence, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj said in his speech preceding the reading of the Merdeka Proclamation. Among others, he said, :
"I am indeed proud that on this, the greatest day in Malaya's history it falls to my lot to proclaim the formal independence of this country. Today as new page is turned, and Malaya steps forward to take her rightful place as a free and independent partner in the great community of Nations - a new nation is born and though we fully realise that difficulties and problems lie ahead, we are confident that, with the blessing of God, these difficulties will be overcome and that today's events, down the avenues of history, will be our inspiration and our guide...
But while we think of the past, we look forward in faith and hope to the future; from henceforth we are masters of our destiny, and the welfare of this beloved land is our own responsibility: Let no one think we have reached the end of the road: Independence is indeed a milestone, but it is only the threshold to high endeavour-the creation of a new and sovereign State. At this solemn moment therefore I call upon you all to dedicate yourselves to the service of the new Malaya: to work and strive with hand and brain to create a new nation, inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty - a beacon of light in a disturbed and distracted world.
High confidence has been reposed in us; let us unitedly face the challenge of the years. And so with remembrance for the past, and with confidence in the future, under the providence of God, we shall succeed."
Later, when he recited the Merdeka Proclamation, he said, among others:
"I, TUNKU ABDUL RAHMAN PUTRA IBNI AL-MARHUM SULTAN ABDUL HAMID HALIMSHAH, PRIME MINISTER OF THE PERSEKUTUAN T ANAH MELAYU, with the concurrence and approval of Their Highnesses the Rulers of the Malay States do hereby proclaim and declare on behalf of the people of the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu that as from the thirty first day of August, nineteen hundred and fifty seven, the Persekutuan Tanah Melayu comprising the States of lohore, Pahang, Negri Sembilan, Selangor, Kedah, Perlis, Kelantan, Trengganu, Perak, Malacca and Penang is and with God's blessing shall be for ever a sovereign democratic and independent State founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people and the maintenance of a just peace among all nations."
Perhaps we should all reflect whether these lofty ideals set out by the Tunku has been achieved, 52 years after he proclaimed it. Or whether we have ever worked towards achieving the same.
A nation founded upon the principles of liberty and justice. A nation which is ever seeking the welfare and happiness of its people. A nation inspired by the ideals of justice and liberty. A nation which is to be a beacon of light in a disturbed and a distracted world.
That was the Tunku's aspirations. And the aspirations of all Malaysians on 31st of August 1957.
Have we all, as a nation, achieved those? Have we worked to achieve those? If we have, have we worked hard enough to achieve those?
Would the Tunku, had he been still alive, looked at all of us, his children and grandchildren, with a big smile on his face, thinking to himself, "I am happy with what all of you have achieved, and I will go to face my creator a happy and fulfilled man"?
Or would he, had he been still alive, grimace in pain and displeasure, at what we have all become, at what this nation of ours have become?
I am asking this because I remember the day he died. And the day his body was rested. And I remember the days before he died. I remember his columns in the Star newspaper, "As I See It" and "Looking Back". His love for this nation and his undying commitment towards democracy, social justice and fairness would see him rise on occasions, even when he was in his old age to fight what he saw as injustice, unfairness and dictatorial behaviours.
He was critical of Dr Mahathir, the then Prime Minister. That man of course had, in 1987, banned the Star newspaper, which was substantially owned by the Tunku.
And when UMNO (the original UMNO) was declared illegal by the High Court (at the insistance of Counsel appearing for the Mahathir faction), the Tunku, out of sheer love for UMNO and the nation, quickly teamed up with Tun Hussein Onn (another former PM) to form a party known as UMNO Malaysia. UMNO Malaysia registration was blocked by non other than Mahathir Mohammad. Mahathir later registered UMNO Baru and changed the law to allow UMNO Baru to be renamed UMNO as if nothing had ever happened in between.
I then remember him supporting Tunku Razaleigh's Semangat 46. The Tunku, despite his old age, even went out to campaign in the 1990 general election.
On 6th December 1990, the Tunku, our Father of Independence, died. He died as an opposition. He died opposing a derivative of the very party he once led and gained independence with. He died opposing what he thought and perceived as a totalitarian government bent on destroying social justice and equality.
Today, almost 52 years after he stood and proudly recited the Merdeka Proclamation, I wonder whether he is smiling at all of us in heaven. Or whether he is turning his back against us.
Knowing how much he loved this nation and how hard he fought for justice, fairness, liberty and freedom, he could be hurting.
Al fatihah to the Tunku.