Speech by Lim Kit Siang at Anwar Ibrahim’s Permatang Pauh by-election thanksgiving-cum-51st Merdeka anniversary dinner in Permatang Pauh on Sunday, 31st August 2008 at 10 pm: 

Merdeka II - declare Malaysia Day September 16 as second National Day/public holiday

I salute the voters of Permatang Pauh for being the pioneers of the Bangsa Malaysia generation who decisively rejected the divisive, racist and chauvinistic by-election campaign of Umno to rise above race and religion to vote solidly on Tuesday, August 26 for Anwar Ibrahim as their MP once again, after an enforced absence of a decade.

Although former Prime Minister, Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad had set the target of 2020 for the emergence of a Bangsa Malaysia in Vision 2020, the people of Permatang Pauh whether Malays, Chinese or Indians were 12 years ahead of the timetable when they voted in unison as pioneers of the Bangsa Malaysia generation in the Permatang Pauh by-election.

This is why the Permatang Pauh by-election is of such historic, momentous and far-reaching consequence although it concerns only one parliamentary constituency.

The Permatang Pauh by-election was not only a resounding endorsement and victory for Anwar but also for the cause of Bangsa Malaysia.

When the people of Permatang Pauh voted in the by-election on Tuesday, they voted not just for themselves but also for 27 million Malaysians and future generations – creating an impact akin to a second “political tsunami” after the March 8 “political tsunami”.

The great Permatang Pauh by-election victory has belatedly given meaning to the 51st Merdeka anniversary celebrations – marking the launching of a Merdeka II campaign to ensure that in the second half-century of our nationhood, ordinary Malaysians are not denied the full benefits of Merdeka in every sphere of national endeavour.

In the past four decades, Umno and Barisan Nasional leaders and their cronies had hijacked and deprived ordinary Malaysia the real fruits of Merdeka.

The Merdeka II awakening and campaign is to liberate, empower and benefit all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or territory.

The Merdeka anniversary on August 31 to mark the nation’s Independence in 1957 is however not very meaningful to the people of Sabah and Sarawak.

This is because it was September 16,1963 that Malaysia was formed with the union of Sabah and Sarawak with Malaya to establish a new federation.

It is for this reason that the 51st Merdeka anniversary on August 31, 2008 cannot be as meaningful to the people of Sabah and Sarawak as the 16th September 2008 in marking the 45th anniversary of Malaysia Day.

After the March 8 “political tsunami”, Sabah and Sarawak have suddenly become very important and critical, with more and more money poured into these two states as illustrated in the 2009 Budget while Sabah and Sarawak politicians have never felt so important in the past 45 years.

However, this is not because of any acknowledgement by Kuala Lumpur that Sabah and Sarawak deserve fair and equitable treatment in the federation but because of pure political calculations connected to the survival or demise of the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Umno hegemony and the Barisan Nasional federal power.

This is just not good enough. The time has come for Sabah and Sarawak to be given their rightful due in the national scheme of things.

As a first step, I call on the Prime Minister and Cabinet on Wednesday to declare Malaysia Day on September 16 as a national public holiday to give meaning to Merdeka II where all Malaysians, regardless of race, religion or territory celebrate as one Bangsa Malaysia.

This will mean that Malaysia will have two National Days each year – August 31 as Merdeka Day to commemorate Malaya’s Independence in 1957 and September 16 as Malaysia Day to celebrate the formation of Malaysia with Sabah and Sarawak.

Such an decision will go a long way to address the long-standing and deep-seated sense of alienation, discrimination and injustice buring in the hearts of Sabahans and Sarawakians that they have not been accorded proper recognition in Malaysia – symbolized by the reduction of Malaysia Day on September 16 into mere State holidays in Sabah and Sarawak instead of being elevated to a national public holiday commemorated by all Malaysians every year!

Malaysia will not be the only country with more than a single National Day. India for instance has two National Days – 26th January as Republic Day to mark India’s becoming the first republic in the British Commonwealth of Nations in 1950 and 15th August to commemorate India gaining independence from the British Empire in 1947.

Beginning this year, let all Malaysians celebrate September 16 as a national public holiday - Malaysia Day as another National Day after August 31 as Merdeka anniversary!

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor