Merdeka: Now is no longer the five sen era — national laureate Dr Lim Swee Tin

KUALA LUMPUR (Aug 22): "During my school days, I was given only five sen as pocket money everyday , two sen for kuih and three sen for drinks. Now, the children bring RM3 to RM5 a day to school.

"So, to explain about Independence then and now is not the same , there is a way… the present generation may not be able to relate to the story of me getting only 3 sen for pocket money, which was enough at that time,’” said national laureate Dr Lim Swee Tin.

Lim was making an analogy to a more effective way of making the present generation to understand and appreciate the meaning of the country’s Independence, which their forefathers helped to achieve 63 years ago.

"We have been independent for more than 60 years or six decades, so there is a huge gap between then (when Independence was achieved) and the present generation.”

“It is because of this huge gap that the young generation is not able to understand the struggle and sacrifices made by the Independence fighters,” said Lim, 68, who has published many literary works, comprising poetry, short stories and novels since 1973.

He said all the while, elements on the sentiment of the past freedom fighters, their struggle and sacrifices, were used to cultivate patriotism among the people.

"Before, we used these sentiments to strengthen the spirit of patriotism or love for the country among the people. Before, we hate the Japanese, oppose the British colonialists, we lived (through) the struggles of Mat Kilau, Tok Bahaman, Tok Janggut and many other independence fighters.

"In the present context, we can strengthen the spirit of patriotism through the achievements of Malaysians themselves, for example the success of (former badminton World No 1) Lee Chong Wei and so on.

"We need a shift from patriotism that is based on sentiment to achievement," said Lim, who regarded himself lucky to be from a generation that went through the early years of the country’s Independence.

Lim recalled the country’s Independence Day celebration in 1959.

He said it was the second Independence Day celebration and he was seven years-old then.

“I can still remember how happy I was to wave the national flag during the Independence Day celebration, in a procession with people holding white banners, with the word “Merdeka” written on them.

“We marched past shops and markets, there was no grand celebration like at Dataran Merdeka, but there were memories of my Independence day celebration,” said Lim, recalling his childhood days when he was living in Tawang, Bachok, Kelantan.

His most memorable Independence Day celebration was in 1995 when he was invited to recite a poetry at Dataran Merdeka, where the British Union Jack was lowered and the sacred shout of "Merdeka" echoed in the air on Aug 31, 1957.

Lim, who is a Kelantan-born, said he believed that patriotism should be nurtured through intellectual medium, as well as the need to shift the appreciation for Independence from sentiment-based to achievement-based.

"We have to have a continuous intellectual discourse. Fostering the spirit of patriotism should not be a seasonal thing,” he added.

On Rukun Negara, Lim welcomed efforts by the National Unity Ministry to introduce a syllabus on the National Principles into the national education system.

“As citizens of the country, we have to understand the history of the country. The Independence fighters are our ancestors. We must consider the struggle of the past generation as the struggle of our  forefathers,” he added.

Lim, who is the recipient of the 2000 S.E.A. Write Award, the highest literary award from the Thai government, is of the view that all parties should know about the country’s history, do not touch on religious and racial sensitivities, be tolerant and have respect for others.

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