52nd Independence of Malaysia - Merdeka!

TODAY, August 31st is a significant moment in Malaysia's history. After over 400 years of foreign rule, Tunku Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's first prime minister has created history when he declared "Merdeka" (Freedom) for the country in 1957. The day Malaysia finally broke free from colonial rule... the day when all the hard work to break this country free began to make some sense. Nothing can describe freedom. Independence means everything and for a nation, primarily the freedom to chart the course of its own destiny. Finally, Malaysian are able to celebrate that freedom, each year, on this date.

It is a triumphal celebration of our political and economic freedom, the freedom of being our own master, to work towards a chosen goal and to pause and savour the great distance we've covered since Independence when we want to.

Prior to Tunku uttering the famous words, "Merdeka", on this date, 1957, he laid the groundwork for Malaysia's independence from the British. With the nation's interest at heart, he went to London in 1954 and 1955 with a delegation to seek independence. And he succeeded. That's why he is known as "Bapa Kemerdekaan" (Father of Independence). The iconic photo of him with his right hand raised as he declared Merdeka is probably the most famous photograph in the country. Tunku was the prime minister of Malaysia from 1957 to 1970.

Independence Day means different things to different people. To some, it is nothing more than another holiday. What can the twentysomethings of Malaysia, born long after independence, possibly understand of the days of the Empire and the journey towards independence? We who have never known British rule, and for whom Communism is an outdated ideology rather than the subject of decades of guerilla warfare. We who have never sung God Save the King, or saluted the Union Jack, and for whom "Imperialism" and "Colonialism" are simply high scores in a round of Scrabble might find ourselves a bit befuddled when thinking about independence. Certainly, we can enjoy the long weekend; we can stick flags onto our cars and yes, we can be proud of our country.

For others, it is time to reflect on the past and look into the future. As Malaysians take a day off from work to celebrate Merdeka, let's sit down and recap the good times, take stock of the country's achievements, bask in the knowledge that in his own way, the Malaysian citizen has contributed to the nation's development and laid the foundation work for the achievement of future vision.

This is our 52nd year of Independence. We should be happy and proud that Malaysia is among a handful of independent countries which are successful. For this, we are thankful to God Almighty. When independence was sought, the colonised people were naturally hopeful that their destiny would be better determined when they become the nation's own administrators. But expectations do not always become realities. In fact, very often, hope turns into disappointment, due to internal power struggles, instability and the inability to administer and govern efficiently. Let's stay united in spirit and effort because the march towards success is far from over. We must march on to the year 2020.

When come to this date, one patriotic song which sticks to my mind and makes me proud to be a Malaysian is none other that is well remembered and hummed along than that of the highly celebrated Merdeka song by the late Sudirman Arshad, Tanggal 31. This patriotic song really rouse the spirit of Merdeka.

On the 31st

On the thirty-first in history
In month August nineteen fifty seven
Merdeka, Merdeka, definitely Merdeka
It surely be the Malaysia's history

On the thirty-first in history
In month August nineteen fifty seven
A noble day, a joyful day, a noble day, a joyful day
It surely be the Malaysia's history

Come on let's all Malaysian be proud and joyful
Together we all celebrate Merdeka, Merdeka!
Thirty first month of August, nineteen fifty seven
A noble day, my country Merdeka


Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka......!


Though 52 years have passed since these words first reverberated in the heart of every Malaysian, we still revel in the joy of counting down the minutes to the date when the country achieved its independence.

I am proud of Malaysia, a fascinating, peaceful and blessed country with rich cultural heritage. I salute our national flag on this day with pride, honour and dignity as it symbolises the unconditional love of the multi-racial caring and loving society.

As a proud Malaysia, what can I say except to once again to utter that good old phrase. MERDEKA!! MERDEKA!! MERDEKA!!

Graphic Health Warning (GHW) Cigarette Pack

It’s an old same issue. SMOKING tobacco, the much maligned habit, still has a stranglehold on millions of Malaysians undeterred by the growing weight of evidence testifying to its ill effects on the health. SMOKER in Malaysia smoke 33 million cigarettes and with a minimum estimation of 26 sen per stem, they spent about RM8.6 million to buy cigarette a day.

Cigarette smoking has been medically established as a major cause of lung cancer, and an important contributory cause of coronary heart disease. Many are unaware that smoking also can cause loss of eyesight. Studies have shown that public awareness of health and smoking hazards is high in cardiovascular diseases but not many are aware of its ill effects on the eye. Smoking enhances early formation of cataract in the eyes, a condition that usually affects elderly people.

Smokers not only waste good money on cigarettes or tobacco to buy, but also run the risk of fatal diseases as well.

On the other hand, thousands of office workers in Malaysia bear with the secondary smoke from their cigarette-smoking colleagues every day. Many just suffer their discomfort in silence rather than risk the wrath of the smokers. Many would like to believe that secondary cigarette smoke is not all that harmful.

On the economic cost of tobacco smoking, it was a mind blowing. It costs the nation more than RM3 billion a year to treat citizens afflicted by three major diseases - heart attack, lung cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

Quitting smoking is no easy matter however strong-willed you are because it's a drug addiction. Many smokers have lost count of the number of times they have said they would quit and didn't. Or the number of times they tried to quit smoking only to start again within a short time. It is extremely difficult to quit smoking. Fewer than seven per cent of smokers who try to quit on their own achieve more than one year of abstinence. In fact, most smokers begin smoking again within a few days. It takes five to seven attempts before the average smoker is able to quit. Therefore, helping smokers to quit takes on special urgency so as to address the issue.

Malaysia has made it to another milestone in tobacco control by introducing graphic health warnings (GHW) on cigarette packs for its efforts in curbing smoking. Starting 1 June 2009, all cigarette packs must display pictorial GHW on illnesses caused by tobacco. Those caught selling packs without the GHW would be fined RM10,000 or two years' jail, or both under the Control of Tobacco Products Regulations (Amended) 2008. It will be one of the more than 20 countries doing so. For that, it should be given a pat on the back. It’s hope that these shocking pictures are deterring youngsters from taking up the smoking habit.

After 11 years of government anti smoking campaigns, there has only been around two per cent drop in the number of smokers. This is included the ban on the use of misleading descriptors such as "low-tar", "mild", "light" and "ultra-light", the ban on cigarette advertisements and smoking in public places, the prohibition on tobacco sponsorship of sports events such as Formula One racing, the 2004 "Tak Nak" (Do Not Want) campaign and quit-smoking clinics, the banning sale of "kiddie pack" cigarettes and the increase in no-smoking zones.

For the record, Malaysia has the highest percentage of teenage smokers aged 13 to 15 compared with other Asean countries. Nearly 40 per cent of teenage boys and at least 11 per cent of teenage girls in this country are smokers even though the sale of cigarettes to youths under 18 has been made an offence punishable with a maximum fine of RM5,000 or two years' jail when the Health Ministry enforces the Control of Tobacco Regulations, in March, 1992.

For Muslims, 14 years ago, the National Fatwa Council issued an opinion that smoking was haram (forbidden). Although it was gazetted as law only in Selangor (1995) and Penang (2004), the opinion is binding upon all Muslims in the country. So, why are so many Muslims still smoking? This coming Ramadan (22/08/09 – 19/09/09, the fasting month) is the best time for Muslims to quit smoking. Abstinence from eating, drinking and smoking from sunrise to sunset could be use as a stepping stone to kick the habit away.

Smokers, don’t think that we hate you for this. Actually we love you all so that you could live a healthier life.