Lack of 'Jalur Gemilang' Display - Marks A Lost Expression of Malaysian Patriotism
With only 2 weeks from the mark of Malaysian 51st National Day, things have been uncharacteristically somber, dismal and disillusioned -- a kind mixed feeling which have been echoing throughout whole country this year.
Ever since oil price in Malaysia soared to 40% overnight back in early June along with the quite-so-sudden Malaysian governent's action of cutting petrol subsidy which was criticised to be a razor cut to close for comfort -- the nation wide budgeting have even been extended to national festivities and the all important independence celebration day also goes unspared.
The Malaysian government has announced that there should only be a subdued celebration to mark 31st August, a complete contrast to the customary fervour shown for celebrating national day over the past 50 years.
And this budgeted decision is exceedingly evident in the lack of lustre flag displaying-obsession around the country.
Predictably in the past the streets, cars, houses (anything that can be painted over or smooth enough to be pasted over) are usually littered with Malaysian flag dubbed 'jalur gemilang' or stripes of glory -- a spectacle of blue. red, yellow and whites. This year, the nation is seeing a real cut-back not only from the government but the citizens themselves.
Malaysians have always been a little eccentric when it comes to expressing patriotism, and its best outlet is in the jalur gemilang flags. Showing off the flags has even become an obsession to some, sometimes bringing it to a display of borderline bizzare fest.
For instance days before the 46th national day celebration in 2003, the largest jalur gemilang flag was stolen from the capital city of the state of Penang. After a nationwide search, the flag was dramatically recovered and went on display just in time to instill patriotism among the Penangites.
While in the same year, the Information Ministry distributed over 100,000 of Malaysian flags for free to the public so they can show their patriotic spirit. And creatively enough, they stuck the flags on their helmets, motorcycles, car radio aerials, lampposts and yes, trafficlights (not sure what they were thinking).
A man from the state of Johor (known for its pristine beaches and Island), stuck 46 flags on his car to mark the 46th celebration, the next year he pasted 47 and so forth. It isn't known whether he's still adamant in his spirit to paste 51 flags this year though...
While in 2005, a 1453sq metres (over 100 metres in diameter) flag hung from a Bell helicopter which was flown over all 15 states for over a period of 2 weeks.
Last year, a hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur was taken over by Merdeka (independence) spirit as the temple had not only been decorated with flowers but the national flags are also ised to cover the roof and the walls.
The celebration would surely be different this year, as the predictable flag frenzy has been minimal compared customarily in the past, one would find the national flag literally in every nook and cranny of the neighbourhood.
For a country that is going through a tumultous and uncertain time in recent political history, where the risk of a Government "change-over" this September is ever looming, there is an even dire need now for a show of unity and commonality among all, to bring back the spirit of independence and cohesion -- even if it was for only one day of the year.