KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 — Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak today declared Sept 16, which is Malaysia Day, as a national holiday from next year, in his latest move to portray his administration as inclusive.
By making Malaysia Day a holiday he is also indicating the importance of the Sabah and Sarawak vote given the balance of politics between Barisan Nasional (BN) and Pakatan Rakyat (PR).
The move to finally declare Sept 16 a holiday appears aimed at giving Sabah and Sarawak due recognition as part of the country.
Malaysia was formed on Sept 16, 1963, and it has always been a sore point with Sabah and Sarawak that the day they joined the federation was never recognised officially as a holiday. The holiday declaration also takes away a perennial campaign complain by opposition parties.
Successive BN governments have ignored calls to make Malaysia Day a holiday. Najib’s administration is now acknowledging the significance of the votes from Sabah and Sarawak.
The timing of today’s announcement also comes at a time when Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s PKR appears on the verge of collapse in Sabah and Sarawak.
PKR is facing an open revolt in the two states with local members upset that party leaders had appointed two men from Peninsular Malaysia as state chiefs.
Anwar had already predicted early on that Sabah and Sarawak would be key in PR’s efforts to take Putrajaya. But PKR’s attempts at making inroads in the two states appear to be stillborn. Najib’s Umno and BN maintains a stranglehold on support in the two states.
With the Malaysia Day announcement, BN is set to strengthen its vote bank further. In Election 2008, BN remained in power largely due to strong support from Sabah and Sarawak voters.
Najib told Parliament today that Merdeka Day on Aug 31 will continue to be celebrated to commemorate the struggle against the colonial government.
He added that the Malaysia Day celebration would be filled with events promoting unity, racial understanding and the nation's achievements. “Malaysians will celebrate two national days,” Najib said.
He said the decision to declare another public holiday was made at a Cabinet meeting recently.
PR, in an attempt to canvass for support in Sabah and Sarawak, has been accusing the federal government of downplaying the significance of Malaysia Day.
In an immediate reaction, Anwar thanked the Prime Minister for implementing what he called PR's proposal. “Thank you for accepting PR's suggestion,” Anwar wrote on his twitter site.
"Agi Idup Agi Ngelaban"