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PUTRAJAYA, Aug 17, 2014:

It’s that special time of the year again — to fly our national flag, Jalur Gemilang, with honour and pride.

Tomorrow, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak will launch the Merdeka month celebrations, which will also encompass the observance of Malaysia Day on Sept 16.

The celebrations will start with “Fly the Jalur Gemilang” initiative in front of the Palace of Justice here from 8am where thousands of government servants and others in the federal administrative capital have been invited to attend.

To get the participants into the right frame of mind, the Communications and Multimedia Ministry, which is spearheading the month-long celebrations, has encouraged managers of buildings in the area to display the Jalur Gemilang in a big and attractive way.

Besides the Jalur Gemilang, this year’s theme of “Di Sini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta” (“This Is Where Love Begins“), which has been taken from a line in Sudirman Arshad’s popular song,Warisan, is also prominently displayed.

For Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Communications and Multimedia Minister, organising this year’s celebrations has been exceptionally challenging.

Originally, he had wanted to have this year’s celebrations to have the “wow” factor and to have a big impact on people from all walks of life — ordinary folks, government employees, youths, students and the business community.

He had even looked into the possibility of going into merchandising the Merdeka celebrations from this year, especially with the special significance of the numerical of “5757”, the 57th year of independence for the states in Peninsula Malaysia since 1957.

Unfortunately, Shabery had to take into account the double tragedies of MH370 and MH17, which somewhat dictated that the mood of the celebrations ought to be toned down.

To set the tone right, the entertainment part of the celebrations like the fireworks display has been eliminated while the ministry had also initiated the “Pray for Malaysia” sessions by Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs in a big way last Friday and by Christians and Buddhists today.

Shabery said that although one had to give deference and honour those who had lost their lives in tragic circumstances, the Independence Day celebrations must not be forgotten.

“Although we are saddened by these tragedies, we can still show that we are united (in honouring National Day),” he said.

He cited the special parliamentary sitting as a good example where Malaysians had come together to condemn the downing of a Malaysia Airlines aircraft in eastern Ukraine a month ago.

As such, Shabery said that the National Day celebrations, which was an annual tradition, should be translated into a unifying force for Malaysians.

This view was also echoed by Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye, a trustee of the 1Malaysia Foundation, who added that the celebrations could bring people of diverse races together for a common goal like the success of the nation.

Unlike previous National Day themes, which usually centre on progress, Lee was struck by this year’s theme focusing on love for the nation.

“The nation may not be perfect, but let us not jeopardise what we have achieved through the spirit of understanding and accommodation.

“Let us not allow extremism, bigotry and violence to divide the nation that we love and care for as this is our birthplace, our home, our workplace and, eventually, our final resting place,” Lee said.

As for Najib, his latest posting in Facebook should give Malaysians much food for thought: “I am inspired when Malaysians express their love for our homeland, Malaysia is the best place on Earth.”

So, how do we express our love for the nation?

It could start with flying the Jalur Gemilang with honour and pride.

The flag was conceptualised by Mohamed bin Hamzah, a Public Works Department architect from Johor, who beat 372 others in a competition to design the national flag in May 1948.

His artwork was finally chosen by the Conference of Rulers in February 1950.

The national flag’s current official name of Jalur Gemilang was announced by the country’s fourth Prime Minister, Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, on Aug 31, 1997 at Dataran Merdeka, Kuala Lumpur, to symbolise the excellence of the nation and its strong, patriotic, hardworking and courageous citizens in every field.

Our flag is the symbol of our sovereignty, freedom, national pride and history.

We can all shower more love for it from this year for this was where love began.

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