Warriors Day is celebrated in different countries under various names in the memory of those who fought and died for
Britain, Australia and New Zealand celebrate it as the Remembrance Sunday (also known as Poppy Day), Remembrance Day and Anzac Day respectively.
Malaysia, too, has inherited this Commonwealth tradition and honours its heroes on the ‘Hari Pahlawan’ (Warriors Day).
While the celebration in most of the Commonwealth countries is highly ceremonial and involves all levels of the society, in Malaysia it is very much a subdued affair due to lack of public participation.
The Veteran Affairs Department (JHEV) has, however, called for a change in this attitude.
“To show our appreciation for the sacrifices of those who fought and died for the nation, it is only appropriate that all Malaysians join hands and celebrate the Warriors Day,” said JHEV’s Director-General Maj. Gen. Zulkiflee Mazlan.
Zulkiflee tried putting the message across to the society by stressing that the Warriors Day, falling on July 31, is a significant event for all Malaysians and an avenue for them to show their patriotism for the country.
“We celebrate the members of the Malaysian Armed Forces (ATM), Royal Malaysian Police, soldiers from the Malayan British Army, Sarawak Rangers, Field Force, Home Guard and other units.
“Whether, they were soldiers or policemen who had been on the frontline to defend the nation or those who died while defending the nation, they were all warriors,” Zulkiflee asserted forcefully.
The date ‘31 July’ was chosen to commemorate the Warriors Day because it also marked the day when the 12-year Emergency period, a dark chapter in the nation’s history, ended in 1960.
Zulkiflee, a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, United Kingdom, noted that the itinerary for the commemoration this year includes a speech by the Yang di-Pertuan Agung, the guard of honour, poetry recital, and
the sounding of the ‘Last Post’ and ‘Rouse’.
For the second time, the commemoration will take place at Dataran Merdeka in the city centre, after it was moved from the original location of Tugu Negara (National Monument)in 2010. However, the prayers for the fallen heroes
will take place at Masjid Negara.
“In future, the celebration will move to Dataran Pahlawan (Warrior’s Square), still under construction in Putrajaya,” added Zulkiflee, who holds a masters degree in National Security Strategy from the National Defense University in Washington, United States.
Appreciating the spirit of Warriors Day
Zulkiflee is disappointed that Malaysians are indifferent to the Warriors Day celebration, unlike their counterparts in Britain, Australia, United States and New Zealand.
“The people in these countries celebrate their warriors and veterans with a public holiday, national parades and other itineraries like dances, barbeque picnics and sporting events,” he explained.
Local leaders and the communities in these countries show their support for the ex-servicemen and family members of those killed in line of duty by wearing red poppy pins on their chest and giving donations.
However, in Malaysia, the commemoration is a far cry from what is seen in Britain and other nations. He, therefore, hoped that Malaysians would change the way they see the Warrior’s Day celebration.
Their participation in the celebrations was not only indicative of their gratitude for those who fought for the nation, but also their patriotism for the country, he added.
“We fear that when the community does not participate, they forget the event and even fail to appreciate those who fought for the country.
“Times have changed. In the days when people lived under the constant threat of enemies, they appreciated the role of the security forces.
“However, the last few generations which have been enjoying a peaceful and prosperous life, are yet to fully appreciate the struggles of these veterans,” he remarked.
Warrior’s day for all
While the JHEV looks into the welfare of the veterans throughout the year, the Warriors Day is significant as it recognises the sacrifices made by the veterans and those who lost their lives at the frontline.
In exhorting the society to appreciate the deeds of the national heroes, Zulkiflee hoped that the media would also pitch in by highlighting the stories on the deeds of the Malaysian heroes and those from other countries, be it through documentaries, films or drama.
“To engage the public in the celebration, non-governmental bodies, corporations and private companies could work hand in hand with the popular media to roll out competitions for poetry recital, writing patriotic lyrics and selling hibiscus to collect donations,” he proposed.
Plea for Warriors Day Fun
Another innate part of the celebration is the collection of donations for the Warriors Day Fund to help ailing veterans and even their dependents.
Zulkiflee explained that the donations would be distributed among the Malaysian veterans, including their widows and orphans, through the associations representing them.
He also called upon those, who qualified for assistance but were not represented by any party, to come forward with records of their service or call 03-20508000 for assistance.
Zulkiflee further hoped that the Warriors Day and Warriors Day Donation drive would see wholehearted support from the public.
At the least, he said, the public could show their gratitude by donating to the 2011 Warriors Day Fund and wear the hibiscus pin on their chest during the campaign from July 15 to October 15.
Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, the Prime Minister’s wife and patron of the donation campaign, is expected to launch the donation drive on July 29 at the Kuala Lumpur Handicraft Complex.