KUANTAN: When the formation of Malaysia was declared on Sept 16, 1963, Rusnah Aksah was only 12.

But she was entrusted with a very special task – to release 101 pigeons in front of 35,000 people, including the first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, at Sta­dium Merdeka

“Of the thousands of people out there, I was given the honour. It was indeed a proud moment as my name was recorded in history,” Rusnah said.

After 54 years, Rusnah, now 66, will again be given the honour to re-enact the moment by releasing 60 pigeons during the National Day 2017 celebration on Aug 31 at Dataran Merdeka.

An excited Rusnah said she would wear an all-white baju kurung, similar to the one she had worn in 1963, to rekindle the atmosphere and feelings from 54 years ago.

When asked why she was selected to release the pigeons to symbolise the country’s liberation from the British in 1963, Rusnah said it could be due to the fact that she received the Pingat Hang Tuah (bravery medal bestowed on those who save a life) the year before.

She was conferred the medal for rescuing a three-year-old girl, Tan Kim Cheng, from drowning in Sungai Semenyih, Selangor, near her family home. She received the medal at the police barracks in February 1961.

Rusnah was the third and only female recipient of the medal, which was introduced in 1960. It was discontinued in 1978.

“I remembered seeing something in the river. Thinking that it was a wild animal, I just jumped in and tried to save it and it turned out to be a small girl,” she recalled.

Rusnah said she only realised “the incident was of significant importance” when her father Aksah Shafie, who was a police constable then, received congratulatory messages from top police officers for having a brave daughter.

“When I was conferred the medal, I did not expect anything. Then I was invited to participate in the Malaysia Day declaration on Sept 16. Since then, I have been reminding myself that it is very important for us to be sincere in carrying out our responsibilities. That was the way my mother, Halimah Daud, taught me,” said Rusnah.

Rusnah, who now lives with her only daughter Nurlina Muhammad Nor, 42, said young people seem to be less enthusiastic in contributing their energy for the country and don’t have a strong spirit of patriotism.

“They were born into a comfortable life and many were spoilt.

“They should be more appreciative and more patriotic.

“They should realise that if it were not for the strong spirit of our forefathers, it would be impossible for them to enjoy such a comfortable life now,” she said. — Bernama


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