A man is thrown into the air by a crowd during Merdeka Day celebrations in Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur, 2008
|Official name||Hari Merdeka|
|Significance||Marks the independence of the Federation of Malaya|
|Next time||31 August 2014|
Hari Merdeka (Independence Day) is a national day of Malaysia commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya from British colonial rule in 1957, celebrated on August 31 each year. This should not be confused with Hari Malaysia (Malaysia Day) when Malaysia was formed on 16 September 1963 together by Federation of Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore.
Events leading up to independence
The effort for independence was spearheaded by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, who led a delegation of ministers and political leaders of Malaya in negotiations with the British in London for Merdeka, or independence along with the first president of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) Tun Dato Sir Tan Cheng Lock and fifth President of Malaysian Indian Congress Tun V.T. Sambanthan. Once it became clear that the Communist threat posed during the Malayan Emergency was petering out, agreement was reached on February 8, 1956, for Malaya to gain independence from the British Empire. However, logistical and administrative reasons led to the official proclamation of independence in the next year, on August 31, 1957, at Stadium Merdeka (Independence Stadium), in Kuala Lumpur, which was purposely built for the celebrations of national independence.
August 31, 1957
On the night of August 30, 1957, crowds gathered at the Royal Selangor Club Padang in Kuala Lumpur to witness the handover of power from the British. Prime Minister-designate Tunku Abdul Rahman arrived at 11:58 p.m. and joined members of the Alliance Party's youth divisions in observing two minutes of darkness. On the stroke of midnight, the lights were switched back on, and the Union Flag in the square was lowered. The new Flag of Malaya was raised as the national anthem Negaraku was played. This was followed by seven chants of "Merdeka" by the crowd. Tunku Abdul Rahman later gave a speech hailing the ceremony as "greatest moment in the life of the Malayan people". Before giving the address to the crowd, he was given a necklace by representatives of the Alliance Party youth in honor of this great occasion in history, with a map of Malaya inscribed on it. The event ended at one in the morning the next day.
On the morning of August 31, 1957, the festivities moved to the newly completed Merdeka Stadium. More than 20,000 people witnessed the ceremony, which began at 9:30 a.m. Those in attendance included rulers of the Malay states, foreign dignitaries, members of the federal cabinet, and citizens. The Queen's representative, the Duke of Gloucester presented Tunku Abdul Rahman with the instrument of independence. Tunku then proceeded to read the Proclamation of Independence, which culminated in the chanting of "Merdeka!" seven times with the crowd joining in. The ceremony continued with the raising of the National Flag of Malaya accompanied by the national anthem being played by a military band and a 21-gun salute, followed by an azan call and a thanksgiving prayer in honor of this great occasion.
The day followed with the solemn installation of the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Rahman of Negeri Sembilan, at Jalan Ampang, and the first installation banquet in his honor in the evening followed by a beating retreat performance and a fireworks display. Sports events and other events marked the birth of the new nation.
The foreign guests of honour included:
- Members of royal families
- The King and Queen of Thailand
- The Crown Prince and Princess of Japan
- The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester (representing The Queen)
- Heads of government
- The Prime Minister South Africa, Johannes Gerhardus Strijdom
- The Prime Minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru
- The Prime Minister of Pakistan of Pakistan, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy
- The Prime Minister of North Vietnam, Phạm Văn Đồng
- The Prime Minister of Ceylon, Solomon Bandaranaike
- The Prime Minister of Burma, U Nu
- The Prime Minister of Cambodia, Sim Var
- The United States Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles (representing President Dwight D. Eisenhower)
- Representatives from other British colonies
- Members of the former British colonial administration
- Sir Gerald Templer (former British High Commissioner in Malaya) and Lady Templer
- Lady Gurney (wife of former British High Commissioner in Malaya Sir Henry Gurney)
- Lady Gent (wife of former British High Commissioner in Malaya Sir Edward Gent)
- High Commissioners of other Commonwealth countries
The formation of Malaysia
The Federation of Malaysia, comprising the States of Malaya, North Borneo (later renamed Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore was to be officially declared on the date August 31, 1963, on the 6th anniversary of Malayan independence. However, it was postponed to September 16, 1963, mainly due to Indonesian and the Philippines' opposition to the formation of Malaysia. Nevertheless, North Borneo and Singapore declared sovereignty on August 31, 1963. Indonesian opposition later escalated to a military conflict. Indonesia considered Malaysia as a new form of colonization on the provinces of Sarawak and Sabah in the island of Borneo (bordering Kalimantan, Indonesia), which they laid claim on. To assure Indonesia that Malaysia was not a form of neo-colonialism, a referendum, organized by the United Nations, and the Cobbold Commission, led by Lord Cobbold, were formed to determine whether the people of Sabah and Sarawak wished to join Malaysia. Their eventual findings which indicated substantial support for Malaysia among the peoples of Sabah and Sarawak, cleared the way for the final proclamation of Malaysia.
The formation of the Federation of Malaysia was then announced on September 16, 1963, as Malaysia Day. The nationwide Independence Day celebration is still held on August 31, the original independence date of Malaya, while Malaysia Day was a public holiday only in East Malaysia. However, this has caused some minor discontent among East Malaysians in particular since it has been argued that celebrating the national day on August 31 is too Malaya-centric. In 2009 it was decided that starting 2010, Malaysia Day would be a nationwide public holiday in addition to Hari Merdeka on August 31.
|1970||Muhibah dan Perpaduan
(Love and Unity)
|1973||Masyarakat Berkebudayaan Malaysia
(A Society with Malaysian Culture)
|1974||Sains dan Teknologi Alat Perpaduan
(Science and Technology as Tools of Unity)
(A Self-Reliant Society)
(Strength of the People)
(United and Progressive)
|1978||Kebudayaan Sendi Perpaduan
(Culture is the Core of Unity)
(United and Disciplined)
(Discipline and Service)
(Discipline and Harmony)
|1982||Berdisplin Giat Maju
(Discipline Creates Progress)
|1983||Bersama Ke Arah Kemajuan
(Together Towards Success)
|1984||Amanah Asas Kejayaan
(Honesty Brings Success)
|1985||Nasionalisme Teras Perpaduan
(Nationalism is the Core of Unity)
|1986||Bangsa Tegas Negara Teguh
(Steadfast Society, Strong Country)
|1987||Setia Bersatu Berusaha Maju
(Loyally United and Progressively Working)
|1992||Wawasan Asas Kemajuan
(Vision is the Basis of Progress)
|1993||Bersatu Menuju Wawasan
(Together Towards Vision)
|1994||Nilai Murni Jayakan Wawasan
(Good Values Makes the Vision a Success)
|1995||Jatidiri Pengerak Wawasan
(Steadfastness Moves the Vision Forward)
|1996||Budaya Penantu Kecapaian
(Culture Determines Achievements )
|1997||Akhlak Mulia Masyarakat Jaya
(Good Values Make a Successful Society)
|1998||Negara Kita, Tanggungjawab Kita
(Our Country, Our Responsibility)
|1999||Bersatu Ke Alaf Baru
(Together Towards the New Millennium)
(Because of you, Malaysia)
(My Glorious Malaysia)
|2008||Perpaduan Teras Kejayaan
(Unity Is The Core of Success)
|2009||1 Malaysia: Rakyat Didahulukan, Pencapaian Diutamakan
(1 Malaysia: People First, Performance Now)
|2010||1 Malaysia: Menjana Transformasi
(1 Malaysia Transforming the Nation)
|2011||1 Malaysia: Transformasi Berjaya, Rakyat Sejahtera
(1 Malaysia: Successful Transformations, Prosperous Citizens)
|2012||55 Tahun Merdeka: Janji Ditepati
(55 Years of Independence: Promises Fulfilled)
|2013||Malaysiaku Berdaulat, Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku
(My Sovereign Malaysia, My Native Land)
The 2012 theme proved to be controversial, as it was seen by many Malaysians to be a political slogan rather than a patriotic one. The official "logo" was also ridiculed for its unconventional design. A video of the theme song uploaded on YouTube (with lyrics penned by Rais Yatim) garnered an overwhelming number of "dislikes" because of its overtly political content, which had nothing to do with the spirit of independence. The video has since been taken down.
|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Federation of Malaya Independence Act 1957
- History of Malaysia
- Peninsular Malaysia
- Federation of Malaysia
- Hari Merdeka Parade
- "1957: Malaya celebrates independence". BBC. August 31, 1957. Retrieved 2011-04-24.
- "Detik Jam Tengah Malam Di Padang Kelab Selangor" (in Malay). National Archive of Malaysia. Retrieved 2011-04-24.
- "Pengisytiharan Kemerdekaan Tanah Melayu" (in Malay). National Archives of Malaysia. Retrieved 2011-04-24.
- Manila Accord (31 July 1963)
- Merdeka celebration in Kuching
- "Keadilan's plans for Merdeka", Daily Express, August 29, 2007.
- Aznam, Suhaini, "Celebrating Malaysia Day", September 24, 2007.
- http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2009/10/19/nation/20091019103509&sec=nation The Star, October 19, 2009
- "Rais seeks views on Merdeka theme song", Malaysiakini, August 1, 2012.