Celebrating Hari Kemerdekaan
“Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!”
First uttered by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj after he read the Proclamation of Independence on Aug 31, 1957, his cheer of “Merdeka” was echoed by thousands of voices in Stadium Merdeka as the Federation of Malaya celebrated its independence from British colonial rule and played ‘Negaraku’ for the first time. Now it has become an iconic mantra of independence here in Malaysia.
This year’s theme for Hari Kemerdekaan is “Malaysia…Di Sini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta” (Malaysia, Where Love Grows). To commemorate today’s 57th anniversary of Hari Kemerdekaan, a very special number indeed, people throughout Malaysia from all backgrounds, race and religion celebrate it together.
For Hari Kemerdekaan commemorates the independence of the Federation of Malaya from British colonial rule on 31 August 1957; in a wider context, it also celebrates the formation of Malaysia.
What does Hari Kemerdekaan mean to young Malaysians today?
It may mean a time to reflect and pay tribute to the sacrifices made by past leaders towards gaining independence and also a time for colorful celebration.
Growing from independence
According to Syed Alwi, 25, a public relations officer from Selangor, the meaning of ‘Kemerdekaan’ is very subjective. He opined that senior citizens may feel more grateful compared to the younger generation since they are the ones who experienced the struggle for independence.
“For me, Kemerdekaan means freedom in any sort of ways, including the freedom to make decisions as well as the freedom to express feelings and emotions which are liable to certain rules and regulations,” he said.
Today he will be joining the crowd at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur to watch the Merdeka Parade besides enjoying the holiday resting at home and watching television shows broadcast in conjunction with Hari Kemerdekaan.
The power to choose
Meanwhile, for Azerol Hafiz, 26, a flight attendant from Kuala Lumpur, he will also be spending time gathering with family and friends at Merdeka Square to relive this date in 1957, reflecting on the nation’s road to independence. He also enjoys singing ‘Negaraku’, the national anthem with his loved ones.
“Malaysia has become an independent country for so long, and for me, independence really means the happiness and pleasure in life that we have obtained, making us able to reach our dreams and goals in life,” he said.
Azerol said that it was important to remember the significance of today’s anniversary and should not forget about the past and learn something from it to make us realise the importance of cultivating a strong relationship and bond with each other no matter what our weaknesses may be, and continue to persevere and fly high.
Standing strong in the face of tragedy
Nabilla Roslan, better known as Bella, 25, an executive from Ampang said that Kemerdekaan to her is the feeling of appreciation towards country and its leaders. Usually people in her hometown celebrate the special occasion by putting up national flags everywhere possible and being proud as Malaysians.
“This year’s celebration is different and special to me because it makes me to be more appreciative towards the country after unprecedented events like MH370 and MH17. I have high hope that all of us, as Malaysians, will be united and always stand for our beloved country to face heartbreaking tragedies such as these,” she mentioned.
Usually during the Merdeka Day, Bella will go and watch the parade in Merdeka Square or sit in front of the television and watch its live broadcast.
Cultivating love between Malaysians
For Zaflie Abd Jawad or better known as Zaf, 25, a broadcast journalist and news presenter from Sabah, the true meaning of Merdeka is when Malaysians finally learn to love their neighbors as they love themselves, especially in a multi-racial society like Malaysia.
“We can only achieve national unity through loving our fellow Malaysians from other races and religious beliefs. This means that we learn to respect the different cultures and beliefs in the society. When we practice love, we inevitably learn to accept our rich diversity and seek national unity. We seek dialogues to resolve any misunderstanding on perceived sensitive issues with an open heart of honesty, transparency and love.”
Regarding the theme, “Malaysia, Where Love Grows”, Zaf said: “’Love is about being patient and kind. It does not envy or boast. It is not self-seeking or proud.’ Love in this spiritual sense is what Malaysians need to fully realise our destinies as fellow human being.
“When there is a lack of love, there is a lack of understanding, which indirectly leads to racial tension being manipulated by certain self-seeking politicians in order to perpetuate their political power.
“It is only when Malaysians learn to love our neighbours as fellow Malaysians, irrespective of race and religion, can transformation of society really take place. Merdeka Day is not just about remembering our nation’s independence from colonial rule. It is about setting our minds free from racial prejudices and discrimination.
“Unless we are freed from these shackles of racism, we will forever be stuck with a colonial-like mentality and the meaning of Merdeka will just be lost. This then is what Merdeka really means to me – Learning to love others as oneself.”
Zaf also said that although Independendence Day is our national holiday of huge historical significance, it should be one of celebration. “We shouldn’t be too serious about our holidays. Don’t feel like you have to go to a history class. It’s a holiday that you should enjoy.”
During the celebration, Zaf will celebrate it with his family and friends at home and besides doing live coverage from Merdeka Square, this year’s celebration really has a special meaning for him.
A time for family
Meanwhile, for Hakim Zahar, better known as Kidd, 23, from Kuala Lumpur, independence means an achievement of a united nation.
“Usually during this day, I would take my day off to myself. A long weekend like this I will travel and have a getaway from the works stress,” said the public relations officer.
In his neighbourhood, people have flags at their homes and cars and fireworks will also be lit during the countdown on August 30 at 12am.
This year’s celebration will be a bit different for Kidd as his grandmother will be coming to Kuala Lumpur from Kuching and he will take her to travel around West Malaysia and spending time together.
Time to regroup, reflect
No matter what our reasons for celebrating or how we celebrate it, as proud citizens, it is important to reflect and realise the importance of the day and the significance of independence.
Appreciate the sacrifices past leaders made for independence, enjoy the pleasures obtained, strengthen the love between one another, continue to strive for personal excellence of ourselves for the country, and most important of all, be proud to be Malaysian.