|Official name Hari Merdeka|
|Observed by Malaysians|
Date 31 August
|Also called Merdeka, Hari Kebangsaan, National Day|
Significance Marks the independence of the Federation of Malaya
Lagu wajib nasional hari merdeka 17 agustus
Hari Merdeka (Malaysian for 'Independence Day'), also known as Hari Kebangsaan (National day), refers to the day when the Federation of Malaya's independence from the British Empire was officially declared. At exactly 09:30 on 31 August 1957, the declaration was read by the first Chief Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman at the Merdeka Stadium in the presence of thousands of people including Malay Rulers, members of the federal government, and foreign dignitaries.
- Lagu wajib nasional hari merdeka 17 agustus
- Events leading up to independence
- 31 August 1957
- The formation of Malaysia
- 2015 Hari Merdeka Anniversary Issues
To commemorate the event, Hari Merdeka was declared a national holiday in Malaysia and observed annually on 31 August. The day should not be confused with Hari Malaysia ('Malaysia Day') that commemorates the formation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963, when North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore federated with the existing states of the Federation of Malaya.
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 8 February 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 31 August 1957, at Stadium Merdeka (Independence Stadium), in Kuala Lumpur, which was purposely built for the celebrations of national independence day. The announcement of the day was set months earlier by the Tunku in a Melaka meeting of the Alliance.
31 August 1957
On the night of 30 August 1957, crowds gathered at the Dataran merdeka 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 the "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 honour 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 31 August 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 honour 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 honour 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:
The formation of Malaysia
The Federation of Malaysia, comprising the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore was to be officially declared on the date 31 August 1963, on the 6th anniversary of Malayan independence. However, it was postponed to 16 September 1963, mainly due to Indonesian and the Philippines' opposition to the formation of Malaysia. Nevertheless, North Borneo and Singapore declared sovereignty on 31 August 1963. Indonesian opposition later escalated to a military conflict. Indonesia considered Malaysia as a new form of colonisation on the provinces of Sarawak and North Borneo in the island of Borneo (bordering Kalimantan, Indonesia). However, they did not lay claim upon the two territories, unlike Philippines claim on the eastern part of Sabah (rather than the whole of North Borneo). To assure Indonesia that Malaysia was not a form of neocolonialism, a general survey (instead of a referendum) was organised by the United Nations involving interviews of approximately 4,000 people which received 2,200 memorandums from groups and private individuals, and the Cobbold Commission, led by Lord Cobbold, was formed to determine whether the people of North Borneo 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 16 September 1963, as Malaysia Day. The nationwide Independence Day celebration is still held on 31 August, 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 31 August 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 31 August.
The 2012 theme proved to be controversial, as it was seen by many Malaysians to be a political slogan rather than a patriotic one (Janji Ditepati was Najib Razak's campaign jingle in the run-up to the 2013 elections). 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.
2015 Hari Merdeka Anniversary Issues
Starting from 2015, as been stated by the Minister of Communication and Multimedia Ahmad Shabery Cheek, the Independence Day celebration is likely to be held without mentioning the number of years to prevent the people in Sabah and Sarawak from being isolated if the number of independence anniversaries was stated. However, the Minister of Land Development of Sarawak Tan Sri Datuk Amar Dr James Masing reminded that since 16 September had been declared as Malaysia Day, it should be the rallying point for the nation's unity. He added "Everyone now knows that 31 August is Malaya's and Sabah's Independence Day… it's not our (Sarawak) independence day. They can celebrate it both in Malaya and in Sabah as they have the same Independence Day date, and we can join them there if they invite us. We must right the wrong". Masing was commenting on Shabery Cheek's recent proposal that Malaysia should continue to commemorate 31 August as its Independence Day, without mentioning the anniversary year.
Before 16 September, there was no Malaysia. Let everyone remember that. It's on 16 September that the four independent countries namely Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo agreed to form Malaysia. And as everyone also knows, Singapore pulled out in 1965