Hari Merdeka: The Story of Malaysian Independence
Malayan Independence Day: 31 August
Hari Merdeka (Malaysian for ‘Independence Day’) celebrates 31 August 1957 when the Federation of Malaya’s independence from the British Empire was officially declared. On the 30th August 1957 at 9:30am, the independence declaration was read by the first Chief Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman at Merdeka Stadium in the presence of thousands of people including Malay Rulers, members of the federal government, and foreign dignitaries.
Britain’s presence in Malaysia began in 1786, when the East India Company established a trading post on Penang. Sir Stamford Raffles founded a British settlement on Singapore in 1819 and by 1830 the British Straits Settlements also included Malacca. From the 1870s the sultans of the small Malay states began accepting British ‘advisers’, who were effectively rulers.
In 1896 a federation of Negri Sembilan, Perak, Selangor and Pahang was established with its capital at Kuala Lumpur. Heavy immigration from China and India was encouraged to supply labour for British rubber plantations and tin mines.
During World War 2 the Japanese overran Malaya and Singapore in 1942. After the war a Federation of Malaya was created in 1948 under British protection, but British and Commonwealth troops had to put down a Communist insurrection, which lasted into the early 1950s.
In 1955, the first election was held and UMNO’s leader Tunku Abdul Rahman became the first prime minister when the independent Federation of Malaya came into being in 1957.
Federation of Malaysia and Malaysia Day: 16 September
The Federation of Malaysia, comprising the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore, was declared on 31 August 1963, on the 6th anniversary of Malayan independence. North Borneo and Singapore immediately declared their sovereignty on the same day. Due to Indonesian and Philippines’ opposition to the formation of Malaysia, the official declaration was postponed until 16 September 1963. Malaysia Day on 16 September is a nationwide public holiday in addition to Hari Merdeka on 31 August.
The Malaysian Flag
The flag of Malaysia is composed of 14 alternating red and white stripes along the fly and a blue canton bearing a crescent and a 14-point star known as the Bintang Persekutuan (Federal Star). The 14 stripes, of equal width, represent the equal status in the federation of the 13 member states and the federal territories, while the 14 points of the star represent the unity between these entities. The crescent represents Islam, the country’s state religion; the blue canton symbolises the unity of the Malaysian people; the yellow of the star and crescent is the royal colour of the Malay rulers.
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