It is the night of August 30, 1957. A crowd of 20,000 are huddled together in the wide space of Merdeka Square (Padang Merdeka). It is loud and yet, it is also then quiet. A calm silent darkness envelopes the citizens at the arrival of the pride of the nation. Prime Minister-designate Tunku Abdul Rahman arrives and joins the members of the Alliance Party’s youth divisions to settle into the silence at 11.58 pm.
Two minutes pass and bright lights fill the surroundings as the Union Flag is then lowered. A sudden hush befalls the crowd as the realisation settles into their skin. A realisation that this it – this is freedom. It is the moment in which brothers and sisters alike can be free.
Yet even then, it is only when the new Flag of Malaya was raised, only when the national anthem Negaraku was played, that the crowd is unburdened from their days of being trapped.
It was August 31, 1957, when Malaysians truly understood the meaning of indipendence.
Merdeka in 2021
Travelling days, months, years and decades into the future, it is now 2021. Our country has been through a lot. We have seen the rise of our nation in transforming from an initially agriculture-based economy into one that is flush and diverse; even leading us to become a major exporter of both palm oil and electrical appliances.
We have seen our nation flourishing on a worldwide stage having hosted the 1998 Commonwealth Games and multiple Southeast Asian games aside from being crowned champion in the 2001 Southeast Asian Games.
Our nation grow from one that is split apart due to varying differences to breeding a generation that is actively trying to bridge the gaps between all our Malaysian brothers and sisters. We champion our diverse culture and we pride ourselves on the hard-work of our people.
However, the year 2021 doesn’t exactly spark joy in the hearts of citizens across our nation. Needless to say, it is unfortunate to say that our country has slowly descended from the peak of its progress. With the catastrophic Covid-19 pandemic that has shaken the world with its unexpected (and unwanted) arrival,
Malaysia too has been backed into a corner. Industries were forced to shut down, students were pushed into the unknown world of online education and the rest of the nation was left scrambling for help in these dark times. It is Covid-19 that is the cause of the tumultuous uproars which have rendered many displeased with the current issues we citizens are forced to face.
Regardless, there have been many initiatives to help struggling Malaysians in this time of need. Following the rise of the #BenderaPutih and #KitaJagaKita movements, non-profit organisations such as Yayasan Food Bank, Mercy Malaysia, The Lost Food Project, Hunger Hurts Malaysia and Food Aid Foundation have emerged.
These organisations not only provide humanitarian assistance such as distributing food and essential items. They also provide the mental health and psycho-social support services that is very much needed for people who are struggling to grasp hold of their negative emotions due to the stressful situations they’ve been forced into due to Covid.
Truly, the assistance and service of these brave and thoughtful Malaysians who have risen to lend a helping hand to those in need during the pandemic is truly one to be applauded.
If we Malaysians learnt of indipendence in 1957, what have we learnt in 2021? Does “Merdeka” truly hold the same meaning it did before? What even is “Merdeka?”
True meaning of “Merdeka”
The world itself – “Merdeka” – is a powerful symbol of independence. It establishes the freedom and sovereignty that our land has been bestowed with. However, it’s important to note that this freedom did not come easy to us. This freedom was the result of hardwork and intelligence. A product of patience and persistence.
After years of being trapped in the claws of colonisers that have sought to separate our people and benefit from the impending chaos, the peace that came with independence was accepted readily by Malaysians nationwide.
It was a sweet relief to be unburdened from threats of Communists and other economic and social issues that came with them.
Having this in mind, it is important that we realise that there are so many things to be grateful for in life. Without the sacrifices of our parents, grandparents and ancestors, we would not be able to be blessed with the liberty and privileges we enjoy today.
What we need most is unity
Another thing to really think about would be the value of unity. Taking example from all of the initiatives founded by Malaysians all across our country in order to battle the negative circumstances of the Covoid-19 pandemic, we can say that no true progress can ever be achieved without cooperation from our fellow brothers and sisters.
Therefore, we should take this time to set aside our differences and reach out to the people around us. Regardless of skin colour, religion, race or gender, we should realise that each and every one of us have aspirations set for the future of our nation.
Thus, it is vital that we work together in tandem in order to reach our goals and progress. In doing this, we are one step away from contributing to our country by keeping its peace and prosperity in act. At the end of the day, none wants to live in a world where we are isolated and separated from the people around us.
If we were to let such a negative mindset dictate our actions towards people who are different from us, we would be living in a dull and bleak world where hate would manifest itself in the worst of ways. We should not be allowing all this fear and apprehension of others to fester within ourselves.
In fact, this behaviour becomes especially apparent, during the pandemic, where we are set against others and believe that we live in a world where it’s the “survival of the fittest”. Let us erase this negativity from our mindsets and instead, open up our hearts and listen to others.
Who knows? That person you’ve been avoiding due to minor issues could be your best friend in the near future.
Let’s celebrate independence day
Putting all the philosophical ideologies aside, let’s get to the fun part of Malaysia’s Independence Day: activities! Eventhough most of us are stuck within the shelter of our own homes due to the pandemic, there are a multitude of things that we can do to celebrate this special historical day!
If you would like to celebrate this special event in a safe way during the pandemic, the best way to show your patriotism would be to decorate your home with flags and decorations that represent your favourite parts of Malaysian culture. Want to show them off?
Dress up, take pictures and upload posts on social media like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and even Tiktok to spread your patriotic vigour with others. Aditionally, you can also take this time to call your friends and family members to use this opportunity to catch up with each other.
After all, one of the most important things we’ve learnt from Malaysian history is that peace and harmony is important – that applies to your personal life as well! Furthermore, you could also try your hand at the abundance of Malaysian Independence Day competitions that can be found online.
These competitions range from sajak and essay writing to singing and acting competitions so be sure to not only flaunt your talents – remember to imbue your work with your patriotic spirit as well.
Embrace the spirit of independence
In conclusion, the Malaysia Independence Day (Hari Merdeka) is a special day on the 31st of August that symbolises the sovereignty and freedom of its people. It is a special day in which we, Malaysians, are given the opportunity to celebrate the heroic acts and sacrifices of our predecessors in order to free us from the grasps of colonisers and other harmful threats.
It is fortunate that we have been blessed with many happy years of peace and prosperity with people flooding the streets donning traditional clothing and waving the national flag with pride. Although we may not be able to see this view any time soon because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the spirit of ‘Merdeka’ can never be erased.
This is because to us Malaysians, “merdeka” (freedom) is not measured by the amount of festive parties we throw or how many extravagant parades we host to commemorate this eventful occasion.
To us, the true meaning of “merdeka” is having a strong sense of love and pride towards our country. Despite being stuck in disastrous situations due to the pandemic, we must always stay strong in the face of hardship and cherish the many things that we are able to enjoy today.
Most importantly, we must remember our roots and realise that the power that we have to garner change and progress has always been with us all along. We have the power to join hands with the rest of our people in order to turn the tide and make any bad situation better in time.
We have the power to be free.
And that is the true meaning of Merdeka.
Happy Independence Day.
Malaysia Merdeka 64!
Featured Image Origin: Dennis Sylvester Hurd | Flickr
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