Hari Merdeka

Hari Merdeka
(Independence Day)

A man is thrown into the air by a crowd during Merdeka Day celebrations in Merdeka Square, Kuala Lumpur, 2008
Official name Hari Merdeka
Also called Merdeka, Hari Kebangsaan, National Day
Observed by Malaysians
Type National
Significance Marks the independence of the Federation of Malaya
Date 31 August
Next time 31 August 2017 (2017-08-31)
Frequency annual
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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.

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.[1]

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.[2] On the stroke of midnight, the lights were switched back on, and the Union Flag in the square was lowered.[3] 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.[2][3] Tunku Abdul Rahman later gave a speech hailing the ceremony as the "greatest moment in the life of the Malayan people".[2] 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.[4] The Queen's representative, the Duke of Gloucester presented Tunku Abdul Rahman with the instrument of independence.[4] 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.[4]

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:

Members of royal families
Heads of government
Representatives from other British colonies
Members of the former British colonial administration
High Commissioners of other Commonwealth countries

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).[5] 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.[6][7][8] In 2009, it was decided that starting 2010, Malaysia Day would be a nationwide public holiday in addition to Hari Merdeka on 31 August.[9]


Year Theme
1970 Muhibbah dan Perpaduan
(Goodwill and Unity)
1971 Masyarakat Progresif
(Progressive Society)
1972 Masyarakat Adil
(Fair Society)
1973 Masyarakat Berkebudayaan Malaysia
(A Society with Malaysian Culture)
1974 Sains dan Teknologi Alat Perpaduan
(Science and Technology as Tools of Unity)
1975 Masyarakat Berdikari
(A Self-Reliant Society)
1976 Ketahanan Rakyat
(Strength of the People)
1977 20 Tahun Bersatu Maju
(20 Years United and Progressive)
1978 Kebudayaan Sendi Perpaduan
(Culture is the Core of Unity)
1979 Bersatu Berdisplin
(United and Disciplined)
1980 Berdisplin Berbakti
(Discipline and Service)
1981 Berdisplin Berharmoni
(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, Progressively Striving)
1988 Bersatu
1989 Bersatu
1990 Berjaya
1991 Wawasan 2020
(Vision 2020)
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)
2000–2006 Keranamu Malaysia
(Because of you, Malaysia)
2007 Malaysiaku Gemilang
(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, The Land Where My Blood Has Spilt)
2014 Malaysia, Di Sini Lahirnya Sebuah Cinta
(Malaysia, Here Is Where Love Begins)
2015 - 2016 Malaysia, Sehati Sejiwa
(Single Minded Malaysia)

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.[10]

Timing of Merdeka Daykp

Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday
1958 1959 1965 1960 1961 1962 1957
1969 1964 1971 1966 1967 1973 1963
1975 1970 1976 1977 1972 1979 1968
1980 1981 1982 1983 1978 1984 1974
1986 1987 1993 1988 1989 1990 1985
1997 1992 1999 1994 1995 2001 1991
2003 1998 2004 2005 2000 2007 1996
2008 2009 2010 2011 2006 2012 2002
2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2013

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.[11] 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.[12]

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
James Masing


See also

Wikisource has original text related to this article:


  1. Malaysia Act 1963
  2. 1 2 3 "1957: Malaya celebrates independence". BBC. 31 August 1957. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  3. 1 2 "Detik Jam Tengah Malam Di Padang Kelab Selangor" (in Malay). National Archive of Malaysia. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  4. 1 2 3 "Pengisytiharan Kemerdekaan Tanah Melayu" (in Malay). National Archives of Malaysia. Retrieved 24 April 2011.
  5. Manila Accord (31 July 1963)
  6. Merdeka celebration in Kuching
  7. "Keadilan's plans for Merdeka", Daily Express, 29 August 2007.
  8. Aznam, Suhaini, "Celebrating Malaysia Day", 24 September 2007.
  9. Yeng Ai Chun (19 October 2009). "Malaysia Day now a public holiday, says PM". The Star. Retrieved 18 September 2014.
  10. "Rais seeks views on Merdeka theme song", Malaysiakini, 1 August 2012.
  11. "No more mentioning number of years". Daily Express. 9 September 2014. Archived from the original on 9 September 2014. Retrieved 9 September 2014.
  12. Peter Sibon and Karen Bong (11 September 2014). "Emphasis should be on Sept 16 not Aug 31". The Borneo Post. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.

External links

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