Not many people outside of Malaysia understand the difference between the celebrations held every year on 31st August and the celebrations held every year on 16th September.
On 31st August 1957, Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj stood confidently and proudly before an expectant crowd of Malaysians from all backgrounds at the Merdeka stadium in Kuala Lumpur. As the natiional anthem was played, he shouted “Merdeka” seven times as the Union Jack of the former colonial ruler was lowered and the flag of the independent Malaya was raised for the first time and the Chief Minister became the first Prime Minister.
However it was to be another 6 years before Malaya would be joined by Singapore, Sarawak, and North Borneo to establish the Malaysian federation which is why the 16th of September is such an important date in Malaysia.
It was on this day, in 1963 that the Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman announced: “The great day we have long awaited has come at last – the birth of Malaysia. In a warm spirit of joy and hope, 10 million people of many races in all the States of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah now join hands in freedom and unity.” Singapore left 3 years later.
The Philippines and Indonesia opposed the formation of Malaysia and the Philippines suspended diplomatic ties in protest. Indonesia protested violently and began a military campaign primarily in Sarawak, with the slogan ‘Ganyang Malaysia’ (crush Malaysia). This brutal Indonesia-Malaysia conflict known as an undeclared war lasted 3 years and led to many military and civilian deaths of not only Malaysians and Indonesians but also members of British and Commonwealth countries.
Malaysia prevailed and a peace treaty was signed in Bangkok in 1966 with the Indonesian government of the newly installed President General Suharto bringing to a close to this difficult chapter of Malaysia’s early history.
Sarawak’s diverse ethnic groups, their multiple languages, cultures and beliefs have created a kaleidoscope of values of confidence, respect, tolerance and understanding. The state’s huge land mass and abundant natural resources contribute positively to the richness that is Malaysia.
Fittingly then Malaysia celebrated Malaysia Day this year in Miri, Sarawak. In 2005, Miri was the first non capital town in Malaysia to be awarded city status. Miri is known for it’s energy and young and dynamic community.
A week of celebrations that included a Malaysia Day countdown in Miri city centre, complete with International groups and DJs, laser shows, talent contests, songs and musicals culminated in a brilliant ceremony at the Miri City Fan Recreation Park where more than 20,000 people joined the Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Dato’ Hj Muhyiddin Hj Mohd Yassin, Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud and Chief Minister Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Datuk Amar Adenan Satem and the Miri Mayor Lawrence Lai to sing, dance and watch an incredible firework display.