KUALA LUMPUR: On Aug 31, 1957, Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman chanted “Merdeka” seven times at Dataran Merdeka to announce the nation’s independence from British rule.
This year marks the 66th anniversary of that momentous event, and the residents of Flat Sri Melaka are celebrating the day by displaying the Jalur Gemilang in all its glory.
FMT Lifestyle paid a visit to this residential area in Cheras and spoke with some of its residents about how they celebrate Merdeka as a community.
“Two weeks before Merdeka Day is gotong-royong day, when residents work together to clean up the surroundings. Then we start decorating the place,” the flat’s Block 10 resident head, Azlan Ahmad, said.
And they have clearly done a great job, as the iconic red, yellow, blue and white Jalur Gemilang adorns every balcony of the block’s units.
It was not just the adults who pulled their weight – even the kids excitedly lent a hand between their sepak takraw games.
Azlan said it was tradition for residents of their block to hold a little celebration on Merdeka eve as well.
“This year, there was a barbecue-buffet spread for dinner and we all gathered to eat together as a community. We even had a karaoke competition afterwards.”
Speaking with FMT Lifestyle, resident Shahkamal Mohammad Yusoff, 75, admitted he hadn’t really understood the real meaning of Merdeka all those decades ago. After all, he’d only been nine years old at the time.
“What I do remember is having a lot of fun waving the tiny Jalur Gemilang pennant flags with other kids my age,” he said.
“As I grew up, I began to realise the significance of that day. And with that understanding, I passed down this knowledge to the next generation so that they, too, would know what came before them.”
This sentiment is shared by Hajah Paridah Noordin, 71, who said she was proud to be Malaysian.
One of her vivid memories of Aug 31, 1957 were the helicopters flying over her village, dropping Merdeka flyers to the residents below. She was only five at the time.
“I ran out to collect the flyers. They were scattered all over the field in front of my home. I remember feeling very excited. And the sight of all those flyers raining down on us is something I will never forget.”
She said when she had children of her own, she made it a point to bring her whole family to Dataran Merdeka for the celebrations every year.
Fellow resident Hasimah Kasa spoke about how proud she was to live in a harmonious country like Malaysia.
“Every year my grandchild’s school holds competitions to design Merdeka-themed clothes. As the grandmother, I am always more than happy to help with the materials and the sewing,” the 63-year-old said.
Her efforts have not been in vain, as she and her grandchild even came in first place on one occasion!
Another resident, Leong Mee Lin, used to have a small stall selling fried noodles at the field beside Dataran Merdeka during the celebrations years ago.
“To me, the most important thing is that all the races can live together harmoniously despite our differences,” the 80-year-old said.
Finally, 15-year-old Nornashrullah Iskandar told FMT Lifestyle he was immensely grateful to the country’s forefathers for fighting to gain independence for the people.
He revealed that on Aug 30 each year, the students at his school dress in traditional baju Melayu to celebrate Merdeka – an occasion that excites him, too.
“I’m glad I don’t need to experience the hardships our previous generations went through to fight for independence, so I feel very lucky to have been born in 2008,” he added.