Saturday, 18 July 2015
30 March 2023

«Merdeka Story»

2009 August 31

By Janice Wong\ Radio koocheh


For the 50,000 Iranians or so living in Malaysia, on August 31, Malaysia will be celebrating its 52th Independence Day also known as Merdeka Day. According to Wikipedia, the word Merdeka is derived from the Malay language which means Independence. On Merdeka day all local television stations such as TV3 and RTM will be airing a video clip of a man dressed in a traditional Malay attire shouting “Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!” three times with his right hand raised up in the air. The black and white footage is one that is taken in on August 31 on 1957 at the Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur. That man is Malaysia’s first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, a prince from the northern State of Kedah. Today, he is known to many Malaysians as the Father of Malaysia and is remembered till this day for all his involvement in seeking Independence from the British rule. After securing  Independence almost half a century ago, Tunku as he is fondly referred to by today’s generation later when on to become the country’s first Prime Minister. A lawyer by training he is the key person responsible in shaping the foundation and making Malaysia what she is   today. To many, Malaysia is seen as a thriving modern Muslim nation with a multiracial population. There are about 27 million people in Malaysia living both in the Peninsular and in Sabah and Sarawak. The country comprises of various ethnicities living all in one roof. The biggest population besides the Malays is the Chinese and the Indians. There are also other ethnicities that can be found in Malaysia such as the Portuguese which have now blended into the local communities, and other tribal communities like the Kadazandusun and Bidayuh which are found in interior parts of Sabah and Sarawak. The national language is Bahasa Malaysia but English is widely spoken here in many parts of the country, you can also find a large segment of the society speaking in Mandarin, Cantonese which are Chinese dialects and Indian dialects such as Tamil and Punjabi. The Malaysian English also know as Manglish is  widely spoken whereby every word we say is ended with the word ‘Lah” such as “Okay Lah” “No Lah” or “Yes Lah” or such as phrases like “You makan already or not?” which means have you eaten or not. For us the emergence of many Iranians in Malaysia is a new phenomenon, with many Iranians taking up homes in the peninsular cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Malacca, Penang and even in Johor Bahru. In these cities, Iranians will come face to face with the Malays, Chinese and Indians. For most Iranians this may come as a shock to them as some will not be able to take in the many vast ethnicities of races available in Malaysia.  My visit to Iran in 2006 with the Malaysian Tourism Ministry was equally an eye opener to me as well. I have never seen so many beautiful people in one single country and I thought to myself if Iran would compete in beauty pagents then they would be beat the other countries flat and emerge as winners year after year. But at the same time I understand why many are leaving Iran to come to Malaysia. But we are not going to discuss that today. In Malaysia although this is a Muslim country you don’t have to wear a scarf if you don’t want to and you are also allowed to wear whatever you like. But as Malaysians progressed further the Merdeka celebrations have become more of one undertaken by the government. During the 50th Merdeka celebrations two years ago, the country celebrated it on a grand scale by having a grand parade to commensurate it with the Visit Malaysia Year 2007 celebration.  Usually the mass parade is held at the iconic Sultan Abdul Samad building with the guest of honour of the event being the king and queen and the Prime Minister of Malaysia.  The whole Cabinet will also be present with their spouses. The parade also doubles as a tourist event and is a must see for any tourist visiting the country. This year the National Geographic Channel has come up with several documentaries to showcase Malaysia to the world through the Merdeka series. The Petronas Twin Towers or KLCC as it’s known to many will be lighted up with fireworks and the organisers of the event will organize free concerts to entertain the crowd at hand. Besides that there will also be Merdeka sales in most major shopping complexes as well.  But generally speaking Merdeka for many people is not widely celebrated with house parties but instead it is remembered by spending quality time with their families and friends at home or catching up on shopping or going out to watch a movie. We never do anything patriotic on that day except to fly the Malaysia flag on our cars or for some at the apartment balcony. As for me, on Merdeka day I will be working. I don’t plan to attend the parade or go out to celebrate Merdeka as I will be fasting on that day. This year’s parade has also been scaled down in respect of the holy month of Ramadhan. So I don’t think there will be a grand celebration at the Sultan Abdul Samad building or the Twin Towers this year. But for most Malaysians it will be a long weekend and many will opt to go back to their hometowns also known as the “balik kampung” exodus for the extended weekend.  So the roads will be jammed packed and if you are planning on a journey then it is best you plan it properly. The shopping complexes will also be filled with people who will be taking the opportunity to shop for the coming Eid celebrations. So folks Selamat Hari Merdeka (Happy Merdeka Day) and enjoy the extended weekend, as how the French would say it “Bon Weekend”!

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