Malaysia Independence Day, also known as National Day or ‘Hari Merdeka’ in Malay is observed on August 31 and commemorates the Malayan Declaration of Independence of 31 August 1957. It is defined in Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia as the official independence day when it gained its freedom from the British colonial administration. Usually, the celebrations start from the beginning of August with various programs and national competitions. Owing to the celebrations, the month of August is also known as the National Month.
History of Independence Day
The efforts for the independence of Malaysia were headed by the first Malaysian prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman. He led a delegation of ministers and political leaders of Malaya to negotiate with the British for independence.
When the threat of a communist revolt, posed during the Malayan Emergency gradually became less, an agreement was reached on February 8, 1956, for Malaysia to gain independence from the British Empire. But due to some logistical and administrative reasons, their actual independence was declared in the following year on August 31, 1957.
On the night of August 30, 1957, crowds gathered at Merdeka Square in Kuala Lumpur to witness the handover of power from the British. At the stroke of midnight, the Union Jack in the square was lowered. The new Flag of Malaysia was raised as the national anthem Negaraku was played. This was followed by seven chants of “Merdeka” by the crowd.
Independence Day timeline
The British declare a state of emergency after the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) attempts to overthrow the colonial government and establish a communist republic.
The Treaty of London 1956 is signed to set up the independent Federation of Malaya.
The Federation of Malaya is granted independence from Britain after 50 years of colonial rule.
The Federation of Malaysia, comprising the states of the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore is officially declared.
Independence Day FAQs
What is the difference between Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day?
Malaysia Day is on September 16 and marks the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. Hari Merdeka is celebrated on 31 August as the original independence day of Malaysia.
Who brought Islam to Malaysia?
Islam is thought to have been brought to Malaysia around the 12th century by Indian traders. In the early 15th century the Malacca Sultanate, commonly considered the first independent state in the peninsula, was founded.
What does ‘Merdeka’ mean?
Merdeka is a word in the Indonesian and Malay language, meaning ‘independent’ or ‘free.’
How to Observe Malaysia Independence Day
Take part in the annual Merdeka Parade
The national day parade is all about decorated cars, royal inspection, flag raising, recitation of the ‘Rukun Negara,’ and cultural and patriotic performances. You can experience the culture of Malaysia by watching the parade live or watch the Merdeka celebrations on TV.
Organize your own activities
You can even organize an event or different activities to inspire the spirit of patriotism and love for the country. A national speech competition, a Merdeka poetry contest, or a photography competition are some ideas to help you get started!
Decorate your homes
Decorate your home and vehicle with flags. Flags and decorations can be seen all over the country. There are even neighborhood decorating competitions, too.
5 Fun Facts About Malaysia’s National Anthem
Malaysia had no national anthem
At the time of independence, Malaysia did not have a national anthem.
Worldwide competition to find an anthem
Tunku Abdul Rahman decided to organize a worldwide competition to find a suitable national anthem for Malaysia and 512 entries were submitted.
It is originally the state anthem of Perak
In the end, Rahman opted to use the Perak State anthem’s melody for the Malaysian national anthem.
It was rearranged
The anthem was rearranged to give it a livelier rhythm, which was unpopular with the citizens — in 2003, the tempo was returned to what it was originally.
It has two versions
There exists a full version of the anthem as well as a shorter version.
Why Malaysia Independence Day is Important
It inspires the spirit of patriotism
It is the day when Malaysia gained independence from the British Empire. This day, on the one hand, demonstrates the significance of freedom and, on the other hand, it unites the whole nation under one flag.
It acts as historical and cultural symbolism
Any nation that possesses certain symbols feels pride in owning and celebrating them. The day bears historical and cultural importance and people celebrate it to demonstrate the significance of freedom.
It fosters love and responsibility for the country
The day presents an opportunity to relearn the philosophy behind the formation of Malaysia and cultivate a sense of love and responsibility for the country.
Independence Day dates