Merdeka: The Untold Stories Of Malaysia
Come with us as we dig deep and explore the history of Malaysia in conjunction with the country’s 64th Independence Day on 31st August 2021
A melting pot of cultures. A rich heritage and history spanning more than half a century. Urban neighbourhoods mingling with sprawling, pristine sceneries. A smorgasbord of flavours to suit every palate.
Malaysia is, without a doubt, a multi-ethnic paradise.
Aptly branded ‘Truly Asia’ by our national tourism board, Malaysia has long been a magnet drawing not only curious wanderlusters, aspiring scholars, and business sojourners from around the globe but also locals because even for Malaysians, there’s always something new to discover about their motherland.
Malaysians are the very foundation of what makes the country. Their unmistakable and indivisible spirit regardless of the political climate, bonding over sports and nasi lemak, cutting across barriers of language and sharing inside jokes that only Malaysians know how lah, and working towards a common goal of tolerance and harmony are deeply ingrained in our DNA. These are the traits that allow the country to continue flourishing as a nation.
See also: Design Icon: Bangunan Parlimen Malaysia
In conjunction with Malaysia’s 64th Independence Day on August 31, let’s take a closer look at some lesser-known fun facts about the country.
Before Malaya, this land was known as Aurea Chersonesus, which is Greek for ‘Peninsula of Gold’. The name was bestowed upon the land by Greco-Roman geographer Claudius Ptolemy and recorded in his book titled Geographia, written about A.D. 150.
The Federation of Malaya is the only country in the world to have won the war against Communism, which took place from 1948 to 1960.
The 12-year-long conflict which arose from an attempt by the Malayan Communist Party to overthrow the British colonial administration in Malaya, a period known historically as the Malayan Emergency, was one of the few successful counter-insurgency operations undertaken by the Western powers during the Cold War. It saw British and Commonwealth forces defeat a communist revolt in Malaya.
On August 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya gained its independence from the British, an effort spearheaded by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the country’s first prime minister and the Father of Malaysia or the Father of Independence.
Contrary to popular belief, the historic “Merdeka!” (Malay for 'independence' or 'free') chant was not hailed thrice, but seven times by the statesman. This was witnessed by more than 20,000 who were present for the official handover event at Stadium Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.
"Tanah tumpahnya darahku"
Malaya didn’t have a national anthem at the time of Merdeka. Hence, Tunku Abdul Rahman organised and presided over a committee for the purpose of choosing a suitable national anthem through a nationwide competition.
After receiving 514 entries, none deemed suitable, he opted to use the Perak state anthem, selected on account of the ‘traditional flavour’ of its melody. Along with a panel of judges, Tunku wrote the new lyrics for Negaraku.
Malaysia is born
The formation of the Malaysian federation was announced on September 16, 1963, the anniversary of which is celebrated as Malaysia Day. This event saw the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo (which has since been renamed Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore into a single nation.
With the establishment of Malaysia came the Malaysian flag, also known as the Jalur Gemilang. It was created by 29-year-old Public Works Department architect Mohamad Hamzah, who had entered a flag design competition.
Following the formation of Malaysia, the flag was modified to reflect and honour the new states in the federation. The 14 red and white stripes represent the country’s 14 states, the crescent symbolises Islam as the country’s national religion, while the star embodies the unity among the 14 states.
As bizarre as this may sound, it took eight tries to get the local time in Peninsula Malaysia right. The first adjustment was made in 1932 when the clocks were slowed by 20 minutes to lengthen daylight. This was followed by another adjustment in 1941 when it was sped up by 10 minutes. A year later, the clocks were increased to two hours to match Tokyo’s time. In 1945, the clocks were reverted to the time observed in 1941.