31st August 1957 – Independence Day of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu

Within minutes, ten of thousands of Malaysians would be crowding around clock towers in city squares all over the country to share the excitement of the countdown towards mid-night, when another celebrated date starts unfolding, 31st August 2012, the 55th Anniversary of our country’s independence. 31st August is our country’s INDEPENDENCE DAY, sometimes referred to as NATIONAL DAY.

However, as events surrounding our counrty’s independence move further and further into distant past, more people are becoming unaware of the fact that our 31st August 1957 was the date when the Union Jack was lowered down to be replaced by the red-and-white stripes of the flag of PERSEKUTUAN TANAH MELAYU(in English, MALAYA). The ritual was  to mark the independence of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu from the British rule. On that memorable day, the then Chief Minister of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman, led the shouts of MERDEKA, MERDEKA, MERDEKA!!!!(meaning, INDEPENDENT, INDEPENDENT, INDEPENDENT!!!) echoed by tens of thousands cheery Malayans who filled up the newly-built Stadium Merdeka to the brim, in the presence of the Excellencies the Raja-Raja Melayu.

The landmark event took place 9 years after the establishment of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, a Federation of 9 Malay states of Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Johor, Pahang, Trengganu and Kelantan, and the 2 Straits Settlement states of Penang and Malacca. Penang was originally part of Kedah, but was usurped from the Malay Sultan of Kedah by virtue of an Agreement with the British, which the British never fulfilled. Malacca was the THRONE of the last of Malay Empires before  the coming of the Europeans to the east, and its eventual conquests by the Portuguese, the Dutch and the British.

Before the coming of the Europeans in the 15th century, Malay Empires had been the recognized rulers of this region of the world which the Europeans described as the MALAY ARCHIPELAGO, from times immemorable, with the ‘epicentres’ of power shifting from one place to another, including Langkasuka in 2nd-5th AD, Srivijaya 5th-12th AD, Majapahit 12th-13th and Malacca 14th-15th AD .

Persekutuan Tanah Melayu was established in 1948, to replace the Malayan Union introduced by the British in 1946. Malayan Union would have diminished the power of the Raja-Raja Melayu, would have opened the flood-gate of citizenship to millions of IMMIGRANTS brought in by the British to work in tin mines and rubber estates, and would have stripped the Malays, the original rulers and subjects of the Malay States, of any special rights they deserved.

In such critical moments in the history of Malay civilisation, the Malays became energized and UNITED to protect and uphold their rights. They gathered in thousands in major towns to vent their anger and displeasure. On 11the May 1946, in the palace of the Sultan of Johore, they officially set up their ‘vehicle’ to pursue their struggle, the UNITED MALAYS NATIONAL ORGANISATION, or UMNO. It was UMNO, the Raja-Raja Melayu and the British who brokered the eventual establishment of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu, as a TRANSITION GOVERNMENT before being conferred full independence in August 1957.

Despite the armed insurgency by the Malayan Communist Party(PKM), the newly- independent Persekutuan Tanah Melayu  threaded their way forward with great success. The multi-racial Malayans worked harmoniously together hand-in-hand to build the nation, guided by the forward-looking leadership of the ruling Alliance Party made up of United Malays National Organisation(UMNO), the  Malayan Chinese Association(MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress(MIC). The success inspired the British to bring her other colonies of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak into the Federation. The three colonies were eventually merged with the Malay states of Persekutuan Tanah Melayu to form what is now known as MALAYSIA, with 16th September 1963 marked as the official date of formation.

Despite the 16th September date of formation of Malaysia, 31st August remains the official date of our INDEPENDENCE DAY or NATIONAL DAY of the country. The fact remains that 31st August 1957 was the date of  the independence of PERSEKUTUAN TANAH MELAYU, not that of MALAYSIA.

To all Malaysians world over, Selamat Menyambut Hari Kemerdekaan Ke 55.

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