Discover what Malaysia Day or Hari Malaysia is and its difference to Malaysia’s Independence Day


On September 16, Malaysia Day is observed to mark the anniversary of the creation of the Malaysian Federation, which occurred on that same day in 1963. Although it may seem odd that Malaysia has two distinct national holidays, each one is infused with stories of sacrifice and liberation. Therefore, Malaysia recognises both days as honourable days. Hari Malaysia is another name for Malaysia Day. It wasn’t until 2010 that this day was designated as a federal holiday. The celebrations of Malaysia Day primarily includes national ceremonies that celebrate the strength of Malaysians.

The Formation of Malaysia Day
Malaya’s independence from the British was formally proclaimed on August 31, 1957, by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the country’s first prime minister. Merdeka Day is another name for Malaysia’s Independence Day. The first Prime Minister chanted ‘Merdeka’ (English: Independence) 7 times and the ceremony continued with the flying of the National Flag of Malaya and playing of the national anthem, ‘Negaraku’, played by the military band, followed by a 21-gun salute.

East Malaysia has a rich history that dates back to the days of the Brunei Sultanate. Sabah in particular was the focus of numerous disputes since it was a state wealthy in petroleum and was contested by both the Philippines and Indonesia. Before joining the Federation of Malaysia 17 years later, Sabah was a British Crown Colony from 1946 to 1946. Following the influx of Filipino refugees in the 1970’s, disputes over Sabah’s right to some of its islands, raised by neighbouring countries, prompted the International Court of Justice to declare the Indonesian-claimed islands of Sipadan and Ligitan to be officially part of Sabah and Malaysia.

Similarly, Sarawak started off under the rule of the Brunei Sultan, although few can tell the story of Sarawak without mentioning the famous Brooke dynasty. James Brooke was appointed Rajah of Sarawak by the Sultan of Brunei in 1842 and ruled the territory across the western regions of Sarawak until his death in 1868. Established in 1841, the capital city of Kuching flourished under his rule, and continued to do so for the three generations that followed.

The Brooke dynasty controlled Sarawak for a century and gained notoriety as the “White Rajahs”, a position comparable to that of the rulers of Indian states within the British Empire. Their influence led to a significant expansion of the Sarawakian borders, primarily at the expense of provinces that were ostensibly under Brunei Sultanate rule.

The Ibans and Dayaks (indigenous people) were recruited as a contingent militia by the Brookes, who governed with the assistance of the Malay Muslim populace. Although they forbade the newcomers from residing outside of towns to lessen their impact on the Dayak way of life, the White Rajahs promoted the immigration of Chinese merchants into Sarawak.

There were numerous agreements and discussions between the country’s leaders after Merdeka Day. Tunku Abdul Rahman suggested a merger with three neighbours: North Borneo (now known as Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore in order to strengthen the position of the Federation of Malaya against foreign elements. On September 16, 1963, these 4 territories joined to form a new nation known as Malaysia as a result of the negotiations.

Timeline Leading Up to Malaysia Day

31st of July 1957:
The Federation of Malaya’s Independence Act 1957 — an Act of Parliament in the United Kingdom – came into operation.

31st of August 1957:
Formal independence for the Federation of Malaya was achieved.

9th of July 1963:
The Malaysia Agreement was signed by the governments of the United Kingdom, Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak. The agreement set out the terms and conditions for the component states to be federated under a new constitution.

16th of September 1963:
Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore merged to form Malaysia. Hence, a new country was born.

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