Background and History

31 August 1957 marks the day that the Federation of Malaya gained its Independence from British colonization, forming what we know of today as Malaysia. Hence, 31 August is a National Public Holiday to commemorate and celebrate the freedom and independence gained. This day is also known as Hari Merdeka in the Malay language and that is why the celebration of Independence Day is incomplete without the seven shouts of "Merdeka!", the gesture initiated by the First Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman back in 1957 at Dataran Merdeka.

The effort for independence was spearheaded by Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. He led a delegation of ministers and political leaders of Malaya in negotiations with the British officials in London for independence, along with the first president of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA), Tun Tan Cheng Lock and fifth President of Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), Tun V.T. Sambanthan. Once it became increasingly clear that the communist threat posed during the Malayan Emergency was petering out, agreement was reached on 8 February 1956, for Malaya to gain independence from the British Empire. However, for a number of logistical and administrative reasons, it was decided that the official proclamation of independence would only be made the following year. Tunku arrived home from London with the good news that independence would finally come to Malaya.

Between the years 1955-57, the Tunku and his cabinet prepared the Malayan Constitution, discussed the administration of justice, cemented racial harmony in the country and resolved to beat the Communists. Finally, Tunku Abdul Rahman led the nation when he shouted "Merdeka" seven times at the newly-built Merdeka Stadium on 31 August 1957.

2020 Theme and Celebrations

Malaysia Prihatin’ (Malaysia Cares) has been chosen as the theme for this year’s National Day and Malaysia Day celebrations, said Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah. (Bernama, 11 July 2020). Saifuddin said the word ‘Malaysia’ carried the meaning that every Malaysian is together with the government in combating the pandemic.

Meanwhile, he said that in a bid to liven up the National Day and Malaysia Day celebrations this year, the Government, through the Ministry and its agencies, planned to carry out four main activities. “Celebrations for the 50th anniversary of Rukun Negara, from July 9 to September 16, was launched yesterday at the Perdana Putra building in Putrajaya; the launch of the National Month and Fly the Jalur Gemilang will be held on July 28 in Putrajaya. Other than that, the National Day will be celebrated on August 31 in Kuala Lumpur; and the Malaysia Day will be held on September 16 in Sibu, Sarawak,” he said.

Commenting on the National Day celebrations, Saifuddin said there would be no parade this time, but Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) would broadcast a programme on August 31 to mark the occasion.

In a letter penned by Tan Sri Michael Yeoh, President of the KSI Strategic Institute to the Straits Times (24 August 2020), he emphasized the relevance of the theme “Malaysia Prihatin (Malaysia Cares)” for this year as it commemorates Hari Merdeka under the new normal. In the letter, he stressed the need to uphold and practice the 5Rs: Rukun Negara, racial harmony, respect, reconciliation and religious tolerance.

He also encouraged the reduction of 5Ds, or divides that divide us: political, wealth, geographical, digital and racial divide. The younger generation must be involved in the struggle to end this divide so that we can build a better future for Malaysians.

He also rallied the people to reimagine Malaysia as a united, tolerant, progressive, inclusive, sustainable and technologically-enabled and advanced nation where the potential of every Malaysian is developed and used. Thus, the country’s citizens should focus more on the 4Is - integrity, innovation, inclusiveness and institutions - to ensure the future Malaysia is innovative, the people and leaders have strong integrity, and there are effective and strong institutions. In order to achieve this, the citizens should put "Malaysia First" by setting aside sectarian interests for the greater interest of the nation.

He ended his letter by reminding the goals of the Rukun Negara:

  1. Achieving and fostering greater unity;
  2. Preserving a democratic way of life;
  3. Creating a just society where the prosperity of the country can be enjoyed together in a fair and equitable manner;
  4. Ensuring a liberal approach towards the rich and varied cultural traditions; and,
  5. Building a prosperous society that will make use of science and technology.



  1. Bernama (11 July 2020). Malaysia Prihatin is the Theme of the 2020 National Day Celebrations. Retrieved from:
  2. BBC (31 August 1957). 1957: Malaysia celebrates independence. Retrieved from:
  3. Hari Merdeka (2018) In: Wikipedia. Retrieved from:
  4. New Straits Times (24 August 2020). “Put Malaysia First” Retrieved from:


Promahatir (2006 August 12). Merdeka, Merdeka

KiniTV (31 August 2018). Merdeka celebration at Putrajaya