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September 14, 2020 3 min read

In August and September, Malaysia celebrates its national day on two dates, Merdeka Day (Independence Day) and Malaysia Day. A lot of countries have different national days and independence days to celebrate liberation from different colonizers, however, both of Malaysia’s national days commemorate the country’s independence from the British empire. If you are wondering why does Malaysia have two in the first place when it was only colonized once by the Brits, here’s why!

Merdeka Day

Back in 1956, Malaysia didn’t exist just yet. In fact, Malaysia was known as the Federation of Malaya. On its journey to gain independence, a delegation of the Malayan representatives from the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malayan Chinese Association (MCA), Malayan Indian Congress (MIC), and Malay Rulers met with the British Colonial Office in London to negotiate for our independence. The delegation was led by the Chief Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman (who became the first Prime Minister of Malaya) The negotiation took about 3 weeks before successfully securing the consent of the British Empire for the independence of the country.

At that point in time, the Federation of Malaya consisted of 11 states in the peninsula; Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Selangor, and Terengganu, as well as the two British Straits Settlements of Penang and Melaka. So on 31st August 1957 at 9:30 am, the entire country turned up and tuned in as Tunku Abdul Rahman read the Proclamation of Independence at Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, which was built especially for this glorious occasion.

Since then, the 31st of August is celebrated as Hari Merdeka, or independence day.

Malaysia Day

Fast forward to 1963, Singapore, North Borneo (now known as Sabah), and Sarawak came together with the Malayan Federation to form the country we now call home, Malaysia. Sarawak was granted self-government by the British on 22nd July 1963, while North Borneo received it on 31st August the same year. Singapore, on the other hand, was granted self-government back in 1959 with Lee Kuan Yew as its first Prime Minister. However, self-government is not the same as independence. All three were still Crown Colonies.

The Cobbold Commission was established in 1962 to determine whether the formation of a nation comprising the Malayan Federation, Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak under a new constitution would be supported by the people of Sarawak and North Borneo. When it was eventually approved, the Cobbold Commission pushed forward the merger of these independent states and colonies.

The Malaysia Bill was then introduced in the Malayan Parliament on the 9th of July 1963 and consented by the Agong, Tuanku Syed Putra, on the 29th of August 1963. The declaration of the formation of Malaysia was postponed a couple of times due to administrative issues, but it was eventually announced on 16th September 1963, thus forming the new nation that we call Malaysia - this is the very reason Malaysia celebrates Malaysia Day on 16th September. It is the date when Malaysia, the country we have now, was formed.

Technically, Malaysia Day (16th September) is Malaysia’s birthday. For a long time, national day celebrations occurred on Merdeka Day (31st August) and the number of years of independence was counted from 1957. Naturally, Sabah and Sarawak were not very well pleased since 31st August 1957 was of no historical importance to them. The celebrations only had historical meaning for West Malaysia.

Sabah may have achieved self-government on 31st August 1963, sharing the date with Malaya’s independence, but neither Sabah nor Sarawak were truly independent of the British until the formation of Malaysia. Yet, this fact has been widely overlooked, especially in Peninsular Malaysia.

Only 46 years later, in 2009, did the government declare 16th September as Malaysia Day and made it a public holiday – but only in East Malaysia. However, the country’s national day was still celebrated on 31st August. This caused discontent in East Malaya where it was argued that celebrating the national day in August was still pushing Sabah and Sarawak to the wayside.

This led to another announcement in the year 2010 when the government declared Malaysia Day a nationwide public holiday and stated that future national day celebrations will no longer focus on the number of years of independence as it was before.

After many years have gone by, Malaysia is finally being inclusive of its eastern states. The country has now officially acknowledged the fact that Malaysia’s formation happened 63 years ago on 16th September 1963 while still respecting the history of each original member state – the federation of Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak.

Celebrate Malaysia today by sending your loved ones fresh blooms to express your love and appreciation. Flowers are always a good idea when it comes to conveying your heartfelt emotions without having to say a word. Have flowers sent today with our same-day free delivery!