Article by: Xahra Batrisyia Ashraf (UWC AC ’15 – ’17)
As the clock struck midnight, and the chants of ‘“Merdeka!” rose into the air, I looked up at the heavens and saw a new star shining brightly in the eastern sky. I smiled at the sight, because that was not the only new thing that had changed in my life in those few moments. I, as a citizen of Malaya, was now officially set free. Malaya, had gained its independence.
For over four hundred years, Malaya was dominated and ruled by nations from different parts of the world. But as the mid 1900s rolled around, Cambridge graduate, Tunku Abdul Rahman, spearheaded negotiations with the British for Malaya’s independence. On the 8th of February, 1956, Tunku Abdul Rahman and his fellow ministers and political leaders of Malaya were successful in creating an agreement with the British for the Malayans to gain independence.
However, it was not until the 31st of August, 1957, that Malaya was officially proclaimed an independent nation.
I will never forget the moment I saw Malaya’s flag wave proudly in the sky, as the sound of our national anthem resonated within our hearts. We had finally regained, after a long struggle and endless nights of patience, what was lost many, many years before. But my happiness did not end there. Fast forward six years later, our country welcomed three of our neighbouring countries with open arms; and thus came about the expansion of our family.
On the 16th of September of 1963, Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore; consisting of 10 million people of all kinds of different races, came together through their own free will and desire for the true spirit of brotherhood and love of freedom, to create what is now known as Malaysia. As Malaya was, Sabah and Sarawak were British Colonies. However, they did not become a part of the Federation of Malaya in 1957. Nevertheless, in 1963, both Sabah and Sarawak, as well as Singapore, voted to become a part of the new Federation; and thus the Federation of Malaysia was born.
The transformation of Malaya into Malaysia will always be my greatest memory. It will forever symbolise how even after generations of trials and tribulations, we have always kept faith, and for every obstacle we faced, we met it with confidence and patience. But it fills me with grief to say that not two years later, our great union was broken.
Due to deep economical and political differences as well as distrust between the ruling parties of Singapore and Malaysia, Singapore left the federation to become a sovereign and independent state, on the 9th of August, 1965. Racial tension also contributed to the separation of the two states, as a majority of Singapore’s population was Chinese while the rest of Malaya’s population was mostly Malay. As of today, the Federation of Malaysia consists of the three remaining states: Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak, which now make up West and East Malaysia.
These three important dates are what have brought about the Malaysia that exists in this very day. And although it still saddens me that the original Federation of Malaysia had to break apart, I believe that in the long run, it was for the greater good. And even though we are now going through some tough times, we must always remember what Tunku Abdul Rahman once said,
“Let us never allow disunity to divide or disrupt us, for if we do, we fail. Let us always remember that with each passing year, we must ensure that the bonds of unity and goodwill, of tolerance and harmony, grow stronger and stronger. We are all Malaysians. This is the bond that unites us. Let us always remember that unity is our fundamental strength as a people and as a nation.”