THESE past few weeks have been eventful for Malaysia. Never have I seen the Jalur Gemilang being displayed in as many events over the past few weeks.
We celebrated our victory at the 29th Southeast Asia Games, we witnessed our 60th Merdeka celebration, we witnessed the celebration of our new Agong’s official birthday. We also witnessed the passing of one of our beloved sultans. But, the mood displayed in all these events was one of unity at all levels and from different sections of society.
I was taken aback by the atmosphere of the Sea Games. I remember entering the stadium being greeted by loud sounds of joy and excitement. I glanced around and witnessed the cheers of not only Malaysians, but Indonesians, Filipinos and Thais, from where I sat when all the athletes entered the stadium to take their seats. I saw the unity of Asean.
The Merdeka parade was a sight to behold. It took me back some 10 years ago when I first witnessed such pomp and pageantry.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force displayed their air-to air aviation skills in the capital city skyline with their Sukhoi jets.
Our soldiers in green marched past the reviewing stand manned by the king and cabinet.
Our men in blue did that, too. They were followed by our volunteer corps in other hues. It struck me then how much these uniformed men and women sacrifice their lives to keep us ordinary folks under the canopy of peace.
I was very blessed to have “witnessed” through my paternal grandmother the country’s first flag-bearers and Navy veterans, Lieutenant Commander (Rtd) Mohd Sharif Kalam and retired chief petty officer Oliver Cuthbert Samuel presenting the Jalur Gemilang to the next generation. My paternal grandmother told me how my grandfather, first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, would utter the joyful words “Merdeka!” “Merdeka!” “Merdeka!”
I can imagine the chorus of the people gathered that morning echoing in unison those three words. She had accompanied her father, the late Almarhum Sultan Yahya Petra, then Tengku Mahkota Kelantan, to the event.
When I watched the celebration of victory at the recent Sea Games, those words of freedom and unity emerged from my memory wherein they were lodged.
I was blessed, too, to witness the Agong’s first official birthday. As I wore my purple songket uniform that morning, I was greeted by the Jalur Gemilang and state flags instead of just the Kelantan flag. This was, for the first time, a federal investiture instead of just a state’s. The investiture ceremony was much more diverse, representing the demographics of the nation, instead of just the state.
People of different hues stood before our head of state. Men and women were in ceremonial attires and uniforms. The diplomats came dressed in their national garments. It was breathtaking.
I observed, too, people of varying ages: civil servants who contributed their years of service to the nation, one of them being my father. The range of attires that was before my eyes was breathtaking. There were songket with tengkolok, as worn by my father, full white navy uniforms and the robes of the judiciary. The green of the army was there, too. It was colour pageantry in some ways.
But the celebrations and joyful mood came to a halt as the nation was shocked by the news of the death of Almarhum Tuanku Sultan Kedah, Sultan Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah, who was king for two five-year terms.
The nation mourned the death with flags at half-mast. Many of the Merdeka generation will remember the late ruler fondly. From 12 year olds who received awards to the chef employed in the palace — all had words of sorrow to tell the nation. The late ruler was not just a ruler for Kedahans, but a king for Malaysians. And twice, too.
As we welcome Malaysia Day today with the Jalur Gemilang flying at half-mast, we Malaysians will be united in sadness and joy.
As one era passes, another is welcomed. Like us, the nation has turned a year older.
Happy Birthday, Malaysia.
The writer, a law graduate, is the granddaughter of former prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman, and daughter of the Tengku Temenggong of Kelantan