TANGKAK: Thousands of Malaysians representing all races thronged Jalan Payamas here to witness the state-level 59th National Day celebrations held in the district.
Locals started to gather as early as 6am along the road to get a prime spot to watch the parade.
The dark clouds and slight drizzle did not dampen the spirit of Johoreans in celebrating the country’s independence.
Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Mohamed Khaled Nordin kicked off the proceedings by releasing 59 sparrows to symbolise 59 years of freedom at the main stage located in front of the Ledang police district headquarters here.
A total of 111 contingents representing various government agencies and non-governmental organisations involving 3,663 participants took part.
The crowd gave the biggest cheer when navy personnel carrying the Jalur Gemilang led the parade.
Other agencies involved included the army, police, Customs and Fire and Rescue departments, Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, Rela, Civil Defence, Johor Mentri Besar office and many others.
Fruit seller Muhammad Firdaus Abdul Wahab, 45, brought his four young children to witness the parade up close.
“During previous Merdeka celebrations, we would usually sit in front of the television but since it was being held here, I did not want to miss the opportunity of seeing it live,” he said.
Housewife Tan Siew Lin, 39, said the Merdeka celebration showed how the country had progressed.
“We are very lucky to be citizens of this great country and I hope all Malaysians will treat one another with respect and dignity,” she said.
Trader G. Deevanraj, 58, said Malaysia has come such a long way and achieved success due to the country’s leadership.
“As citizens, we must support our leaders during good and bad times,” he said.
In Kota Kinabalu, non-governmental organisations and schools from Sabah’s Tuaran district won big in the 2016 state-level National Day parade competition which saw the participation of 175 contingents.
The Sabah Bajau Sama Association (PBSS) and the Lotud Youth Association (KLOSA) were champions and first runners-up respectively in the Ethnic Associations category. Sabah Lundayeh Association bagged third place.
In the secondary school category, teams from SMK Badin, Tuaran wowed the judges with their synchronised march and won first and second place, whereas SMK Putatan was second runner-up.
Separately, the Malaysia Red Crescent (Tuaran), was first runners-up in the non-governmental organsisations category which was won by the Information Department. In third place was Kota Kinabalu Girl Guides.
SK Seri Gaya, SK St Francis Convent and SK Sacred Heart emerged as the first, second and third place winners respectively after beating more than 10 other teams in the primary school category.
In the category for both public and private institutions of higher education, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) was first, followed by KK Polytechnic and third, Kimanis Petroleum.
For the Private/Commercial Sector, energy provider Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) took top spot, followed by Yayasan Sabah and Sabah Economic Development Corporation.
Emerging as champions in the Uniformed Government Departments category were the City Hall Enforcement Department while teams from Sandakan Municipal Council and Customs Department won second and third place respectively.
After a one-year break, the Sabah Water Department (JANS) took part in the Non-Uniformed Government Departments category and proved that it was still the best by winning.
JANS decided not to compete last year after winning for 10 consecutive years.
Assistant Local Government and Housing Minister Datuk Mohd Zakaria Edris thanked all the contingents for taking part this year.
“We had an outstanding turnout compared to just 143 contingents last year,” he said.
Zakaria who represented Minister Datuk Seri Hajiji Noor in the prize presentation ceremony, also noted that for the first time, 12 ethnic associations took part in the parade.
Also present were Kota Kinabalu mayor Datuk Yeo Boon Hai, Local Government and Housing Ministry permanent secretary Rayman Loudrize and Water Department deputy director Teo Chee Kong.
In Kuala Terengganu, Mentri Besar Ahmad Razif Abd Rahman said Malaysians should appreciate the sacrifices made to attain Merdeka and work together as Malaysians to protect it.
“As beneficiaries of independence, the younger generation should always be tolerant and patriotic.
“A colonised nation is always marginalised,” he said at the state-level celebrations.
A total of 106 teams comprising more than 3,200 participants took part in the National Day parade.
“We have to accept the fact that Malaysia is a multiracial country and this uniqueness is what makes us special.
“This is not the time for us to be divided. We should unite and continue to move forward and help the country achieve its goals,” he added.