THERE will be something very different about the National Day celebration this year.
In previous years, government representatives flanking the Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the main stage during the Aug 31 Merdeka parade were from the Alliance, which later expanded to become Barisan Nasional.
This time around, Pakatan Harapan leaders, who less than four months ago were in the opposition, will be the ones taking centre stage to represent the newly elected federal government.
The sight of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad standing shoulder to shoulder with senior Pakatan leaders such as Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng and Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu on stage at the Merdeka parade will be historic.
It represents something unthinkable to many people before the May 9 general election: that Malaysians would usher the first change in the federal government to create a new Malaysia.
The venue for this year’s celebration was also specially chosen to mark the milestone.
In previous years the annual celebrations were mostly held at Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur, a historic site where the Union Jack was lowered at the stroke of midnight on Aug 31, 1957, to mark the independence of Malaya.
This year, the government has decided to hold the celebration at the country’s administrative capital of Putrajaya instead.
According to Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo, the choice of venue is to symbolise the administration of a new government under Pakatan.
The Jalur Gemilang has always flown high during previous National Day celebrations.
The pomp and pageantry in previous years were often tinged with growing worries about widening inequality and anger over corruption and financial scandals.
This time around, many Malaysians are expressing a strong sense of optimism about the country’s future.
Since May 9, many have also stepped forward to do their bit in helping to ensure the success of the new Malaysia.
Among them are entrepreneurs whose businesses have helped transform the country from an economic backwater to one of Asia’s leading economies.
For this year’s Merdeka special, we are celebrating some of the many homegrown Malaysian companies that are a source of pride for the country.
We spoke to their founders and the entrepreneurs driving many of these companies to find out what makes Merdeka special for them this year.
These remarkable Malaysians offered insight into their firms’ remarkable journeys and their contributions to the country’s economy.
They also spoke about their hopes and aspirations for the new Malaysia.
Among the companies featured are Grab, the ride-hailing tech giant founded by Malaysian Anthony Tan.
The company recently released a short video clip on its Facebook page which posed the question: “The New Malaysia. Who is it really for?”
The video depicts heartwarming scenes of the daily lives of local children.
It concludes with the narrator affirming the importance of inclusiveness in a new Malaysia by stating: “It belongs to all of us.”
Another huge source of national pride is AirAsia, a Malaysian brand name that has become globally renowned.
In a series of tweets on Aug 24, the low-cost carrier’s founder Tan Sri Tony Fernandes wrote on his view of the changes that have taken place since May 9 and how the newly elected government has fared in its first 100 days.
“I don’t think any government has achieved what they set out to do in 100 days and no company can achieve all of its plans.
“As long as we move forward each day then progress is being made, but in hindsight an amazing amount has been achieved,” he wrote.
One of the best things about the new government, said Fernandes, is that it gives many groups a chance to be heard.
“But I think the greatest thing about the election is that Malaysia had a peaceful transition of government and that’s credit to all sides.
“(It) shows you how mature a country we have become. That made me proud to be Malaysian,” Fernandes wrote.
Other major local companies featured in this pullout are no less familiar to Malaysians.
Some are synonymous with their founders who built up their businesses over time through sheer hard work, perseverance and an unflinching faith in the country and its potential.
They include Public Bank, founded in 1966 by Tan Sri Teh Hong Piow.
On Aug 23, Public Bank Bhd’s share price hit a record high and breached RM25, just shy of hitting the coveted RM100bil market capitalisation size.
Not all the companies and entrepreneurs featured in this pullout are giants though. The industries they represent are a snapshot of what Malaysia has championed, with many having strong domestic or regional and even global reach.
Also included are views of some of the country’s young entrepreneurs, who are now trailblazing some of the new business segments within Malaysia and disrupting the old ways of doing business.
Their significance is also captured in a single keyword to describe what they stand for, an adage that signifies their journey in helping to build a new Malaysia.
They also share their dreams of making it big in a new Malaysia and express their hopes for what they feel should be in place in order to help make that happen.
More stories: Star Special - National Day 2018
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