KUALA LUMPUR: The harmony of the Malaysian Family was evident on the faces of thousands of people from all walks of life who converged excitedly on Dataran Merdeka here to celebrate National Day together.
With the theme "Keluarga Malaysia Teguh Bersama” (Malaysian Family, Strong Together), this year’s celebration expresses the gratitude and pride of the country's pluralistic society.
People started arriving as early as 4.30am on Wednesday (Aug 31) to get a good spot from which to watch the celebration and parade.
A sea of people, including international tourists, took the opportunity to show their appreciation and understanding of the theme by displaying a spirit of patriotism, togetherness and unity in enlivening the colourful, large-scale celebration.
Held for the first time after two years of the Covid-19 pandemic, the parade and march-past by nearly 20,000 participants showcased components of nationhood, frontliners, governance, public order, national security and the Malaysian Family, accompanied by an air show.
The parade, which also involved a total of 369 land assets and 68 air assets, as well as 76 service animals in service, was broadcast live by television stations and social media sites.
The Radio Televisyen Malaysia (RTM) orchestra led by the station’s music director Datuk Mokhzani Ismail, who is involved in the event for the first time, kept the crowd engrossed by playing patriotic songs.
Dignitaries and national leaders started to arrive at 7.30am, followed by Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri'ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tunku Hajah Azizah Aminah Maimunah Iskandariah in a royal carriage.
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According to Communications and Multimedia Minister Tan Sri Annuar Musa, this year's main organising committee chairman for the National Day and Malaysia Day celebrations, the horse carriage was last used by Tuanku Syed Sirajudin Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail during the National Day celebration at Dataran Putrajaya in 2005.
As soon as Al-Sultan Abdullah and Tunku Azizah took their places at the royal box, five helicopters did a fly-by as the national anthem played.
His Majesty was then given the Royal salute and invited to inspect the guard of honour mounted by four officers and 103 members, led by Major Nurul Fauzan Md Sabri, of the First Battalion of the Royal Malay Regiment.
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, members of the Cabinet, diplomats and foreign representatives and dignitaries also attended the celebration, which began with the singing of the national anthem and the hoisting of the Jalur Gemilang.
The flag-raising was accompanied by a 14-gun salute, symbolising the 14 states and territories in Malaysia, by Unit 41 Battery of the Royal Artillery Regiment led by Lt Col Mohamad Asri Che Wil.
The atmosphere was enlivened when the theme song for the event, "Keluarga Malaysia Teguh Bersama” (Malaysian Family Strong Together) echoed through the parade grounds.
The song was sung by Alif Satar & The Locos, together with the Keluarga Malaysia choir accompanied by the RTM Orchestra.
The focus after that was the reading of the Rukun Negara by 65 participants from various races, led by national sprinter Muhammad Azeem Mohd Fahmi, the current Malaysian 100m outdoor record holder with a time of 10.09 seconds.
This was followed by shouts of "Merdeka!" seven times, reflecting Tunku Abdul Rahman's declaration of Independence in 1957.
This year, a special colour guard performance was held by 600 secondary school students under the coordination of the Student Talent Development Unit of the Selangor Education Department.
Leading the segment on nationhood was a parade by 60 cadet officers from the Military Training Academy, National Defence University of Malaysia (UPNM) and trainee cadets from the Royal Malaysia Police Training Centre carrying huge flags.
It was followed by a procession of 330 bearers of the Jalur Gemilang and state flags.
In an illustration of the togetherness and synergy of the Malaysian public services, 27 ministries and departments from the general service, economic, industrial, security, infrastructure, public and social sectors joined in the contingent for ministries.
A contingent by the Malaysian Chefs Association led by its president Khairuddin Kamarudin also took part. Tunku Azizah is the patron of this association which was established in 1977 with the objective of uniting culinary professionals and creating relationships among industry players and forging professional collaboration.
The Kembara Merdeka Keluarga convoy followed, comprising five units of four-wheel drive vehicles from the Malaysian Information Department and 65 high-powered BMW K16 motorcycles, led by Sabri Said.
For the segment on sports, an element that unites Malaysians, national athletes including those who represented the country at the 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games went past in two hop-on, hop-off buses to thunderous applause from the spectators.
Also participating in the parade were 30 classic vehicles carrying celebrities and production crew, including film director Datuk Yusof Haslam and the cast of the blockbuster film Mat Kilau, Datuk Jalaluddin Hassan and Shaharuddin Thamby.
A total of 650 participants from 33 government-linked companies (GLC), government-linked investment companies (GLIC) and private companies, as well as floats carrying various mascots of local animated characters such as Didi & Friends, Omar and Hana, BoBoiBoy and Papa Zola followed.
In the public order segment, the frontline contingent attracted the attention of the crowd, with the participation of health workers from the Health Ministry and security personnel from the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM).
For the national security segment, the Malaysian Armed Forces started with a demonstration of an elite force hostage rescue operation, followed by a parade of ATM assets.
Air assets belonging to Malaysian security forces were also displayed in an air show, including the A400M and C-130 Hercules belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).
Kuala Lumpur's airspace reverberated with the sound of fighter jets and other aircraft, including helicopters, from the Armed Forces, police, Fire and Rescue Department and the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
The theme song for Keluarga Malaysia, composed by Jerry with lyrics by Annuar, concluded the morning's celebrations. – Bernama