In today's fast-paced society, we’re always
advised to embrace the future instead of
dwelling in the past. However, when it
comes to nation-building, remembering the
bygone era is important as you can acquire
many priceless information imbedded in the
past. Four readers - Chiam Tah Wen, Datin Loh Soo Koon, Hamid Ibrahim and Estrand Pereira - shared their treasured Merdeka-related stories of the past with StarMetro.
Chiam Tah Wen
How many people in the country knew that the very first public announcement of our nation's independence was actually made in the Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool?
A precious moment: Hamid Ibrahim (middle) showing Tunku Abdul Rahman the book
he penned. Looking on is his son Nasser.
Not only did Chiam Tah Wen know the fact well, he was also part of the lucky ones who heard it personally from Tunku Abdul Rahman on Feb 7, 1956. He was then a trainee at the college, which was set up by the Malayan government to train teachers to serve the country.
“Many trainees and I were very privileged and honoured to hear the momentous announcement by our beloved Tunku at Kirkby, and his emotive words of Merdeka set our heart fluttering and surging,” said the 71-year-old.
He remembered vividly Tunku's memorable announcement, “Malaya would gain its independence on 31, August 1957 and we would be free to build a free nation and chart our own course of events!”
Datin Loh Soo Koon
Datin Loh Soo Koon was also among the trainees at the Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby during the historical moment.
“The Malayan Film Unit caught Zainal Arshad Zainal Abidin and I shouting 'Merdeka!' enthusiastically after Tunku,” she said.
For her, the time spent in Britain held many sweet memories of her youth, with many activities lined up for them to participate.
“The overseas tours quenched our thirst for knowledge and enriched our perspective,” said the 72-year-old.
She added that the British were impressed by all of them, since they “spoke proper English and behaved very well”.
The extra curricular activities they had at the college included choir and dancing, where Loh actively participated in the dancing society.
Malaysian Law Publishers founder Hamid Ibrahim felt honoured to be able to meet Tunku Abdul Rahman personally in 1987, at Tunku's residence in Kuala Lumpur.
“Tunku was very kind to receive me and my son, Nasser,” said the 75-year-old, who presented Tunku with his “Malaysian Constitutions” and “The Malaysian Law Dictionary” penned in 1986.
“It was one of the proudest moments in my life,” he said.
Hamid added that Tunku was a humble and most gracious host, and the meeting was “peppered with many instances of laughter as he had a great sense of humour”.
On the historic Aug 31, 1957, Hamid was among the crowd at the Merdeka Stadium.
“There was an air of great expectations of the future, an energy that consumed and embraced us all that day,” he said.
On May 1, 1951, Estrand Pereira joined the British Army to fight against the communists as a civilian employee.
As someone who worked closely with the army on the front line, it was only natural for Estrand to feel the tension of communist activities first hand.
“In 1954, I was nominated to travel with Gurkha troops in military trucks and stationed in deep jungle areas in Kuala Pilah, Kuala Lipis, Bahau, Bentong and Pahang boundary area.
“While moving along with the troops I had to wear army uniform to avoid identification of civilian movements by communist and to avoid casualties,” he said.
For the veteran, Aug 31, 1957, remained the most joyous day of his life when he went to the stadium in an army truck.
“I felt a great sense of patriotism when Tunku Abdul Rahman proclaimed Merdeka. I responded to the joyful shouts of Merdeka along with the huge crowd of multiracial society,” said the 76-year-old.