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September 16th: Five Interesting Facts About Malaysia Day

The close proximity of Merdeka and Malaysia Day, just two weeks apart, often leads to confusion among many, Malaysians included. Although they are both public holidays celebrating our nation, it’s crucial to recognise that these two occasions have different significance. 

Here are 5 lesser-known facts about Malaysia Day.

#1: It Celebrates The Founding Of The Malaysian Federation

Whereas Merdeka celebrates Malaysia’s independence from the British Empire, Malaysia Day instead marks the founding of the Malaysian Federation.

On September 16th, 1963, a few years following Malaysia’s independence in 1957, Singapore, North Borneo (now Sabah), and Sarawak united with the Federation of Malaya to establish the Malaysian Federation. However, Singapore eventually withdrew from the Federation in 1965, precisely two years later, on August 9th, becoming an independent nation and celebrating its National Day. This significant event marks the formation of the Malaysia we recognise today[1]

#2: It Wasn’t Always A Public Holiday

Malaysia Day wasn’t considered to be a national public holiday until 2010. 

In October 2009, the then-Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, announced that Malaysia would declare a public holiday in the coming year. He stated that the day would involve activities promoting and fostering the spirit of 1Malaysia.

We want the joy and sorrows of the people in Sabah and Sarawak to be felt by the people in the Peninsula. – Former Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak[3]

#3: Malaysia Day Would Have Been on June 1st

Tunku Abdul Rahman. (Source: The Rakyat Post)

Imagine celebrating Malaysia Day before Merdeka. That would have been the scenario if the federation had initially formed on the intended date of June 1st, 1963. However, this date was postponed to September 16th to align with the sixth anniversary of Merdeka on August 31st[3].

The postponement stemmed from the challenge posed by the Indonesian President at the time, Sukarno. Sukarno contested the federation plan, perceiving Borneo as a part of Indonesia. To allow the United Nations sufficient time to assess whether the formation of Malaysia was proceeding against the will of the people in Borneo, Malaysia’s first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, consented to reschedule Malaysia Day to September 16, 1963[2].

#4: Peninsular Malaysia And Sabah & Sarawak Decided To Have Different Time Zones

Ironically, on the very day when Malaysia officially became a federation, the two landmasses comprising the new country opted for different time zones. Peninsular Malaysia retained GMT +07:30, while Sabah and Sarawak moved ahead by 30 minutes to GMT +08:00.

Coincidentally, 16 September also marks Malaysian Armed Forces Day (Hari Angkatan Tentera Malaysia), a commemoration established 30 years earlier in 1933 during the British colonial era[2].

#5: A Song Was Written About Malaysia Day

Did you know that a Canadian songwriter wrote a song celebrating the formation of the Malaysian Federation?

Ironically, the song, Malaysia Forever, wasn’t even written in Malaysia; Bobby Gimby, “The Pied Piper of Canada”, wrote the song whilst on a business trip in Singapore in 1962. The song was recorded in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore and was then sung by the Choir of the Marymount Vocational School in Singapore. The song became very popular, spurred by frequent radio play, and was even considered as Malaysia’s ‘unofficial national anthem’[2].

How To Celebrate Malaysia Day

Here are three ways you can celebrate Malaysia Day[4]:

  • Pay tribute to the fallen soldiers as well as those citizens who lost their lives in achieving independence.
  • Attend ceremonies to give support to your nation and raise your people’s morale. If you don’t want to attend an official ceremony, you can also arrange a small one at your school or home where you can educate others about the nation’s rich history.
  • Watch parades live or at home on your TV. You can also listen to the national songs of Malaysia or watch a documentary to get to know more about the country’s history.

Explore our sources:

  1. H. Hekmat. (2022). Merdeka Day vs Malaysia Day: Why Malaysians celebrate a ‘second National Day’. Yahoo News. Link.
  2. M. Suraya. (2021). Malaysia Day VS Merdeka: The Significance, Difference And Importance Of 16 September. The Rakyat Post. Link.
  3. Y. Ai Chun. (2009). Malaysia Day now a public holiday, says PM. The Star. Link.
  4. National Today. Link.

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