To fully understand the importance of Malaysia Day to Malaysian citizens, you must know about the history of the Malay Peninsula. While many important events can be traced to before the 9th century CE, the most relevant situations occurred as early as the 19th century CE.
- The British Empire Expands to Southeast Asia
During the 19th century, Great Britain used its colonisation of smaller nations to increase its economic and diplomatic strength. Eventually, the British Empire expanded its empire to Southeast Asia. On the Malay Peninsula, British companies exploited local labour forces and resources.
In most cases, the local Malay economy did not benefit from the fruits of this labour. The British Empire’s continued to play a major role in the governments and economies of Southeast Asian nations until the Japanese military entered the region prior to World War II.
- Japan Expands its Sphere of Influence
To combat the growing influence of the Western Empires in Asia, Japan expanded its own empire throughout East and Southeast Asia. Imperial Japan colonised many nations, including China, Burma, Indonesia, North Borneo, and Malaya.
With most of the Malay Peninsula under Japanese control, the influence of the British Empire in Southeast Asia was greatly limited. During the period of Japanese control, the indigenous populations of the Malay Peninsula clashed with Japanese military forces and government officials.
While most people did not openly defy the occupying forces, many groups in Singapore, Malaya, and North Borneo adopted nationalist ideologies. Eventually, a communist group led an armed resistance against the occupying forces. This required a heavy-handed military response to maintain stability across the Malay Peninsula.
- The Federation of Malaya Forms
To maintain peace and stability in Southeast Asia, Malaya was permitted to form its own nations. With permission from Great Britain and the United Nations, Malaya became the Federation of Malaya in 1957. The Federation of Malaya was a sovereign nation with its own government. This emboldened other nations in Southeast Asia to earn their independence.
In 1963, the Federation of Malaysia was formed. The original federation consisted of Singapore, Malay, Sarawak, and North Borneo. The declaration of Malaysia’s foundation was signed on September 16, 1963. Singapore left the federation in 1965.
- Malaysia Day Becomes a Public Holiday
To celebrate Malaysia’s sovereignty, Malaysia Day became an official public holiday in 2010. This holiday gives Malaysians a chance to learn about their nation’s history while enjoying festivities with their friends and family members.
Various celebrations take place across Kuala Lumpur and other areas of Malaysia during Malaysia Day.
- Political Addresses
Each year, prominent politicians and public figures address the Malaysian people on Malaysia Day. Common topics include politics, social issues, and Malaysian Unity. These addresses are often televised.
Although many Malaysians use Malaysia Day as an opportunity to celebrate their patriotism, some people use the holiday to criticize the Malaysian government. There are many social and political issues that have developed due to Malaysia’s diverse background, so minority groups often participate in large protests.
- Food Festivals
While diversity in Malaysia causes a bit of unrest, it also makes sure that people are able to enjoy extravagant food and music festivals. Since Malaysia consists of people from various Southeast Asian cultures, there is a wide range of food options for Malaysians to enjoy. These food festivals and other similar events allow Malaysian citizens to celebrate the diversity of Malaysia.
During Malaysia Day, Malaysian flags are commonly seen on various public and private buildings. Many people also wear red clothing to celebrate the holiday.
Malaysia Day is a holiday that allows Malaysians to celebrate the history and various cultures of their nation.