Tue09192017

LAST_UPDATEWed, 20 Sep 2017 8am

The Union Jack Was Lowered On This Day 60 Years Ago

Lowering of the Union Jack in Banda Hilir Field, Malacca, 30 August 1957. Pic: Arkib NegaraLowering of the Union Jack in Banda Hilir Field, Malacca, 30 August 1957. Pic: Arkib Negara

On the eve of Merdeka 60 years ago, the Union Jack flag was finally lowered to symbolise the end of British rule in Malaya.

The Union Jack was lowered twice, where the first took place at 6.30pm in Padang Pahlawan, Bandar Hilir, Melaka in front of thousands of people.

It was lowered earlier than the stipulated end of British rule in Malaya, which was set on August 31, 1957, to mark the end of 133 years of British rule in Melaka.

The historic lowering of the Union Jack on Malayan soil was carried out by two sailors from a small warship H.M.S Saint Bride’s Bay accompanied by the playing of flutes.

Later that day, thousands of people from all over the country swarmed Merdeka Square (used to be known as the Selangor Club Field) to witness the second lowering of the Union Jack at the stroke of midnight, August 31, 1957.

People began to fill in the field at 9pm with most of the men wearing Baju Melayu in various colours and the women wearing a white blouse, Batik sarong and a shawl on their shoulders.

Then at 11.58pm, Tunku Abdul Rahman arrived at the field in a car that was accompanied by a convoy of 30 motorcycles ridden by Pemuda Perikatan, where the lights in the area were then turned off.

The people stood in darkness for two minutes before midnight to mark the official handover and at 12am, the lights were turned on again and the Union Jack flag was simultaneously lowered by UMNO Youth Mohd Tahir Majid to symbolise the end of British rule in Malaya.

The Union Jack was replaced by the raising of the Federation of Malaya flag by Hamzah Alang and was accompanied by the national anthem Negaraku that was sung for the first time, and they called ‘Merdeka’ seven times.

Lowering of the Union Jack flag in at the Selangor Club Field on 30 August 1957. Pic: Arkib NegaraLowering of the Union Jack flag in at the Selangor Club Field on 30 August 1957. Pic: Arkib Negara

Tunku Abdul Rahman, who was the prime minister-elect, said in his speech that it was the greatest moment in the life of the Malayan people.

Among the people who were there to witness the historic moment was Toh Puan Umasundari Sambanthan, the wife of late Tun V.T Sambanthan.

“I cannot describe that feeling when the Malaysian flag was hoisted for the first time at the stroke of midnight on August 31, 1957. Everyone was emotional. We couldn’t believe this was actually happening.

“For all of us there, we were seeing the national flag for the first time, hearing the national anthem for the first time, feeling freedom for the first time - now we were free to think for ourselves,” she told the New Straits Times.

Wan Mohamad Salih, who was then 17 years old, recounted how he took a 10-hour train ride all the way from Kuala Kangsar to Kuala Lumpur with his grandfather on August 30, 1957 so that he could be part of the historic moment.

“We were so excited! Despite the long journey and the knowledge we could get caught in a possible communist ambush, my grandfather was determined to witness the historic moment,” he recalled the night where he saw people of all races and backgrounds mingled happily.

“Many people who went to the padang that night were there to see two things - the lowering of the Union Jack and hoisting of the Federation of Malaya flag.

“Surprisingly, no one had made an announcement to the gathering to sing the national anthem together. But they sang their hearts out anyway and to this day, that was the loudest unorchestrated Negaraku I have ever heard,” he shared.

Another recollection that has been documented was the memories of Tan Sri Dr Yahaya Ibrahim, who was assigned as the protocol officer for the Japanese delegation at that time.

“My hair raised and I nearly shed a tear when I heard the reverberating shouts of ‘Merdeka’ and seeing the flag of the Federation of Malaya proudly flying in the sky.

“I feel very lucky. I was not only able to witness the momentous event of the country’s independence but also being involved in the celebrations,” he said.

Interestingly, he also said that the foreign delegations including the Japanese officers that he accompanied also chanted ‘Merdeka’ and it became louder when Tunku started to meet with the people who were present to mark the day when six million people that made up Malaya were officially free.

-mD