All that glitter of a golden show
By Aemy Azlena in Kuala Lumpur

His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam yesterday morning consented to attend the grand parade marking the 50th Anniversary of Malaysia's Independence Day.

His Majesty was greeted on arrival by the Malaysian Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and the Minister of Culture, Arts and Heritage Datuk Seri Utama Dr Rais Yatim who is the chairman of the Independence Day celebration.

Also in attendance was His Royal Highness Prince Abdul Malik.

His Majesty was among the special guests of His Majesty Al-Wathiqu Billah Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah.

Other dignitaries included Britain's Prince Andrew the Duke of York representing Queen Elizabeth II, the Crown Prince of Thailand, Maha Vajiralongkorn, the President of the Philippines Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the Governor General of Australia, Michael Jefery as well as heads of government of Asean member countries.

The parade held at the Merdeka Square saw many turning up as early as 5am to get good seats and get past the road blocks. Many came dressed in their countries' flag colours and even wrapped up in the flags themselves.

More than 25,000 people took part in the event with the parade comprising contingents from the public and the private sector including 35 brass bands and 15 floats.

Shortly after was the arrival of His Majesty the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia and Seri Paduka Baginda Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Nur Zahirah.

The event started off with the raising of Jalur Gemilang flag with the National Anthem playing to gun salutes. This was followed by a singing of patriotic songs including "Jalur Gemilang", "Cemerlang, Gemilang, Terbilang" and "Malaysiaku Gemilang".

Fifty was the magic number with 50 students reading out the oath (ikrar) "Rukun Negara" then a shout of "Merdeka" seven times by the head oath reader followed by all those present.

Aside from the parade, there were also field performances and aerial maneuvers by helicopters and aircrafts as well as field performers dressed head-to-toe in the national flag's colours and holding up patriotic placards.

Field performances had thousands students forming into different forms and shapes, including the map of Malaysia (Peninsular and Sabah and Sarawak), logos and emblems as well as the flag of Malaysia.

The National Day parade showcased the achievements and successes of the country in the past 50 years. There were five segments, each representing the five eras of the five Prime Ministers - Independence (Tunku Abdul Rahman), Development (Tun Abdul Razak), Integration (Tun Hussein Onn), Modernisation (Tun Mahathir Mohamad) and Excellence (Datuk Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi).

The parade consisted of groups and parties from the past and the present dressed in all forms of costumes and uniforms with colourful floats and vintage cars also taking part in the parade.

The total number of participants was 12,570 on foot, 10,000 in field performance, choir, drummers and performers, 25 military vehicles, 14 floats and 52 aircraft.

To highlight this historical moment, the Constitution Letter was handed over to the Prime Minister who opened and placed it in a capsule. This was followed by a holographic shot of the Tunku reading the last paragraph of the letter.

Meanwhile on Thursday, Malaysians from all walks of life as well as guests from other countries counted down the seconds to midnight during the Merdeka Eve Celebration.

While the 13 states and federal territories in Malaysia organised state-level events, the entire nation via the Ministry of Arts, Culture and Heritage has seven major programmes to commemorate the anniversary.

The first was the launching ceremony of the Merdeka Celebration on August 17 followed by Religious Programmes from August 29 and then the Merdeka Eve Celebration.

The Merdeka Eve Celebration took place in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building, Merdeka Square where thousands of Malaysians, including 30,000 UMNO, 1,000 MCA and 1,000 MIC youth wing members, 5,000 representatives from the nation's political parties, the general public and those invited from about 50 countries turned up to witness the re-enactment of the countdown to independence in 1957.

During the early part of the night, videos of "Moments of Independence" were played on large screens and projected onto the walls of nearby buildings. Patriotic and traditional songs sang by artistes such as Mawi, drums performance, martial arts demonstrations and school brass bands were also among the performances for the night.

A ceremonial lowering down of the British flag and the raising of the Malaysian flag was also held to re-enact the historic events of 50 years ago.

As the crowds started to count down to midnight, the light was darkened and at the stroke of midnight just as the Malaysians did before 50 years ago, the crowd cheered "Merdeka! Merdeka!" led by the Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Hj Ahmad Badawi.

That night the Prime Minister gave a passionate address to the crowd, calling on them to work towards development, peace, security and economic success for the benefit of all.

The night ended with a fireworks display much to the appreciation of the crowds who were present just outside the Merdeka Square and along the roads leading to it. - Borneo Bulletin (1st September 2007)