KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysians from the old and young generation, representing the various groups in the society, were given the opportunity to interact with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Abdul Razak in an informal session named “Negaraku Merdeka Bersama Perdana Menteri” recently.
“Today, I opt to make a difference, where my ‘Merdeka’ message will be delivered in a relax, informal and more friendly environment,” said the prime minister at the start of his speech.
The groups of Malaysians are the special invitees to the event for the recording of of the Merdeka Message by the prime minister, the first time ever held at a townhall session and aired by all local television stations at 11am today.
They comprised school students, academicians, professionals, Kuala Lumpur SEA Games 2017 athletes, members of the security forces and two former members of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) who lowered the British Union Jack and replaced it by raising the Federation of the Malayan flag for the first time on Aug 31, 1957.
In previous years, the Merdeka Message by the Prime Minister was delivered at a more formal venue.
The townhall session began with a video show to recall the historic moments on Aug 31, 1957 and a chronology of the country’s progress.
Before the programme started, Najib, clad in red shirt and brown pants, was greeted on arrival by a children mini-choir to sing the national anthem, Negaraku.
The Jalur Gemilang and flags of the various states that adorn the venue enhances the patriotic spirit among those present as they joined in singing the national anthem.
After the singing of the national anthem, the prime minister recalled the time when the country achieved its independence.
“Although, I am considered in the pre-merdeka category, the truth is when our country achieved its independence, I was only four-years-old and certainly I cannot remember the moment that has become very meaningful to us all.
“However, I can tell my experience, which is still etched in my mind, the time when I was growing up at Federal Hill KL. I can still remember cycling up and down the hill, going to school, playing fire crackers, climbing guava trees, like any youngsters do.
“I was born, grew up like other Malaysian children,” he said to an applause from the audience.
After that, a student of Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan Chong Hwa Gombak, Samuel Chau Jun Hao, stood up and asked the prime minister the challenges of becoming a Prime Minister for all Malaysians.
Najib said it was not easy to be a Prime Minister in a country with diverse race, religion and culture , but was proud that the people in the country were able to live in harmony with respect for the constitution and the Rukunegara.
“It’s difficult Samuel. Look at my hair,” he said while brushing his hair to laughter from those present.
Among those who gave their views and shared their experience at the session were director of the Research Centre for the Malay Rulers Institute, Prof Datin Paduka Ramlah Adam, who thanked Tun Abdul Razak , when he was Education Minister, for including religious education as a subject in the country’s education system.
Another was an architect with the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) project, Sarah Sofia Yahya , who shared her experience being involved in the country’s mega public transportation project.
National gymnast Farah Ann Abdul Hadi and national sprinter Khairul Hafiz Jantan thanked Malaysians for supporting the national contingent at the KL SEA Games 2017.
The situation turned somber and melancholy when a former freedom fighter from Komando VAT 69, Tawel Jailani, shared his experience fighting the enemies to seek independence for the country.
“I can still feel how difficult it was at the battle field in fighting the enemies and watching my colleagues injured and killed,” he said, while wiping his tears.
The audience was also taken to reminisce the time during the declaration of the country’s independence 60 years ago by two retirees of the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), Lt Commander (Rtd) Mohd Sharif Kalam and Warrant Officer 1 Commander (Rtd) Oliver Culvelt Samuel who were tasked to lower the British Union Jack and replaced it by raising the Federation of the Malayan flag for the first time on Aug 31, 1957.
Suddenly, the prime minister got up from his seat and went to shake hands with the two RMN retirees and hugged them, while crying out the word “Merdeka”.
In the National Day message, the prime minister said his administration did not wish to waste time staving off allegations but would rather remain committed and determined to focus on efforts to spur intensive economic growth for the sake of the people.
Najib said his administration believed in service to the people which, he added, must go beyond politics and be in the people’s interests.
The session lasted for about 45 minutes and ended with those present flying the Jalur Gemilang and shouting “Merdeka” and “Negaraku Malaysia”. –Bernama