Dear Tuan Haji Zainal

In response to your request, I am trying  to recall
that significant day:
 
TIME momentarily stood still  when our beloved Tunku
made that epoch-making
announcement on the stage of the austere Kirkby
College assembly hall in
far-away England on February 7 1956.
 
"Malaya would gain its independence on 31, August
1957 and we would be free
to build a free nation and chart our own course of
events!" he declared in a
resolute voice. He  said that all Malayans,
irrespective of race, colour or
creed must put our shoulder to the wheel to forge a
new united nation and
holding our heads high.

He also mentioned that he had chosen Kirkby to make
that announcement first
as he felt teachers would be the key to development
of a Malayan nation.

This declaration was made for the FIRST time to the
Malayan community of
students in a country 8,000 miles away. Though it
was wintry,the hearts of
those present  in the hall including 300 students
were however warm and
throbbing. The hall was packed to capacity. Seated on
the stage were the
Tunku, Papa Gurney, Abdul Razak ( Later on Tun ),
the Vice Chancellor of the
University of Liverpool Sir James Mountford and
other members of the Malayan
delegation who had successfully negotiated with the
British Government for
Malaya's independence. The first two rows in the hall
were taken up by our
orang putih lecturers and two Malayan staff members
teaching us Malay.
 
Immediately after the declaration, all of us stood
up and shouted
merdeka, merdeka, merdeka with fists punching into the
air. The sound
reverberated through the Merseyside.
 
In a way, the arrival of the Tunku and other Malayan
VIPs on February 7
1956 took practically all of us by surprise. Only on
that morning were we
told by our Principal that some important guests
would be visiting the
college in the afternoon.
We were asked to decorate the hall and  put up flags
and buntings. I
remember that our Student Union members including
the president Rahim
Seenikati, secretary Khoo Phon Sai , entertainment
committee chairman Zainal
Arshad Abidin and other students including Ms Lim
Hock Nee and Cheong Soo
Lan were busily helping out in the decoration.
 
February 7 1956 was a momentous day and history was
made.
 
Chiam Tah Wen
Kirkby 1954-56 & 1962