Friday September 7, 2007
In today's fast-paced society, we’re always advised to embrace
the future instead of dwelling in the past. However, when it comes
to nation-building, remembering the bygone era is important as you
can acquire many priceless information imbedded in the past. Four
readers - Chiam Tah Wen, Datin Loh Soo Koon, Hamid Ibrahim and
Estrand Pereira - shared their treasured Merdeka-related stories of
the past with StarMetro.
Chiam Tah Wen
How many people in the country knew that the very first public
announcement of our nation's independence was actually made in the
Malayan Teachers' Training College, Kirkby, Liverpool?
Not only did Chiam
Tah Wen know the fact well, he was also part of the lucky ones who
heard it personally from Tunku Abdul Rahman on Feb 7, 1956. He was
then a trainee at the college, which was set up by the Malayan
government to train teachers to serve the country.
A precious moment: Hamid Ibrahim (middle)
showing Tunku Abdul Rahman the book he penned. Looking on is
his son Nasser.
“Many trainees and I were very privileged and honoured to hear
the momentous announcement by our beloved Tunku at Kirkby, and his
emotive words of Merdeka set our heart fluttering and surging,” said
He remembered vividly Tunku's memorable announcement, “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!”
Datin Loh Soo Koon
Datin Loh Soo Koon was also among the trainees at the Malayan
Teachers' Training College, Kirkby during the historical moment.
“The Malayan Film Unit caught Zainal Arshad Zainal Abidin and I
shouting 'Merdeka!' enthusiastically after Tunku,” she said.
For her, the time spent in Britain held many sweet memories of
her youth, with many activities lined up for them to
“The overseas tours quenched our thirst for knowledge and
enriched our perspective,” said the 72-year-old.
She added that the British were impressed by all of them, since
they “spoke proper English and behaved very well”.
The extra curricular activities they had at the college included
choir and dancing, where Loh actively participated in the dancing
Malaysian Law Publishers founder Hamid Ibrahim felt honoured to
be able to meet Tunku Abdul Rahman personally in 1987, at Tunku's
residence in Kuala Lumpur.
“Tunku was very kind to receive me and my son, Nasser,” said the
75-year-old, who presented Tunku with his “Malaysian Constitutions”
and “The Malaysian Law Dictionary” penned in 1986.
“It was one of the proudest moments in my life,” he said.
Hamid added that Tunku was a humble and most gracious host, and
the meeting was “peppered with many instances of laughter as he had
a great sense of humour”.
On the historic Aug 31, 1957, Hamid was among the crowd at the
“There was an air of great expectations of the future, an energy
that consumed and embraced us all that day,” he said.
On May 1, 1951, Estrand Pereira joined the British Army to fight
against the communists as a civilian employee.
As someone who worked closely with the army on the front line, it
was only natural for Estrand to feel the tension of communist
activities first hand.
“In 1954, I was nominated to travel with Gurkha troops in
military trucks and stationed in deep jungle areas in Kuala Pilah,
Kuala Lipis, Bahau, Bentong and Pahang boundary area.
“While moving along with the troops I had to wear army uniform to
avoid identification of civilian movements by communist and to avoid
casualties,” he said.
For the veteran, Aug 31, 1957, remained the most joyous day of
his life when he went to the stadium in an army truck.
“I felt a great sense of patriotism when Tunku Abdul Rahman
proclaimed Merdeka. I responded to the joyful shouts of Merdeka
along with the huge crowd of multiracial society,” said the