As with most things in 2020, Malaysia’s 63rd Independence Day Celebrations were carried out with strong adherence to social distancing guidelines and virtual activities took centre stage over large gatherings.
This year’s theme, Malaysia Prihatin, takes on multiple meanings as it reflects our love for the country, our respect for the frontliners and, most importantly, how much we value each other’s well-being when we abide by the guidelines to combat COVID-19.
Virtual parade, historical address
While Merdeka 2020 celebrations may be muted by the standards of previous years, it was no less meaningful, especially as this year also marks the 50th Anniversary of the Rukun Negara.
The official National Day parade, the hallmark of every Merdeka celebrations of the last six decades, was conducted through a unique mix of pre-recorded and live sessions this year. And while citizens could not gather to socialise and cheer on the processions, they could still tune in to the festivities from anywhere in the country, via television or online.
The celebration featured the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Abdullah inspecting the guards of honour in Putrajaya, followed by His Majesty’s first ever Merdeka royal address, and His Majesty watching a telecast of pre-recorded marches and salutes filmed by various contingents in different locations.
The parade wasn’t the only thing done differently this year. There were many official programmes that bridge the physical and virtual worlds. [email protected], for example, is an anchor campaign of the Department of Information that aimed to inspire patriotism through grassroot activities such as flag distribution days, visits to marginalised communities and busking by local performers.
This was complemented by the Semarak Kita Merdeka roadshows, to encourage Malaysians across the country to fly our national flag. These initiatives resulted in tens of thousands of photos of Malaysians flying the Jalur Gemilang in their homes and community areas, flooding social media.
Lively competition and entertainment
Malaysians also participated in various patriotic and creative competitions to win attractive prizes throughout the Merdeka and Malaysia Day period. For example, the Sayembara Sajak Merdeka, a poetry writing competition open to Malaysians in tertiary education aged 18 and above. Selfie enthusiasts, and Instagrammers submitted the most creative Merdeke-themed photos for the chance to win RM6,000 in cash at the [email protected] 2020 photography competition.
For something a bit more intellectual, the Pertandingan Pidato Kenegaraan virtual elocution competition allowed participants to submit a seven to 10-minute video of their speech on any of the 10 Merdeka-related topics on offer, while the Pertandingan Bintang Patriotik aimed to discover the next Malaysian singing sensation using the Smule app. Beyond that, the Rukun Negara Golden Jubilee e-Treasure Hunt 2020 organised by Bernama enabled Malaysians to take a virtual tour from Perlis to Sabah and immerse themselves in fun trivia about the country.
One advantage of online competitions and events is that Malaysians from all over the world have been able to participate in virtually everything on offer this year. This includes tuning into the weekly online jamming sessions on offer throughout August performed by Pentarama Live Jams, featuring Malaysian singing sensations covering the greatest hits from the last few decades. Pentarama also held its own virtual Merdeka countdown concert via Facebook LIVE on August 30th.
While official events are aplenty, Malaysians have also taken it upon themselves to celebrate Merdeka in creative and engaging ways. Eight cosplayers in Perak organised their own Cosplay Merdeka @ Malaysia Prihatin 2020 event where they gathered at Kellie’s Castle in Ipoh dressed as their favourite anime or superhero characters to the delight of all visitors. Appropriately masked, the costumed merrymakers even took pictures with children and families.
“The Perak Cosplay Community @ Cosplay Perak Bangkit is an initiative which is able to generate income and has the potential to become another tourism attraction in Perak,” Managing director of Kellie’s Castle, Zamari Muhyi said to the Ipoh Echo when praising the Perak cosplayers’ creativity in making Merdeka their own.
Slider Photo 1 Credit to: https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2020/08/31/rukun-negara-encapsulates-malaysias-soul-spirit-and-national-unity-says-ago/1898708