KUALA LUMPUR: The 56th Merdeka Day parade at Dataran Merdeka here drew hordes of spectators as Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak called upon the people to defend the nation’s sovereignty in a rousing speech.
The enthusiasm and response of the crowd on a hazy morning spurred Najib to briefly address the crowd shortly after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Tuanku Abdul Halim Mu’adzam Shah and Raja Permaisuri Agong Tuanku Hajah Haminah took leave from the parade.
“This year’s Merdeka theme ‘Malaysia Berdaulat: Tanah Tumpahnya Darahku’ (My Sovereign Malaysia. My Homeland) is truly apt.
“This is the land that we were born in, where we grew up and made our livelihoods, and if God willing, it will be our homeland where we are finally laid to rest in,” he said to thunderous applause.
“We will defend our beloved nation with all that we possess, with all our spirit and even with our lives,” he said.
Earlier on, Tuanku Abdul Halim and Tuanku Hajah Haminah inspected a guard of honour led by 107 officers and men from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Malay Regiment.
The crowds were later treated to a march past by 23 marching units, 16 marching bands, and display of military hardware that included armoured vehicles, tanks, as well as fighter jets. More than 15,000 participants were involved in the parade that ended with a special “war chant” performance by the armed forces’ rapid deployment force.
Also present at the event were Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin, Cabinet ministers and foreign dignitaries.
At Kota Tinggi, Johor Mentri Besar Datuk Seri Mohamed Khaled Nordin led a procession made up of heads of departments for a distant of about 500m to the Bandar Penawar stadium.
Pahang’s Merdeka celebration featured a pantomime alongside the usual march past, with organisers putting up a 45-minute performance at Kuantan’s MPK1 field that reenacted the Japanese Occupation, the communist insurgency and the protest rallies of recent years, followed by the Lahad Datu incursion.
In Seremban, about 15,000 participants involving 129 contingents from various agencies, departments and NGOs took part in a parade at the Seremban Municipal Council field.
In Alor Setar, an unarmed combat display was put up by members of the Sixth Military Police Brigade based in Sungai Petani accompanied by music by a brass band display from the Kepala Batas Air Force College.
In Ipoh, about 10,000 people thronged the municipal hall compound as early as 7am to watch 110 contingents taking part in a colourful parade, while in Kuala Terengganu, the state-level parade was held at the Sultan Ismail Nasiruddin Shah stadium.