'Historic' Merdeka Day celebration kicks off in Putrajaya

NSTP

PUTRAJAYA: Tens of thousands of Malaysians are gathered at the administrative capital to witness the national-level celebration of the 61st Merdeka Day here.

Some 300,000 people are ultimately expected to attend the grand celebration.

Many people arrived as early as 5am and made a long walk into Dataran Putrajaya, as many roads have been closed to make way for the Merdeka parade.

But the clear blue skies made up for the trudge and added to the festive atmosphere.


The crowd cheered when Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali arrived at 7.50am. (NSTP/LUQMAN HAKIM ZUBIR)

The crowd cheered when Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and wife Tun Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali arrived at 7.50am.

This was followed by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V, who appeared at 8.10am clad in a full military outfit.

Sultan Muhammad inspected the guard-of-honour mounted by four officers and 103 men from the 1st Battalion of the Royal Malay Regiment led by Major Asri B. Che Wil.

Others present were Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Cabinet ministers and foreign diplomats.


Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Muhammad V with Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad and Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail at the 61st National Day celebration themed Sayangi Malaysiaku on Dataran Putrajaya. (NSTP/LUQMAN HAKIM ZUBIR)

This year's celebration is deemed to be historic, as it will be celebrated for the first time under the new Pakatan Harapan government led by Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.

It was reported that Dr Mahathir had chosen Putrajaya as the venue of the celebration to symbolise the new government, instead of the traditional venue of the iconic Dataran Merdeka in Kuala Lumpur.

This year's Merdeka will also be remembered as the first Independence Day celebration after the opposition coalition won the government, ending Barisan Nasional's 60-year rule.

Themed "Sayangi Malaysiaku" (Love my Malaysia), the celebration had been highly anticipated by citizens who are riding high on the spirit of "Malaysia Baharu"(New Malaysia).


Tens of thousands of Malaysians are gathered at the administrative capital to witness the national-level celebration of the 61st Merdeka Day here. (NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH)

The National Day celebration has been held in Putrajaya only twice before – once in 2003 and again in 2005.

This year's parade will involve 12,295 participants, 25 dogs, 60 horses, 251 land assets and 54 air assets from the Royal Malaysian Police, the Malaysian Armed Forces and other agencies.

The contingent began its 3.2km march along Persiaran Perdana here at 8am.

Reported by Hashini Kavishtri Kannan, Mohd Husni Mohd Noor, Zanariah Abd Mutalib and Noor Atiqah Sulaiman


Many people arrived as early as 5am and made a long walk into Dataran Putrajaya, as many roads have been closed to make way for the Merdeka parade. (NSTP/MOHD FADLI HAMZAH)

© New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd