| Jaspal Singh | People | 22 Aug 2015 | Asia Samachar |
Pertab Singh was a 25-year-old driver with the 12 Transport Company of the Federation of Malaya Volunteer Army Service Corps when he received orders in the first week of July 1957 to go to Kuala Lumpur to help Merdeka Day preparations at Merdeka Stadium.[Merdeka is independence in Malay]. He talks to JASPAL SINGH, his son, on events that took place 58 years ago
“AS weeks turned into days and days into hours, the Merdeka buzz got even louder as final preparations intensified. I was informed by my superior that I would have to report for duty at 5am on Aug 31 at the Merdeka Stadium.
I had earlier told my wife, Gurcharan Kaur, that I would be away in Kuala Lumpur for two months. My two children, a girl and a boy, were just three years old and one year old then.
But I was not too worried about leaving them. We had good neighbours at the hospital quarters who were like family.
Once the inspection and service of the trucks were done, the seven of us drove in three trucks to Kuala Lumpur. It took us more than half a day to reach along the trunk road.
And the danger of a communist attack was real. But we were armed in the event of an attack. Back in the 1950s, the army driver was usually the first casualty in an ambush by the communist terrorists.
Once in Kuala Lumpur, which I was visiting for the first time, we were asked to report to the company office near Circular Road.
On the morning of Merdeka Day, I arrived at 4am and had breakfast. At 5am, a colleague and I were assigned to be at the gate through which VIPs would enter the stadium. I was to check each invitation card before allowing the VIPs in. It was a hectic morning as thousands began arriving as early as 6am.
The Malay rulers were in attendance with representatives from foreign governments like India, Burma (now Myanmar), Ceylon (Sri Lanka) and Pakistan.
The atmosphere was electrifying. I wished I had been able to enter the stadium that day but my orders were to remain at the gate. From where I was standing, I could hear shouts of ‘Merdeka!’ Even before Tunku uttered the word, there were many in the crowd who could be heard shouting it at the top of their voices.
Then I heard the speeches. I distinctly remember Tunku’s voice when he read out the proclamation of independence. After that, the Merdeka chant filled the air. For a moment, I closed my eyes and felt the excitement reverberating inside me. When the chants died down, the Negaraku [Malaysia’s national anthem] was played. I cannot even put in words how I felt at that moment — to witness the birth of a new nation.
The event at the Merdeka Stadium ended around noon. When the crowd left, we went back to our barracks. It was evening when we returned. That night we went to dinner in town.
I vividly remember us chatting about how lucky we were to witness the proclamation of independence. We hoped to tell our children and grandchildren about it one day.
We did not stay out long that night because we had to wake early the next day to take part in the march-past in front of the Sultan Abdul Samad Building.
When I returned home, I regaled my neighbours and colleagues with stories about my Merdeka experience. I was very lucky to witness the birth of Malaya. I hope to live to see the 60th Merdeka Day celebrations in 2017.”
ORIGINAL article, entitled I was very lucky to witness the birth of Malaya appeared in The Malay Mail on 22 Aug 2015.
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