By Dewi Amira Dania
This year’s Merdeka parade celebrates Malaysia’s 65 year themed Keluarga Malaysia Teguh Bersama (Malaysian Family Strong Together), for the first time after two years of containing the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, the Merdeka parade is an annual event usually held at Dataran Merdeka without fail. However, in 2020 this all changed when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country. The pandemic caused many celebrations including the Merdeka parade to come to a halt to prevent the dangerous transmission of the virus.
Many Malaysians celebrated Merdeka in the comfort of their own homes instead. However, with COVID-19 cases decreasing and with the restrictions easing, the Merdeka parade was allowed to be held in 2022. As the parade was allowed to restart again, my friend and I decided that this was the perfect time to go to the parade especially after many lockdowns and restrictions that had happened. We were so excited and were looking forward to attending our first ever Merdeka parade.
It mentioned online that the parade was to start at 7am. This led to many Malaysians waking up as early as 3am just to get ready to go to the LRT station that opened at 4:30am in order to beat the crowds and get a decent seat to watch the parade at Dataran Merdeka.
However, my friend and I after much discussion decided that waking up at 6am and reaching Dataran Merdeka slightly past 7am would still be worthwhile instead of going through the hassle of waking up earlier and getting there in the pitch-black morning.
As we reached the LRT station, we were greeted by the tremendous response from Malaysians and non-Malaysians alike.
The LRT Gombak station by 7.20am was filled to the brim with many adults and children squashed against each other in their hurry to tap their touch n go cards at the train ticket validator.
This marked the beginning of the challenge of getting to Dataran Merdeka.
After going through the train ticket validator, the next challenge was trying to get onto the train itself. The station was packed with people pushing in to get onto the train carriage. As the train went to other stations, we could see that already more and more people were trying to squeeze onto the already bursting train carriages.
After arriving at Masjid Jamek LRT station, the LRT station we got off before proceeding to Dataran Merdeka, we could see the magnitude of people who decided to come to the parade. It was also filled with parents; some were carrying their small children everywhere and the elderly. It was like a huge party. Overwhelming yet exciting!
Walking to Dataran Merdeka was very slow with tons and tons of people pushing against each other in the scorching hot sun. Many children were squashed amongst adults which was a little dangerous, I thought. There were also many parents pushing their strollers around in the large crowds consequently making it hard for other people to walk around. It was apparent that the parade was not the place to bring very young children, especially babies since the large crowds and hot weather could be overwhelming as well as the sea of people made it easy for them to get lost and separated from their parents.
I also found it very claustrophobic at times when I was walking amidst the crowd and was even unable to breathe at times. I witnessed people who fainted due to not being able to easily breathe especially with a mask on in the huge crowds. I saw it was quite difficult for people to locate ambulances and healthcare workers as there were not that many to be seen visibly on site.
Reflecting upon this perhaps some recommendations could be made for future parades. Being a student taking Medicine, I feel that there should have been more healthcare workers on site to help with any health problems people were facing as they appeared to be few on the day. When going to parades it is also very important for spectators to bring water, an umbrella, and a mini fan, if possible, to prevent chances of fainting by keeping one hydrated and cool. Parents should also be discouraged from bringing their small children along as the big crowd was dangerous for them as they could go missing or even trampled accidentally.
While there were some issues at the Merdeka parade this year in the new norm, it was so great seeing Malaysians all gather to celebrate Merdeka as one. My friend and I with great determination still managed to ease our way to Dataran Merdeka, despite the challenges. It was the excitement that kept us going. We enjoyed being spectators of the parade and of course felt united with others who attended it, injected with patriotism. I must say I am proud to be a citizen of a peaceful nation rich in diversity like Malaysia.
After the pandemic hit the nation, this was a great event for all of us to feel “normal” again and integrated as a family as reflected by the Merdeka theme. Hopefully, more events like this one can be held further in future with precautions in place so that we could continue celebrating our special Merdeka Day. That is a wrap for the Merdeka parade in 2022! Looking forward to watching the Merdeka parade in 2023!***
(Dewi Amira Dania is a student from the Kulliyyah of Medicine, IIUM. The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of IIUMToday).