Did Merdeka Liberate or Create Malaya?


Sixty years may have passed since Merdeka Day, but its historical significance remains something we continue to debate.

Did Malaya fight to free itself from an implacable Britain? Did the British offer independence to its colonies in South-East Asia to suit its own ends? Was there a Malaya that now threw off the shackles of Pax Britannia’s global hegemony? Or was Malaya something novel, grown out of generations of colonial conveniences?

In short, the key question is: “Was there a Malaya that on August 31, 1957, was liberated and granted independence? If there already was a Malaya, in what sense was there one? Or was it created that day? If it was created that day, what were the ingredients – physical and cultural – that went into the concoction?

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