Today 60 years ago

Chong was using this clumsy Rolleiflex camera to record the precious moments of Merdeka six decades ago. Photo courtesy: Sin Chew Daily

KUALA LUMPUR (Sin Chew Daily) -- It was three in the morning. Drizzling.

It was a BIG day, the day everyone had been dreaming of for months and years. The streets of Kuala Lumpur were inundated with the Malayan flags. Everyone was brimming with excitement.

As the clock struck twelve, the Union Jack at Selangor Club field was lowered, replaced by the Malayan flag fluttering proudly in the wind.

Early in the morning, two young men were ready for the big day.

Bearing witness to the big event

22-year-old Shu Diong Hiong had a week earlier rehearsed at Air Panas Setapak with 76 Engineer Squadron for the inspection ceremony.

In the meantime, 21-year-old Chong pedaled his bike to the newly completed Merdeka Stadium half an hour away from home.

Foundation of the stadium was laid on February 25 that year, and the iconic structure was completed in under six months on August 21 for the Independence celebration.

Chong was then a photographer with Students Weekly, a German-made Rolleiflex camera hanging from his neck.

The 81-year-old drove his antique Beetle to a coffee shop near home to share his memories of the celebration at Merdeka Stadium 60 years ago.

"I was there! I took some photographs but very far away from the podium!

"It was drizzling. Very light rain. On Merdeka Day.

I was really there

"Tunku was standing on the podium. He shouted 'Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!

"Hahaha... I was really there! You know?"

Chong said Students Weekly was published every Wednesday, focusing mainly on education and school activities.

He said his salary as a photographer was about 200 dollars at that time, and a roll of films would cost him $1.40 for 12 pictures. So, every picture was very precious then.

He left Students Weekly in 1962 to set up his own studio at Pudu Market. He continued to be a freelancer after winding up the studio business in 1977.

Besides photography, Chong is also a fishing enthusiast, and his pictures could be found in Rod & Line monthly.

When asked about his feelings witnessing the country's independence 60 years ago, the octogenarian said, "I felt very excited that a new nation was born."

Hooray!

82-year-old Shu Diong Hiong recently shared his memories of Merdeka Day ceremony on Sin Chew Daily.

He said other than Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Sultans, General Templer was also present on that day.

Together with all the rest at the field opposite the Sultan Abdul Samad Building clock tower (now Dataran Merdeka), Shu shouted "Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!" when the Malayan flag was raised and Tunku chanted "Merdeka!" thrice.

He recalled that there were about 200 members in 76 Engineer Squadron, including around 50 ethnic Chinese.

"We were stationed in Kluang, and were sent to Singapore for training. Our job was to build the road near the Thai border town of Patani.

"I was very excited! Overjoyed!" he talked about his feelings then.

However, he was not very happy the media had largely overlooked the inspection ceremony held at the Selangor Club field.

Indeed, there was this ceremony in front of the clock tower on the Merdeka Day but detailed information on it was hardly available from the National Archives or the Museum.


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