Merdeka – Japanese Invasion & The Emergency


Japan bombs Singapore and Kota Bharu in Kelatan. Unprepared and out-manned for a land assault, British forces are routed and Singapore falls in February 1942. During Japanese occupation, exports are stripped, nationalism grows, and ethnic tensions between Malays, Chinese and Indians are exacerbated. Japan’s so-called sook ching (purification through suffering) campaign leads to the death of 80,000 ethnic Chinese in Malaya and Singapore.


After the defeated of Japanese, the British regain control of Malaya. In 1946, the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) was founded by Malay nationalists led by Dato Onn bin Jaafar, the Chief Minister of Johor. UMNO favored independence for Malaya, but only if the new state was run exclusively by the Malays. Faced with implacable Malay opposition, the British dropped the plan for equal citizenship. The Malayan Union was thus established in 1946, but dissolved in 1948 and replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.


Influenced by Cold War politics, ethnic Chinese communist guerrillas maintain insurgency in jungle areas. Known as the Malayan Emergency, the uprising is eventually suppressed by British and Commonwealth forces. In 1948, an undeclared war on terror exploded in the jungles of Malaya. British and Malayan security forces fought a formidable guerilla army determined to create a Communist republic. They failed – but by the time the war ended 12 years later, tens of thousands of people had been killed, both combatants and civilians. Yet against this terrible background, Malayans from all races and classes joined together to form a new nation – independent Malaya. The Malayan Emergency was an education in fighting together – the crucible of independence.


From 1949 the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) campaign lost momentum and the number of recruits fell sharply. Although the MCP succeeded in assassinating the British High Commissioner, Sir Henry Gurney, in October 1951, this turn to terrorist tactics alienated many moderate Chinese from the Party. The arrival of Lt.-Gen Sir Gerald Templer as British commander in 1952 was the beginning of the end of the Emergency. Templer invented the techniques of counter-insurgency warfare in Malaya and applied them ruthlessly. Although the insurgency was defeated Commonwealth troops remained with the backdrop of the Cold War.

Our Pride


Check out the memorable logos and themes that have been created in conjunction with the Merdeka celebration since 1976. More

Merdeka Events

Don't miss out the Merdeka celebration at your local area, state or the big parade at National Merdeka level. Check the events date and hours! More

Celebration Gallery

Browse the selected colorful gallery of images  in conjunction with the Merdeka celebration around the nation. More

Online Exhibition

The Merdeka exhibition was produced by User Experience Service Unit, PSB UUM as part of Online Exhibition series.