PUTRAJAYA (BERNAMA) - Malaysia celebrated its 61st year of independence from British colonial rule on Friday (Aug 31) with a colourful parade in Putrajaya, the administrative capital mooted by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad in 1995 during his first stint as premier.
This year's celebration is significant because it also marks the return of Tun Dr Mahathir, 93, to the helm of a new federal government run by the Pakatan Harapan coalition.
The last time the National Day parade took place in Putrajaya was in 2005.
An estimated 300,000 people thronged Dataran Putrajaya as early as 5am to enliven the atmosphere, bringing along their Jalur Gemilang, the country's flag.
This year's National Day theme, "Sayangi Malaysiaku" (Love My Malaysia), comprised four elements namely patriotism, public order, national security and unity of the people.
Celebrations kicked off with the arrival of the King, Sultan Muhammad V at Dataran Putrajaya, accompanied by a guard of honour formed of five military helicopters flying overhead. This was followed by the singing of the national anthem, Negaraku, and the recitation of the Rukun Negara (national principles) pledge.
A 14-gun royal salute, symbolic of the 13 states and federal territory in Malaysia was executed by the 41st Ceremonial Battery of the Royal Artillery Regiment and accompanied by the hoisting of the national flag.
Also present at the parade were Dr Mahathir, Deputy Prime Minister Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Cabinet ministers and foreign representatives.
Over 12,000 people took part in the lively event which featured aerial acrobatics by the Malaysian Air Force, a band of 524 uniformed musicians and community performances by a 600-strong youth arts troupe.
Parades and celebrations also took place in other states in the country, led by the states' rulers and leaders.