Sept 16, 1963 A Memorable Day For Lucas Johnny

By Rudy Rukimin Rambli

MIRI (Sarawak) (Bernama) -- In the early 1960s, when he was a teenager, Lucas Johnny, wanted to become a singer as pop yeh-yeh was popular music culture at that time.

The late M.Osman was his idol and his song 'Suzana' reverberates in his mind till today. Apart from the heydays of pop yeh-yeh then, Lucas also recalled an important cornerstone for the nation, on Monday, Sept 16, 1963, Peninsula, Sabah and Sarawak officially came under the Malaysian Federation.

Lucas was 19 then and among those who witnessed the historic Malaysian Federation declaration in Padang Central in Kuching, now renamed as Padang Merdeka.

It is still fresh in Lucas' mind how the event was inaugurated by the first state governor, the late Datu Abang Openg Abang Sapiee.

He recalled that Sarawak's first chief minister, the late Tan Sri Stephen Kalong Ningkan and federal minister Tan Sri Mohd Khir Johari were among the dignitaries present on the historic event.


"I could recall vividly that at that time I was living in Kampung Astana and to get to Padang Merdeka I had to cross the river on a boat that served as a water taxi", said this Malay man with an English name.

"At that time the fare was only 10 cents and if you bring your bicycle along you pay another 10 cents", he said adding that there was a great sense of euphoria then.

The Padang Merdeka area on that day was crowded with people and Lucas could only see and listen the dignitaries on the stage from a distance.

"I jostled in the crowd looking for a vantage point to get a closer look at the dignitary speaking on the stage, I event went to the nearby Hotel Aurora that is now known as Merdeka Palace Hotel and Suites", he said in excitement.


Though the official festivities were over and the crowds started dispersing, the carnival atmosphere continued with entertainment and shopping.

Lucas had not only immortalised the historical day in his mind, but also through his historical collection that included the first day cover stamps issued in conjunction with the formation of the Federation of Malaysia right on the day.

He also had a collection of old songs including the national anthem "Negaraku" recorded in vinyl for the first time in the late 1950s.

Lucas, who was named after an Australian that his father knew during the Japanese occupation, is also the cousin of Rosli Dhoby involved in the murder conspiracy of the Sarawak Governor Duncan George Stewart on Dec 3, 1949 in Sibu.

In the 1970s he traveled the world and settled in Singapore for about two decades before returning to Sarawak in 1992.

Lucas looks forward to Sept 16, 2014 where the national level Malaysia Day celebration is going to take place in Miri, the place where he is living now.

"After 51 years of independence, and after going through sweet and bitter memories, and after looking what Sarawak has achieved all these years through Malaysia, I really feel proud", he said.


Lucas said since coming under the Malaysian Federation, Sarawak had successfully mitigated the threats from outside and the Communist from inside while enjoying rapid development.

"It was a stark contrast compared with the situation before Malaysia came into the picture, where it was tense due to the Communist threat but all that was history after Sarawak came under Malaysia", he said.

"I just hope that it is just as grand as how it was celebrated 51 years ago so that the younger generation gets to know and understand how significant Malaysia Day is", he said.

However, the Malaysia Day celebration may not be as grand like how Lucas wants to see because the organisers have to take into consideration the public sentiments relating to the Malaysia Airlines' MH17 and MH370 tragedies.


Miri's Mayor Lawrence Lai said that Street Party 916 for this year would be replaced with "916 Malaysia Day Countdown" with Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem as the guest of honour.

"The 916 Malaysia Day Countdown will take place on Sept 15, and three roads - Jalan Post, Jalan Merpati and Jalan Parry - will be closed in stages from Sept 13 to Sept 16", he said.

Lai said the road closures are in conjunction with the national level Malaysia Day celebration that would take place at the Miri City Fan square at 8.00 p.m., on Sept 16.

"A special exhibition will be held at a shopping centre in conjunction with Malaysia Day to allow the public to view the history of Malaysia through photos", he said.

On the night of Sept 16 numerous events will be held with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, the Yang Dipertua Negeri Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem and Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Musa Aman in attendance. About 20,000 people are expected at the Miri City Fan square for the event.


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