Malaysians celebrate on Merdeka eve, even without official countdown

The streets around Dataran Merdeka were packed with people even without the traditional countdown.

KUALA LUMPUR - Dataran Merdeka still attracted revellers eager to celebrate the country's 57th year of independence, even in the absence of an official countdown.

Hundreds of Malaysians from all walks of life started gathering at the area where countdowns traditionally take place, as soon as night fell Saturday night.

Most expected to join the 57th Merdeka celebrations, not knowing that the event had been cancelled in respect of tragedies involving Malaysia Airlines flights MH17 and MH370.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Shabery Cheek had earlier announced that the Merdeka celebrations this year would be toned down and traditional events such as the countdown, entertainment and fireworks display had been cancelled.

College student Yumi Leong said she was a bit upset to find out about the cancellation of this meaningful event.

"I was quite surprised to see a smaller crowd this year and now I know the reason," she added.

Hashima Mohd, a 47-year-old housewife from Puchong, said she and her friends wanted to join in the countdown and perhaps watch a fireworks display.

"Even without these, I still enjoyed the fun outing with my friends," she said.

Dataran Merdeka was sealed off by barricades in preparations for the Sunday morning parade, and the public spilled onto the road, causing a massive traffic jam around the area.

The crowd dispersed about 30 minutes after midnight.