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After over five decades of independence, what does that very word, Merdeka, mean to us, the young people? We speak to several under 30s who share with us their take on Merdeka. What does Merdeka mean to you? What do you feel when you hear the word, 'Merdeka'? Does "freedom" ring in the same sentence? Do you find a frisson of joy at having able to celebrate 52 years of peace, independence and unity? We speak to several young, successful people from all industries, to get a feel of this.  

Ahmad Hafidz Hamdan Baharom Alam Shah, 26, columnist with the Malaysian Insider and Political Nutgraph. Being only 26, Merdeka simply means to me that we have achieved independence and freedom from a foreign power. But independence still does not equal freedom in many areas; such as freedom of expression. For me, I want the freedom to choose, and judge for myself what is right and wrong. There should be no censorship in the media, and especially not when our nation has been around for 52 years. Being Merdeka for over five decades now, the time has come for both opposition and government to think of the people and the people's best interests, instead of moralising, restricting and controlling the very freedom which Merdeka stood for. For the future of my country, I would like to see liberty and freedom of the people to make decisions for themselves, and an end to any and all laws that inadvertently, or purposefully, discriminate against minorities or the less-privileged. I want to see acceptance of all minorities; not just ethnic minorities, but also the minorities in social status, group or economic standing - the poor, the underprivileged or even those with different lifestyles. Then that, would truly be Merdeka.   

Datuk Nicol David, 26, ranked World No.1 in squash
Merdeka to me means that Malaysia has come a long way; such as now being at the top in the World in terms of sports and I've been fortunate enough to be part of this. The support from the Malaysian government to build top performance sports facilities leading up to the 1998 Commonwealth Games and sustaining continuous funding for sports that has potential for World status has given me a chance to become the best in my sport. This is what Merdeka signifies to me.  

Huen Su Yin, 23, sugar artist, entrepreneur and owner of Delectable, a designer cake boutique. Merdeka for me, is a day to celebrate the pride in being Malaysian. It's the diversity and our unique ability to live and grow as a multicultural community which makes me proud as I speak about Malaysia. Just think about all the remarkable cultures we've grown up to respect and understand; the variety of flavours we've been exposed to within the community we live in; and the fusion-ness of it all. Malaysia is a feast of inspiration and colour. However, I would like love to see more and more Malaysian youth making a distinct mark on the world in their related fields, especially in terms of entrepreneurship. Personally, though, I can't wait to boast my nationality to people I meet from my travels abroad. When the time comes, I will introduce myself by saying: "Hi! I'm Su Yin and I'm Malaysian."   

Ashraf Sinclair, 30, actor
Merdeka to me means choice, freedom and responsibility. Being Merdeka, we have the freedom and ability to respond and make choices in our own lives. So, Merdeka is our own state of mind. It begins with freedom within ourselves. In the future, I want to see more appreciation for the arts. Malaysia is looking for its own distinct culture - but if we stop looking and just realise what we have, we can begin to appreciate it. We shouldn't be limited by our own beliefs and understanding. We have to free ourselves from those limits. I want to see Malaysians proud to have local artists and performers achieve recognition. I want to see Malaysia become a hub for technology and ability in the arts. In the end, I would say that young Malaysians need to be proud of what we have. Be grateful. Be happy but don't be...
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