Thousands gathered at Padang Timur, Petaling Jaya tonight to usher in the 55th Malaysia Day with Malaysiakini's inaugural Unity Concert and Harapan Run, braving muddy conditions on the field after a brief bout of afternoon rain.
The concert, co-hosted by local comedians Kavin Jay and Papi Zak, saw a host of artistes taking to the stage, including Bunkface, Jaclyn Victor, Estranged, Rynn Lim and Mugen Rao.
Songstress Siti Nurhaliza, who is headlining the concert, performed at 10pm.
Organiser and Pesta Harapan Malaysia chairperson Chia Ting Ting then appeared on stage together with Siti to launch Malaysiakini's newly established events management arm, [email protected]
Next, PKR president-elect Anwar Ibrahim (photo) is scheduled to lead the Malaysia Day countdown before a midnight fireworks display commences.
The countdown will also mark the start of the 5km Harapan Run, with participation of 3,000 runners, which will be flagged off by Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman.
Participants of the run will wear yellow neon shirts, which are meant to symbolise hope for a new Malaysia after the 14th general election.
The Unity Concert and Harapan LED Run are being held in conjunction with Pesta Harapan Malaysia 2018, which is a festival organised by Malaysiakini from Sept 14-26.
Malaysiakini co-founder and editor-in-chief Steven Gan said the event's name - Pesta Harapan Malaysia - was chosen to celebrate the hope felt by Malaysians after witnessing the historic changes since May 9.
"'Harapan' means hope. For the first time in history, Malaysians, driven by hope, chose to change the federal government.
"It proves that hope can conquer fear, hate and despair.
"There is no better day than Malaysia Day for Malaysians to celebrate the occasion," he said.
Similarly, Malaysiakini's co-founder and CEO Premesh Chandran said like many Malaysians, the company's mission was driven by hope that one day Malaysia will be a just, vibrant and prosperous democratic country.
"The changes we see this year are driven by youths and we are celebrating their hopes, their aspirations and vision for the future of this country," he said.
The night's function, organised by [email protected], will be the first in a list of events aimed to encourage better public engagement with policies.
"Events we organise will be in line with our philosophy, in line with what Malaysiakini does best - providing the platform for Malaysians to give feedback, to discuss issues that are important to the country.
"Through the rest of the year, we will be organising other types of events, debates and discussions," said Premesh.
"They will include not only the youths, but also the rural communities, and people from Sabah and Sarawak, all parts of Malaysia," he added.
Also present were a number of local politicians including Petaling Jaya MP Maria Chin Abdullah.
The next event for Pesta Harapan Malaysia is the national qualifying round for the World Electronic Sports Games, which will be held between Sept 21 to 23 at Quill City Mall, Kuala Lumpur.
This will be followed by a series of policy discussions for youths on Sept 27, which will feature two town hall-style discussions on the environment and innovation, as well as a debate on lowering the voting age to 18.
Both events are open to the public and free to attend.