One heart, one voice in joyous celebration.

KUANTAN: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi led more than 50,000 people who thronged the Kuantan Municipal Council field to wait for the stroke of midnight.

The Merdeka eve celebrations, being held for the first time in Kuantan, is also the first for Abdullah as Prime Minister.

He was accompanied by his deputy, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Adnan Yaakob and Cabinet Ministers.

Various exciting programmes were held for the public. These include cultural performances and songs by Siti Nurhaliza, Kopratasa Group, nasyid group Rabbani and former students of Akademi Fantasia 2.

A heavy downpour for about an hour from 9pm did not deter the people from flocking to the field to join in the festivities.

Abdullah joined the crowd in the countdown to midnight and when the clock struck 12, he shouted Merdeka seven times. The crowd then sang the national anthem Negaraku and patriotic songs Jalur Gemilang and Kerana Mu Malaysia.

The display of colourful fireworks sent the cheerful crowd into a frenzy.

In IPOH, more than 30,000 people gathered at Ipoh Padang since 7pm to usher in the State-level Merdeka eve celebrations.

Menteri Besar Datuk Seri Tajol Rosli Ghazali and State executive councillors were present.

It started with a Merdeka poem entitled Keranamu Malaysia recited by Hamdan Yahya, a former lecturer at the Literature Department of Dewan Bahasa Dan Pustaka, followed by Malay, Chinese, Indian, Orang Asli and Siamese cultural performances.

Artistes Ella, Yassin, Brothers, Spider, Chris Leo and Venum entertained the crowd.

In MALACCA, Chief Minister Datuk Seri Mohamad Ali Rustam joined thousands of people at Hang Tuah Mall to honour the historic moment.

Shouts of Merdeka erupted three times followed by Negaraku and hoisting of the Jalur Gemilang by the Royal Malaysian Navy personnel. Fireworks display added colour to the celebrations.