Peninsula developed as a major Southeast
Asian commercial centre related to China. Ptolemy
showed it on his early map with a label that translates as "Golden
Chersonese", the Straits of Malacca as "Sinus Sabaricus".
The earliest recorded Malay kingdoms grew from coastal city-ports established
in the 10th
century AD. These include Langkasuka
Bujang in Kedah,
as well as Beruas
Negara in Perak
Pan in Kelantan.
It is thought that originally these were Hindu or Buddhist nations. Islam
arrived in the 14th
century in Terengganu.
In the early part of the 15th
century, the Sultanate
of Malacca was established under a dynasty which was started by a
prince by the name of Parameswara from Palembang who fled from the island
Temasek, which is now Singapore. With Malacca
as its capital, the sultanate controlled the areas which are now Peninsula
Malaysia, southern Thailand
and the eastern coast of Sumatra.
It existed for more than a century, and within that time period Islam
spread to most of the Malay
was an important trading port.
made Malacca a colony in 1511
by military conquest, thus ending the Sultanate
of Malacca. The first Malacca sultan was Parameswara. However, the
fled to Kampar in Sumatra
and died there. One of his sons went to northern peninsular Malaysia and
established the Sultanate of Perak, and another son went to the south
of the peninsula and made his capital there. This new kingdom was the
continuation of the old Malacca
sultanate but now known as the Sultanate
of Johor, which still exists today. After the fall of Malacca,
three nations struggled for the control of Malacca
Strait: the Portuguese
(in Malacca), the Sultanate
of Johor, and the Sultanate
of Aceh; and this conflict went on till 1641,
when the Dutch
(allied to the Sultanate of Johor) gained control of Malacca. The British
took control of Malacca after the Anglo-Dutch
Treaty of 1824.
The British Crown
Colony of the Straits
Settlements was established in 1826,
and Britain gradually increased its control over the rest of the peninsula.
The Straits Settlements consisted of the three ports of Singapore, Penang,
and Malacca. Penang (Pearl of The Orient) was established in 1786
by Captain Francis
Light as a commercial outpost granted by the Sultan of Kedah. Malacca
came into British hands after the Anglo-Dutch Treaty; and two years later
the Straits Settlements were formed. These settlements were collectively
ruled from the British
East India Company seat of government in Calcutta until 1867
when their administration was transferred to the Colonial Office in London.
It was also about this time that many Malay states decided to obtain
British help in settling their internal conflicts. Less than ten years
after the transfer of power was completed with several west coast Malay
States coming under under British influence. The role of the merchants
of the Straits Settlements saw British government intervention in the
affairs of the tin producing states in the Malay Peninsula. Coupled with
Chinese secret society disturbances and civil war, British gunboat
diplomacy was employed to bring about a peaceful resolution that favoured
the merchants of the Straits Settlements. Finally, the Pangkor
Treaty of 1874 paved the way for British expansion; and by the turn
of the 20th
century the states of Pahang,
Sembilan, known together as the Federated
Malay States (not to be confused with the Federation
of Malaya), were under the rule of British
residents appointed to advise the rulers/Sultans.
The other Peninsular states were known as the Unfederated
Malay States and, while not directly under rule from London, had British
advisors in the Sultans' courts. The four northern states of Perlis,
were previously under Thai
control. British North Borneo (currently the state of Sabah)
was a British Crown
Colony formerly under the rule of the Sultanate of Sulu, whilst the
huge jungle territory of Sarawak
was the personal fiefdom of the Brooke (White Rajah) family.
Following the Japanese
occupation during World
War II, popular support for independence grew, coupled with a communist
insurgency. Post-war British plans to form a "Malayan Union" were
overwhelmed by strong Malay
opposition who wanted a more pro-Malay system, and demanded only single
citizenship as opposed to the dual-citizenship option which would have
allowed the significant immigrant communities to have claimed citizenship
in both Malaya and their country of origin. Independence was achieved
for the peninsula in August
under the name of the Federation
of Malaya. (See Hari
Merdeka.) Singapore's request to be part of this independent state
was rejected by London at the time.
A new federation under the name of Malaysia was formed on September
through a merging of the Federation of Malaya and the British crown colonies
of Singapore, North Borneo (renamed Sabah),
the latter two colonies being on the island of Borneo.
The Sultanate of Brunei,
though initially expressing interest in joining the Federation, pulled
out due to opposition from certain segments of the population as well
as wrangling over the payment of oil royalties.
The early years of independence were marred by conflict
with Indonesia (Konfrantasi) over the formation of Malaysia,
Singapore's eventual exit in 1965,
and racial strife in the form of racial
riots in 1969
(popularly known as Mei 13). The Philippines
also made an active claim on Sabah in that period based upon the Sultanate
of Brunei's cession of its north-east territories to the Sultanate
of Sulu in 1704.
The Philippine claim is still on-going.
After the May
13 racial riots of 1969, the controversial New
Economic Policy - intended to increase the share of the economic pie
owned by the bumiputeras as opposed to other ethnic groups - was launched
by Prime Minister Tun
Abdul Razak. Malaysia has since maintained a delicate ethno-political
balance, and developed a unique rule combining economic growth and a political
rule that favours bumiputras
(a group including mostly ethnic Malays) and moderate Islam.
Between the 1980s
and the early 1990s,
Malaysia experienced significant economic growth under Tun Dr. Mahathir
bin Mohamad, the 4th prime minister of Malaysia. The period saw a
shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing
and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. It was
during this period, too, that the face of the Malaysian landscape was
changed dramatically with the emergence of numerous megaprojects. The
most notable of these projects are the Petronas Twin Towers (once the
tallest building in the world), KL International Airport (KLIA), the Sepang
F1 Circuit, Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC) and Putrajaya (the Malaysian
Government's administrative capital).
In the late 1990s,
Malaysia was shaken by the Asian
financial crisis. Opposition to certain aspects of the existing system
was put down by the government. The opposition runs the gamut from socialists
and reformists to a party that advocates the creation of an Islamic state.
In 2003, Dr. Mahathir, Malaysia's longest serving prime minister, retired
in favour of his deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, fondly known as Pak Lah.
Since his retirement, Dr. Mahathir
works as an 'advisor' to the National Oil Company Petronas
and the National Car Company Proton.
The new government has advanced a moderate view of an Islamic state defined
by the term Islam
of Malaysia is a constitutional
monarchy. It is nominally headed by the Paramount Ruler or Yang
di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the king. Kings are
selected for five-year terms from among the nine Sultans
of the Malay
states; the other four states, which have titular Governors, do not
participate in the selection.
The system of government in Malaysia is closely modelled on that of Westminster,
a legacy of British
colonial rule. In practice however, more power is vested in the executive
branch of government than in the legislative. The general
election must be held at least once every five years. The last general
election was in March 2004 and the previous one was in 1999. The ruling
coalition is Barisan
power is vested in the cabinet
led by the prime
minister (Perdana Menteri); the Malaysian constitution
stipulates that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house
who, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority
in parliament. The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses
of parliament and is responsible to that body.
The bicameral parliament
consists of the upper
house (Dewan Negara, literally "National Hall") and the lower
house (Dewan Rakyat, literally "People's Hall"). All 69 Senators
sit for 6-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, and 43
are appointed by the king. The 219 members of the House of Representatives
are elected from single-member districts by universal adult suffrage,
for a maximum term of 5 years. Legislative
power is divided between federal and state legislatures.
The state governments are led by chief ministers (Menteri Besar)
selected by the state assemblies (Dewan Undangan Negeri) advising
their respective sultans or governors.
Every major component party in the Barisan
Nasional/National Front ruling coalition owns a widespread media outlet
of some sort, whether newspapers
stations. Naturally, the opposition do not have access to these specifically-owned
Yearly licenses for newspapers
(through the Printing
and Presses Act) are required for other groups, to prevent public
disorder and promote national
Malaysia is divided into two types of political divisions: states
(negeri) and Federal
Territories (Wilayah Persekutuan) that collectively have the
status of a state.
Eleven states are situated on Peninsular
Malaysia, two on Borneo island. Nine peninsular states are monarchies
(hereditary sultanates unless otherwise mentioned): Johor,
Sembilan (an elective monarchy itself), Pahang,
Malaysia itself, a system of revolving monarchy with three royal families),
(the only Raja), Selangor,
(formerly Malacca) and Pulau
Pinang (formerly Penang), both on the peninsula and formerly part
of the Straits Settlements under direct British control, as well as Sabah
both on Borneo, each have a federally appointed 'head of state'.
Two federal territories Kuala
Lumpur (the formal and commercial capital; often abbreviated to KL)
(the new administrative capital city) are located on the Malay Peninsula
an island off Sabah, completes the list.
The two distinct parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by
China Sea, share a largely similar landscape in that both West
Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to often densely forested hills
and mountains, the highest of which is Mount
Kinabalu at 4,095.2 m on the island of Borneo.
The local climate
and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast
(October to February) monsoons.
Piai, located in the southern state of Johor,
is the southernmost tip of continental Asia
â€” if Singapore,
an island connected to the continent by a man-made causeway,
of Malacca, lying between Sumatra
and West Malaysia, is arguably the most important shipping lane in the
is the newly created administrative capital for the federal government
of Malaysia, aimed in part to ease growing congestion within Malaysia's
capital city, Kuala
Lumpur. The prime minister's office moved in 1999
and the move is expected to be completed in 2005. Kuala Lumpur remains
the seat of parliament, as well as the commercial and financial capital
of the country. Other major cities include George
Bahru. See also List
of cities in Malaysia.
Peninsula and indeed Southeast
Asia has been a center for trade for centuries. Various items such
were actively traded even before Malacca
and Singapore rose to prominence.
In the 17th
century, large deposits of tin
were found in several Malay
states. Later, as the British
started to take over as administrators of Malaya,
oil trees were introduced for commercial purposes. Over time, Malaya
became the world's major largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil.
These three commodities along with other raw materials firmly set Malaysia's
economic tempo well into the mid-20th
Malaysia imitated the footsteps of the original four Asian
Tigers and committed itself to a transition from being reliant on
mining and agriculture to an economy that depends more on manufacturing.
assistance, heavy industries flourished and in a matter of years, Malaysian
became the country primary growth engine. Malaysia consistently achieved
more than 7% GDP
growth along with low inflation
in the 1980s
and the 1990s.
During the same period, the government tried to eradicate poverty with
a controversial race-conscious program called New
Economic Policy (NEP).
The rapid economic boom led to a variety of supply problems. Labor shortages
became apparent resulting in an influx of millions of foreign workers,
not all of whom were legal. Outrageous mega infrastructure projects were
proposed to alleviate the bottlenecks faced, mainly by cash rich PLCs
and consortiums of banks eager to benefit from increased and rapid development.
This all ended when the Asian
Financial Crisis hit in 1997,
delivering a massive external shock to the financial system.
The year 1997 saw a very sudden and disruptive boom to bust transition
caused initially by massive speculative short selling of currency, characteristic
of the collapse in the region. Foreign
direct investment fell at an alarming rate and Ringgit depreciated
substantially from MYR 2.50 per USD to much lower levels (up to MYR 4.80
per USD at its bottom intraday) as capital flowed out from Malaysia and
the rest of the region. The Kuala
Lumpur Stock Exchange's composite index fell from approximately 1300
to nearly merely 400 points in a few short weeks. After the sacking of
the ex finance minister Anwar
Ibrahim, a National Economic Action Council was formed to deal with
the monetary crisis. Bank
Negara imposed capital
controls and pegged
the Malaysian Ringgit at 3.80 to a US dollar. Economic aid from International
Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank was refused, surprising analysts
unfamiliar with the nature of the crisis. The financial sector suffered
massive retrenchment as the banking sector was forced to consolidate and
bank licenses were withdrawn to prevent further reckless lending. Remaining
banks were also allowed to recapitalise through Danamodal,
were discounted and bought off by Danaharta
to provide for an orderly asset realization process.
2005, the United
Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a paper
on the sources and pace of Malaysia's recovery, written by Jomo K.S. of
the applied economics department, University
of Malaya, Kuala
Lumpur. The paper concluded that the controls imposed by Malaysia's
government neither hurt nor helped that country's recovery. The chief
factor was an increase in electronics components exports, which was caused
by a large increase in the demand for components in the United States,
which was caused, in turn, by a fear of the effects of the arrival of
the year 2000 (Y2K)
upon older computers and other digital devices.
However the post Y2K slump of 2001
did not affect Malaysia as much as other countries. This may have been
clearer evidence that there are other causes and effects that can be more
properly attributable for recovery. One possibility is that the currency
speculators had run out of finance after failing in their attack on the
Kong dollar in August 1998 and after the Russian
Regardless of cause/effect claims, rejuvenation of the economy also coincided
with massive government spending and budget deficits in the years that
followed the crisis.(2% to 5% of GDP) Later, the country enjoyed faster
economic recovery compared to its neighbors though in many ways, the level
of pre-1997 affluence has yet to be achieved. The alternative claim is
that pre 1997 affluence was fueled by an asset price bubble.
While the pace of development is not as frenetic, it is also seen to
be more sustainable. And, although the controls and economic housekeeping
may not have been the principal reason for recovery, there is no doubt
that the banking sector is more resilient to external shocks. The current
account has also settled into a structural surplus providing a cushion
to capital flight. Asset prices also are a fraction of their heights pre
exchange rate regime was abandoned in July
2005 in favor of managed floating
system within an hour of China's
announcing of the same move. In the same week, Ringgit strengthened a
percent against various major currencies and was expected to appreciate
further. As of December
2005 however, expectations of further appreciation was muted as capital
flight exceeded USD 10 billion.
2005, Sir Howard J. Davies, director of the London
School of Economics, at a meeting Kuala
Lumpur, cautioned Malaysian officials that if they want a flexible
capital market, they will have to lift the ban on short selling created
banking in Malaysia
of Malaysian companies
Malaysia's population is comprised of many ethnic groups, with the politically
making up the majority. By constitutional definition, all Malays are Muslim.
About a quarter of the population are Chinese,
who have historically played an important role in trade and business.
Malaysians of Indian
descent comprise about 10% of the population and include Hindus,
About 90% of the Indian community is Tamil
but various other groups are represented, including Malayalis,
Non-Malay indigenous groups make up more than half of the state of Sarawak's
population, constitute about 66% of Sabah's
population, and also exist in much smaller numbers on the Peninsula, where
they are collectively called Orang
Asli. The non-Malay indigenous population is divided into dozens of
ethnic groups, but they share some general cultural similarities. Other
Malaysians also include those of, inter alia, European,
descent. Europeans and Eurasians
include British who colonized and settled in Malaysia and some Portuguese,
and most of the Middle Easterners are Arabs.
A small number of Kampucheans and Vietnamese settled in Malaysia as Vietnam
War refugees. Population distribution is uneven, with some 20 million
residents concentrated on the Malay
an incident of civil unrest which was then thought to be largely due to
the socio-economic imbalance of the country along racial lines, though
in retrospect it may have been more motivated by political firebrands
in both governing and opposition parties, as the violence involved only
the areas in and around the capital, with much of the country remaining
at peace. This incident led to the adoption of the New
Economic Policy as a two-pronged approach to address racial and economic
inequality and to eradicate poverty in the country.
Due to the rise in labour intensive industries, Malaysia has 10 to 20
percent foreign workers with the uncertainty due in part to the large
number of illegal workers; there are a million legal foreign workers and
perhaps another million unauthorized foreigners. The state of Sabah alone
has nearly 20% of its 2.5 million population listed as illegal foreign
workers in the last census. Unauthorized foreigners are subject to RM10,000
fines and two-year prison terms, while Malaysian employers face up to
a year in jail and a fine of up to RM50,000 for each illegal worker hired,
with those hiring more than five also liable to caning. Caning
is a standard punishment for more than 40 crimes in Malaysia, ranging
from sexual abuse to drug use. Administered with a thick rattan stick,
it splits the skin and leaves scars.
Some 380,000 unauthorized foreigners left during an "amnesty" that began
in Fall 2004 and was extended several times. During amnesties, unauthorized
foreigners can leave without paying fines for being illegally in the country.
On March 1, 2005, some 300,000 policemen as well as the 560,000-strong
Peoples Volunteer Corp began searching for the remaining unauthorized
foreigners under Operation Tegas; the volunteers receive RM100 for each
foreigner arrested. Source: Migration
News, April April 2005 Volume 12 Number 2
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic society, consisting of 65% Malays and other
indigenous tribes, 25% Chinese, 7% Indians. The Malays, which form the
largest community, are mainly Muslims. The Malays play a dominant role
politically and are known as bumiputera.
Their native language is Malay
Melayu), which is also the national language of the country. In the
past, Bahasa Melayu was written widely in Jawi
script. As time progresses, romanized
script has over taken Jawi as the dominant script. The largest indigenous
tribe in terms of numbers is the Iban
of Sarawak, who number over 600,000. The Iban who still live in traditional
jungle villages live in longhouses
along the Rajang and Lupar rivers and their tributaries. The Bidayuh
(170,000) are concentrated in the south-western part of Sarawak. The largest
indigenous tribe in Sabah is the Kadazan.
They are largely Christian subsistence farmers. The Orang
Asli (140,000), or aboriginal peoples, comprise a number of different
ethnic communities live in Peninsular Malaysia. Traditionally nomadic
hunter-gatherers and agriculturists, many have been sedentarised and partially
absorbed into modern Malaysia. However, they remain the poorest group
in the country.
The Chinese comprise of about a quarter of the population. They are mostly
and speak a variety of Chinese dialects including Hokkien/Fujian,
, and have been historically dominant in the business community.
The Indians account for about 7% of the population. They are mainly Hindu
from southern India, speaking Tamil,
living mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula.
There is also a sizeable Sikh
Cambodians, Vietnamese, and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population.
A small number of Eurasians, of mixed Portuguese and Malay descent, speak
creole, called Papia
Kristang. There are also Eurasians of mixed Malay and Spanish descent,
mostly in Sabah.
Descended from immigrants from the Philippines,
some speak Chavacano,
the only Spanish
creole in Asia.
and Vietnamese are mostly Buddhists (Cambodians of Theravada
sect and Vietnamese, Mahayana sect).
Malaysian traditional music is heavily influenced by Chinese and Islamic
forms. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes
other percussion instruments (some made of shells); the rebab, a bowed
string instrument; the serunai, a double-reed oboe-like instrument; flutes,
and trumpets. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas,
some of Thai, Indian and Portuguese origin. Other artistic forms include
(shadow puppet theatre), silat
(a stylised martial art) and crafts such as batik,
weaving, and silver and brasswork.