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Malaysia is a country in the southeast of Asia. It consists of two separate parts divided by the South China Sea: Peninsular Malaysia on the Malay Peninsula, bordered to the north by Thailand and to the south by Singapore; and East Malaysia, the northern part of the island of Borneo, bordered to the south by Indonesia and completely surrounds the tiny enclave of Brunei to the north. Malaysia is one of the founding members of ASEAN.

(In Detail)
National motto: Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu
(Malay: Unity Is Strength)
Official languageMalay
Capital Kuala Lumpur¹
Supreme Leader Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin
Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 64th
329,750 km²
 - Total
 - Density
Ranked 46th
25,180,000 (2003 Q3)
 - Date
From the UK
August 31, 1957
Currency Ringgit
Time zone UTC +8
National anthem Negaraku
Internet TLD.MY
Calling Code60
(1) The federal administration is in the process of moving to newly-built Putrajaya

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 States
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Miscellaneous topics
9 External Links


Main article: History of Malaysia

The Malay Peninsula developed as a major Southeast Asian commercial centre, as trade between China and India and beyond flourished through the busy Straits of Malacca. Islam arrived in the 14th century, followed by European traders in the 16th century, after which the Portuguese, Dutch and British successively dominated the Straits.

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 Pangkor Treaty of 1876 paved the way for British expansion and by the turn of the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States (not to be confused with the Federation of Malaya), were under the rule of British residents who took orders from the High Commissioner in Singapore who in turn received orders from the Colonial Office in London. 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, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu 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 family. Following a 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 scuppered by strong Malay opposition who wanted a more pro-Malay system, rejecting Singapore's inclusion and demanding 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 1957 under the name of the Federation of Malaya, which did not include Singapore.

A new federation under the name of Malaysia was formed on September 16, 1963 through a merging of the Federation of Malaya and the British crown colonies of Singapore, North Borneo (renamed Sabah) and Sarawak, the latter two colonies being on the island of Borneo. The early years were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's eventual secession in 1965.


Main article: Politics of Malaysia

The federation of Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, nominally headed by the Paramount Ruler or Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the king. Kings are selected for 5-year terms from among the nine sultans of the Malay states.

The system of government is closely modelled on that of Westminster, due to Malaysia's being a former British Colony. In practice however, more power is vested in the executive branch of government than the in the legislative, this being a legacy of authoritarian rule by former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad.

Executive power is vested in the cabinet led by the prime minister; the Malaysian constitution stipulates that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house of parliament 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 Senate (Dewan Negara, literally 'National Hall') and the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat, literally 'People's Hall'). All 69 senate members sit for 6-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, and 43 are appointed by the king. The 193 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.


Main article: States of Malaysia

Malaysia is divided into 13 states (negeri-negeri) and 3 federal territories (wilayah-wilayah persekutuan), marked by a *:

Peninsular Malaysia

East Malaysia

The nine Malay states have a native titular Ruler (known as Sultan, Raja or Yang di-Pertuan Besar) and an executive Chief Minister of Menteri Besar. The former British crown colonies of Penang, Malacca, Sabah and Sarawak each have a titular Governor (known as Yang DiPertua Negeri) and an executive Chief Minister.


Main article: Geography of Malaysia

The two distinct parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by the South China Sea, share a largely similar landscape in that both West- and East Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to often densely forested hills and mountains, the highest of which is Mount Kinabalu at 4,101 m on the island of Borneo. The local climate is equatorial and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons.

Putrajaya is the newly created administrative capital for the federal government of Malaysia, aimed in part to ease growing congestion within Malaysia's largest 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 Town, Ipoh and Johor Bahru. See also List of cities in Malaysia.


Main article: Economy of Malaysia

Malaysia, a middle income country, transformed itself from 1971 through the late 1990s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Growth is almost exclusively driven by exports - particularly of electronics - and, as a result Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the Information Technology (IT) sector in 2001. GDP in 2001 grew only 0.3% due to an estimated 11% contraction in exports, but a substantial fiscal stimulus package has mitigated the worst of the recession and the economy is expected to grow by 3% to 4% in the immediate future.

Kuala Lumpur's stable macroeconomic environment, in which both inflation and unemployment stand at 3% or less, coupled with its healthy foreign exchange reserves and relatively small external debt make it unlikely that Malaysia will experience a crisis similar to the Asian financial crisis of 1997, but its long-term prospects are somewhat clouded by the lack of reforms in the corporate sector, particularly those dealing with competitiveness and high corporate debt.


Main article: Demographics of Malaysia

Malaysia's population comprises of many ethnic groups, with the politically dominant Malays 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 7% of the population and include Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians. About 85% of the Indian community is Tamil.

Non-Malay indigenous groups make up more than half of the state of Sarawak's population and about 66% of Sabah's population. They are divided into dozens of ethnic groups, but they share some general cultural similarities. Until the 20th century, most practiced traditional beliefs, but many have converted to Islam or Christianity. Other Malaysians also include those of, inter alia, European and Middle Eastern descent. Population distribution is uneven, with some 17 million residents concentrated on the Malay Peninsula.

May 13 1969 saw an incident of civil unrest which was then seen to be largely due to the socio-economic imbalance of the country along racial lines. 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.


Main article: Culture of Malaysia

Malaysia is a multicultural society, with Malays, Chinese and Indians living side by side. The Malays are the largest community, numbering 60% of the population. They are Muslims, speak Bahasa Melayu and are largely responsible for the political fortunes of the country. The Chinese comprise of about a quarter of the population. They are mostly Buddhists, Taoists or Christian, speak Hokkien, Hakka and Cantonese, and have been historically dominant in the business community. The Indians account for about 10% of the population. They are mainly Hindu Tamilss from southern India, speaking Tamil, Malayalam, and some Hindi, and live mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. There is also a sizeable Sikh community. Eurasians and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population. Bahasa Malaysia is the official language of the country but English is widely spoken.

The largest indigenous tribe in terms of numbers is the Iban of Sarawak, who number 395,000. They are largely longhouse dwellers and live along the Rajang and Baram rivers. The Bidayuh (107,000) are concentrated on Sarawak's Skrang River. The Orang Asli (80,000) live in small scattered groups in Peninsular Malaysia. Traditionally nomadic agriculturists, many have been absorbed into modern Malaysia.

Malaysian traditional music is heavily influenced by Chinese and Islamic forms. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes percussion instruments (some made of shells), flutes, trumpets and gongs. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian and Portuguese origin. Other artistic forms include wayang kulit (shadow-puppets), silat (a stylised martial art) and crafts such as batik, weaving and silver and brasswork.

DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
January 1New Year DayHari Tahun Baru
May 1Labor DayHari Buruh
August 31National DayHari Merdeka

Miscellaneous topics

External Links

Countries of the world  |  Asia