/meuh lay"zheuh, -sheuh/, n.
1. a constitutional monarchy in SE Asia: a federation, comprising the former British territories of Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak: member of the Commonwealth of Nations. 20,376,235; 126,310 sq. mi. (327,143 sq. km). Cap.: Kuala Lumpur.

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Introduction Malaysia -
Background: Malaysia was formed in 1963 through a merging of the former British colonies of Malaya and Singapore, including the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. The first several years of the country's history were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's secession in 1965. Geography Malaysia
Location: Southeastern Asia, peninsula and northern one-third of the island of Borneo, bordering Indonesia and the South China Sea, south of Vietnam
Geographic coordinates: 2 30 N, 112 30 E
Map references: Southeast Asia
Area: total: 329,750 sq km water: 1,200 sq km land: 328,550 sq km
Area - comparative: slightly larger than New Mexico
Land boundaries: total: 2,669 km border countries: Brunei 381 km, Indonesia 1,782 km, Thailand 506 km
Coastline: 4,675 km (Peninsular Malaysia 2,068 km, East Malaysia 2,607 km)
Maritime claims: continental shelf: 200-m depth or to the depth of exploitation; specified boundary in the South China Sea exclusive economic zone: 200 NM territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate: tropical; annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons
Terrain: coastal plains rising to hills and mountains
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m highest point: Gunung Kinabalu 4,100 m
Natural resources: tin, petroleum, timber, copper, iron ore, natural gas, bauxite
Land use: arable land: 5% permanent crops: 17.61% other: 76.85% (1998 est.)
Irrigated land: 3,650 sq km (1998 est.)
Natural hazards: flooding, landslides, forest fires Environment - current issues: air pollution from industrial and vehicular emissions; water pollution from raw sewage; deforestation; smoke/haze from Indonesian forest fires Environment - international party to: Biodiversity, Climate
agreements: Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Marine Life Conservation, Nuclear Test Ban, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands signed, but not ratified: Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol
Geography - note: strategic location along Strait of Malacca and southern South China Sea People Malaysia -
Population: 22,662,365 (July 2002 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 34.1% (male 3,974,532; female 3,753,407) 15-64 years: 61.6% (male 6,995,451; female 6,969,435) 65 years and over: 4.3% (male 424,776; female 544,764) (2002 est.)
Population growth rate: 1.91% (2002 est.)
Birth rate: 24.22 births/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Death rate: 5.16 deaths/1,000 population (2002 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population note: does not reflect net flow of an unknown number of illegal immigrants from other countries in the region (2002 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.07 male(s)/female under 15 years: 1.06 male(s)/female 15-64 years: 1 male(s)/female 65 years and over: 0.78 male(s)/ female total population: 1.01 male(s)/ female (2002 est.)
Infant mortality rate: 19.66 deaths/1,000 live births (2002 est.) Life expectancy at birth: total population: 71.39 years female: 74.21 years (2002 est.) male: 68.75 years
Total fertility rate: 3.18 children born/woman (2002 est.) HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate: 0.42% (1999 est.) HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/ 49,000 (1999 est.)
HIV/AIDS - deaths: 1,900 (1999 est.)
Nationality: noun: Malaysian(s) adjective: Malaysian
Ethnic groups: Malay and other indigenous 58%, Chinese 24%, Indian 8%, others 10% (2000)
Religions: Muslim, Buddhist, Daoist, Hindu, Christian, Sikh; note - in addition, Shamanism is practiced in East Malaysia
Languages: Bahasa Melayu (official), English, Chinese dialects (Cantonese, Mandarin, Hokkien, Hakka, Hainan, Foochow), Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, Panjabi, Thai; note - in addition, in East Malaysia several indigenous languages are spoken, the largest of which are Iban and Kadazan
Literacy: definition: age 15 and over can read and write total population: 83.5% male: 89.1% female: 78.1% (1995 est.) Government Malaysia -
Country name: conventional long form: none conventional short form: Malaysia former: Federation of Malaysia
Government type: constitutional monarchy note: Malaya (what is now Peninsular Malaysia) formed 31 August 1957; Federation of Malaysia (Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore) formed 9 July 1963 (Singapore left the federation on 9 August 1965); nominally headed by the paramount ruler and a bicameral Parliament consisting of a nonelected upper house and an elected lower house; Peninsular Malaysian states - hereditary rulers in all but Melaka, Penang, Sabah, and Sarawak, where governors are appointed by the Malaysian Government; powers of state governments are limited by the federal constitution; under terms of the federation, Sabah and Sarawak retain certain constitutional prerogatives (e.g., the right to maintain their own immigration controls); Sabah - holds 20 seats in House of Representatives, with foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and other powers delegated to federal government; Sarawak - holds 28 seats in House of Representatives, with foreign affairs, defense, internal security, and other powers delegated to federal government
Capital: Kuala Lumpur Administrative divisions: 13 states (negeri-negeri, singular - negeri) and 2 federal territories* (wilayah-wilayah persekutuan, singular - wilayah persekutuan); Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Labuan*, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Perlis, Pulau Pinang, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terengganu, Wilayah Persekutuan* note: the city of Kuala Lumpur is located within the federal territory of Wilayah Persekutuan; the terms therefore are not interchangeable; there is a new federal territory named Putrajaya, but this change has not yet been approved by the US Board on Geographic Names (BGN)
Independence: 31 August 1957 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day/Malaysia Day, 31 August (1957)
Constitution: 31 August 1957, amended 16 September 1963
Legal system: based on English common law; judicial review of legislative acts in the Supreme Court at request of supreme head of the federation; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 21 years of age; universal
Executive branch: chief of state: Paramount Ruler Tuanku SYED SIRAJUDDIN ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail, the Raja of Perlis (since 12 December 2001); replaced Paramount Ruler Sultan TUNKU SALAHUDDIN Abdul Aziz Shah Ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Hissammuddin Alam Shah who died in office 21 November 2001 head of government: Prime Minister MAHATHIR bin Mohamad (since 16 July 1981); Deputy Prime Minister ABDULLAH bin Ahmad Badawi (since 8 January 1999) cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the prime minister from among the members of Parliament with consent of the paramount ruler election results: Tuanku SYED SIRAJUDDIN ibni Almarhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail elected paramount ruler following the death of TUNKU SALAHUDDIN Abdul Aziz Shah Ibni Al- Marhum Sultan Hisammuddin Alam Shah elections: paramount ruler elected by and from the hereditary rulers of nine of the states for five-year terms; election last held 12 December 2001 (next to be held NA 2006); prime minister designated from among the members of the House of Representatives; following legislative elections, the leader of the party that wins a plurality of seats in the House of Representatives becomes prime minister
Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament or Parlimen consists of the Senate or Dewan Negara (69 seats; 43 appointed by the paramount ruler, 26 appointed by the state legislatures) and the House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (193 seats; members elected by popular vote weighted toward the rural Malay population to serve five-year terms) election results: House of Representatives - percent of vote by party - NF 56%, other 44%; seats by party - NF 148, PAS 27, DAP 10, NJP 5, PBS 3 elections: House of Representatives - last held 29 November 1999 (next must be held by 20 December 2004)
Judicial branch: Federal Court (judges appointed by the paramount ruler on the advice of the prime minister) Political parties and leaders: Alternative Coalition or Barisan Alternatif-BA (includes the following parties: Party Islam Se- Malaysia or PAS [FADZIL Mohamad Noor], National Justice Party or NJP [WAN AZIZAH Wan Ismail], and Malaysian People's Party or PRM [SYED HUSIN]); National Front or NF (ruling coalition dominated by the United Malays National Organization or UMNO [MAHATHIR bin Mohamad], includes the following parties: Malaysian Indian Congress or MIC [S. Samy VELLU], Malaysian Chinese Association or MCA [LING Liong Sik], Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia or Gerakan [LIM Keng Yaik], Parti Pesaka Bumiputra Bersatu or PBB [Patinggi Haji Abdul TAIB Mahmud], Parti Angkatan Keadilan Rakyat Bersatu or Akar [PANDIKAR Amin Mulia], Parti Bangsa Dayak Sarawak or PBDS [Leo MOGGIE], Parti Bersatu Sabah or PBS [Joseph PAIRIN Kitingan], Sabah United People's Party or SUPP [Jeffrey KITINGAN], Liberal Democratic Party or LDP [CHONG Kah Kiat], Sabah Progressive Party or SAPP [YONG Teck Lee], People's Progressive Party or PPP [M. KAYVEAS], Parti Bersatu Rakyat Sabah or PBRS [Joseph KURUP], Sarawak National Party or SNAP [Amar James WONG], Parti Demokratik Sabah or PDS [leader NA], and United Pasok Momogun Kadazan Organization or UPKO (state level only) [Bernard DOMPOK]); Parti Bersekutu [HARRIS Salleh]; State Reform Party of Sarawak or STAR [PATAU Rubis]; Democratic Action Party or DAP [LIM Kit Siang] Political pressure groups and NA
leaders: International organization APEC, ARF, AsDB, ASEAN, BIS, C, CCC,
participation: CP, ESCAP, FAO, G-15, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IDB, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, MINURSO, MONUC, NAM, OIC, OPCW, UN, UNAMSIL, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNMEE, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNTAET, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO Diplomatic representation in the US: chief of mission: Ambassador GHAZZALI bin Sheikh Abdul Khalid chancery: 2401 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008 consulate(s) general: Los Angeles and New York FAX: [1] (202) 483-7661 telephone: [1] (202) 328-2700 Diplomatic representation from the chief of mission: Ambassador Marie
US: T. HUHTALA embassy: 376 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur mailing address: P. O. Box No. 10035, 50700 Kuala Lumpur; American Embassy Kuala Lumpur, APO AP 96535- 8152 telephone: [60] (3) 2168-5000 FAX: [60] (3) 2142-2207
Flag description: 14 equal horizontal stripes of red (top) alternating with white (bottom); there is a blue rectangle in the upper hoist-side corner bearing a yellow crescent and a yellow fourteen-pointed star; the crescent and the star are traditional symbols of Islam; the design was based on the flag of the US Economy Malaysia
Economy - overview: 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 2% to 3% in 2002 as the world economy rebounds. Kuala Lumpur's healthy foreign exchange reserves and relatively small external debt make it unlikely that Malaysia will experience a crisis similar to the crisis of 1997, but the economy remains vulnerable to a more protracted downturn in the US and Japan, top export destinations and key sources of foreign investment.
GDP: purchasing power parity - $200 billion (2001 est.)
GDP - real growth rate: 0.3% (2001 est.)
GDP - per capita: purchasing power parity - $9,000 (2001 est.) GDP - composition by sector: agriculture: 12% industry: 40% services: 48% (2001) Population below poverty line: 8% (1998 est.) Household income or consumption by lowest 10%: 1.7%
percentage share: highest 10%: 38.4% (1997 est.) Distribution of family income - Gini 49.2 (1997)
index: Inflation rate (consumer prices): 1.5% (2001 est.)
Labor force: 9.9 million (2001 est.) Labor force - by occupation: local trade and tourism 28%, manufacturing 27%, agriculture, forestry, and fisheries 16%, services 10%, government 10%, construction 9% (2000 est.)
Unemployment rate: 3.7% (2001 est.)
Budget: revenues: $20.3 billion expenditures: $27.2 billion, including capital expenditures of $9.4 billion (2001 est.)
Industries: Peninsular Malaysia - rubber and oil palm processing and manufacturing, light manufacturing industry, electronics, tin mining and smelting, logging and processing timber; Sabah - logging, petroleum production; Sarawak - agriculture processing, petroleum production and refining, logging Industrial production growth rate: -4% (2001 est.) Electricity - production: 63.069 billion kWh (2000) Electricity - production by source: fossil fuel: 87.96% hydro: 12.04% other: 0% (2000) nuclear: 0% Electricity - consumption: 58.59 billion kWh (2000)
Electricity - exports: 75 million kWh (2000)
Electricity - imports: 11 million kWh (2000)
Agriculture - products: Peninsular Malaysia - rubber, palm oil, cocoa, rice; Sabah - subsistence crops, rubber, timber, coconuts, rice; Sarawak - rubber, pepper; timber
Exports: $94.4 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Exports - commodities: electronic equipment, petroleum and liquefied natural gas, wood and wood products, palm oil, rubber, textiles, chemicals
Exports - partners: US 20%, Singapore 17%, Japan 14%, Hong Kong 4.5%, Netherlands 4.5%, China 4%, Thailand 4% (2001 est.)
Imports: $76.9 billion (f.o.b., 2001 est.)
Imports - commodities: electronics, machinery, petroleum products, plastics, vehicles, iron and steel and iron and steel products, chemicals
Imports - partners: Japan 20%, US 17%, Singapore 13%, Taiwan 5%, China 4%, Germany 4%, Thailand 4% (2001 est.)
Debt - external: $44.7 billion (2001 est.)
Currency: ringgit (MYR)
Currency code: MYR
Exchange rates: ringgits per US dollar - 3.8000 (January 2002), 3.8000 (2001), 3.8000 (2000), 3.8000 (1999), 3.9244 (1998), 2.8133 (1997)
Fiscal year: calendar year Communications Malaysia - Telephones - main lines in use: 4.6 million (2000) Telephones - mobile cellular: 5 million (2000)
Telephone system: general assessment: modern system; international service excellent domestic: good intercity service provided on Peninsular Malaysia mainly by microwave radio relay; adequate intercity microwave radio relay network between Sabah and Sarawak via Brunei; domestic satellite system with 2 earth stations international: submarine cables to India, Hong Kong, and Singapore; satellite earth stations - 2 Intelsat (1 Indian Ocean and 1 Pacific Ocean) (2001) Radio broadcast stations: AM 35, FM 391, shortwave 15 (2001)
Radios: 10.9 million (1999) Television broadcast stations: 1 (plus 15 high-power repeaters) (2001)
Televisions: 10.8 million (1999)
Internet country code: .my Internet Service Providers (ISPs): 7 (2000)
Internet users: 4.1 million (2001) Transportation Malaysia -
Railways: total: 1,801 km narrow gauge: 1,801 km 1.000-m gauge (148 km electrified) (2001)
Highways: total: 64,672 km paved: 48,707 km (including 1,192 km of expressways) note: in addition to these national and main regional roads, Malaysia has thousands of kilometers of local roads that are maintained by local jurisdictions (1999) unpaved: 15,965 km
Waterways: 7,296 km note: Peninsular Malaysia 3,209 km, Sabah 1,569 km, Sarawak 2,518 km
Pipelines: crude oil 1,307 km; natural gas 379 km
Ports and harbors: Bintulu, Kota Kinabalu, Kuantan, Kuching, Kudat, Labuan, Lahad Datu, Lumut, Miri, Pasir Gudang, Penang, Port Dickson, Port Kelang, Sandakan, Sibu, Tanjung Berhala, Tanjung Kidurong, Tawau
Merchant marine: total: 363 ships (1,000 GRT or over) totaling 4,952,119 GRT/7,229,299 DWT note: includes some foreign-owned ships registered here as a flag of convenience: Australia 1, China 1, Germany 2, Hong Kong 15, Indonesia 3, Japan 4, Monaco 1, Philippines 2, Singapore 78, South Korea 2, Vietnam 1 (2002 est.) ships by type: bulk 57, cargo 114, chemical tanker 35, container 62, liquefied gas 20, livestock carrier 1, passenger 2, petroleum tanker 60, roll on/roll off 5, specialized tanker 1, vehicle carrier 6
Airports: 116 (2001) Airports - with paved runways: total: 34 over 3,047 m: 5 2,438 to 3,047 m: 5 914 to 1,523 m: 6 under 914 m: 7 (2001) 1,524 to 2,437 m: 11 Airports - with unpaved runways: total: 82 1,524 to 2,437 m: 1 914 to 1,523 m: 8 under 914 m: 73 (2001)
Heliports: 1 (2001) Military Malaysia -
Military branches: Malaysian Army, Royal Malaysian Navy, Royal Malaysian Air Force, Royal Malaysian Police Field Force, Marine Police, Sarawak Border Scouts Military manpower - military age: 21 years of age (2002 est.) Military manpower - availability: males age 15-49: 5,933,296 (2002 est.) Military manpower - fit for military males age 15-49: 3,592,997 (2002
service: est.) Military manpower - reaching males: 196,042 (2002 est.)
military age annually: Military expenditures - dollar $1.69 billion (FY00 est.)
figure: Military expenditures - percent of 2.03% (FY00)
GDP: Transnational Issues Malaysia - Disputes - international: Malaysia involved in a complex dispute over the Spratly Islands with China, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, and possibly Brunei; Malaysia and Singapore are considering taking the dispute over Pulau Batu Putih (Pedra Branca Island) to ICJ; Malaysia concerned over Singapore's land reclamation works on Johor, which affect the maritime boundary, shipping lanes, and water ecology in the Tebrau Reach; since 1998, ICJ has been considering Malaysia's longstanding Sipadan and Ligitan islands dispute with Indonesia; ICJ rejected the Philippines' application to intervene in this case in October 2001; Sultanate of Sulu granted the Philippine Government power of attorney to pursue his sovereignty claim over Malaysia's state of Sabah, over which the Philippines have not fully revoked their claim; a one km stretch of Malaysia- Thailand territory at the mouth of the Kolok river remains in dispute, despite overall success in boundary redemarcation
Illicit drugs: transit point for some illicit drugs; drug trafficking prosecuted vigorously and carries severe penalties

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Country, Southeast Asia.

It is composed of two regions
Peninsular, or West, Malaysia and East Malaysia
separated by 400 mi (650 km) of the South China Sea. West Malaysia occupies the southern half of the Malay Peninsula (Malaya) and is bordered on the north by Thailand. East Malaysia lies on the northwestern part of the island of Borneo and consists of the states of Sarawak and Sabah. Area: 127,354 sq mi (329,845 sq km). Population (2002 est.): 24,370,000. Capital: Kuala Lumpur. Because it lies on the heavily traveled Strait of Malacca, the country's population is a highly diverse mix, in which ethnic Malays and Chinese form the largest groups. Smaller ethnic groups include Indians, Pakistanis, and Tamils. Languages: Malay (official), Chinese, Indo-European languages. Religions: Islam (official), Buddhism, Daoism, Confucianism, Hinduism. Currency: ringgit. West Malaysia is largely mountainous; East Malaysia has coastal plains rising to hills and then to a mountainous core. Much of Malaysia is covered by rainforest. Tree crops, notably rubber and palm oil, are the country's most important cash crops; rice is the chief staple crop. Petroleum drilling and production and tin mining are important, as is the manufacture of rubber goods, cement, and iron and steel products. Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy with two legislative houses; the chief of state is the paramount ruler, and the head of government is the prime minister. Malaya has been inhabited for 6,000–8,000 years, and small kingdoms existed in the 2nd–3rd centuries AD, when adventurers from India first arrived. Sumatran exiles founded the city-state of Malacca с 1400, and it flourished as a trading and Islamic religious centre until its capture by the Portuguese in 1511. Malacca passed to the Dutch in 1641. The British founded a settlement on Singapore Island in 1819, and by 1867 they had established the Straits Settlements, including Malacca, Singapore, and Penang. During the late 19th century, Chinese began to migrate to Malaya. Japan invaded Malaya in 1941 and captured Singapore in 1942. After Japan's defeat in 1945, opposition to British rule led to the creation of the United Malaya National Organization (UMNO) in 1946, and in 1948 the peninsula was federated with Penang. Malaya gained independence from Britain in 1957, and the federation of Malaysia was established in 1963. Its economy expanded greatly from the late 1970s, but it suffered from the economic slump that struck the area beginning in the mid-1990s.

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▪ 2009

329,876 sq km (127,366 sq mi)
(2008 est.): 27,027,000
Kuala Lumpur; administrative centre, Putrajaya
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud
Head of government:
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

      For the first time since Malaysia became independent in 1957, the governing National Front (BN) coalition faced the prospect of losing power in 2008. Voters' frustration with Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's failure to address ethnic tensions, corruption in the government and judiciary, and economic weaknesses led to unprecedented losses for the BN in general elections in March. The People's Alliance, an opposition coalition led by Anwar bin Ibrahim (Ibrahim, Anwar bin ), a former deputy prime minister (1993–98), won control of 5 of Malaysia's 13 states and broke the BN's two-thirds majority in the parliament, an advantage that for 34 years had empowered the governing coalition to alter the country's constitution at will. In August, Anwar himself easily won election to the parliament. With support for Abdullah evaporating, Anwar recruited defectors among the BN's parliamentary bloc, and on September 18 he called for a no-confidence vote. Although Abdullah refused to reconvene the parliament, then in recess, he was forced to acknowledge growing opposition from within his own party, the United Malays National Organization (UMNO). On October 8 Abdullah announced that he would not defend the presidency of UMNO, the traditional stepping-stone to the prime ministry, in party elections in March 2009. In early November 2008, Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak secured the party presidency by winning endorsements from a large majority of UMNO's 191 branches, which thus paved the way for his succession as prime minister.

      The volatile political situation effectively immobilized a government enervated by scandal and corruption. A sensational murder trial involving an aide to Razak was a continuing distraction. In late September the detention of a prominent political blogger under the country's controversial Internal Security Act was widely criticized as an attempt to stifle dissent. Previously, the government had shut down the popular opposition Web site Malaysia Today. In its January report, Human Rights Watch criticized the government's failure to investigate abuses allegedly committed by members of RELA, a large, poorly regulated paramilitary force employed by the government to help control illegal immigration.

      Malaysia's economy continued its strong growth, with GDP growth of 6.7% during the first half of 2008. The country benefited from surging fuel prices, with the value of its palm-oil and crude- petroleum exports increasing by more than 50%. Overall, export values for the same period were up 17% from 2007, with electrical and electronic products leading the way. For the remainder of the year, however, economic reports were more sobering. Inflation, already on the rise, soared to 8.5% in July, the highest level in 27 years. Analysts attributed the spike to a 40% reduction in government fuel subsidies in June. In September palm-oil exports fell by almost 20%, prompting fears of a stock buildup. In early October, following the string of collapses in the U.S. on Wall Street, government officials expressed confidence that Malaysia would withstand the spreading financial crisis, but analysts warned that the impact on the country's crucial Asian export markets could have severe repercussions.

Janet Moredock

▪ 2008

329,876 sq km (127,366 sq mi)
(2007 est.): 26,572,000
Kuala Lumpur; administrative centre, Putrajaya
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud
Head of government:
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

 On Aug. 31, 2007, Malaysia celebrated the 50th anniversary of its independence from the U.K. with military flyovers, visits from foreign dignitaries (including Britain's Prince Andrew), and giant projections of historical photographs on skyscrapers in Kuala Lumpur. In a speech marking the occasion, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi called on Malaysians to uphold national unity, a contentious concept in this ethnically and religiously diverse country as conservative Islam continued its encroachment on secular life. In February Terengganu state established a network of informants—reporting to Islamic morality police—to monitor public spaces for illicit contact between the sexes. Malaysia's Supreme Court struck a decisive blow in May when it declined to enforce the constitution's guarantee of freedom of religious practice in a case involving a Christian convert who wished to change the religion specified on her official identity card from Islam to Christianity. The court ruled that only the Shariʿah (Islamic law) courts could decide such cases.

 In January severe flooding in the southern state of Johor killed 17 people and forced more than 100,000 to seek emergency shelter. On April 26 Malaysia enthroned Sultan Mizan Zainal Abidin of Terengganu as the 13th king. The country's first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, flew on a mission to the International Space Station in October.

       Corruption continued to plague Malaysia's government, with allegations of graft even forcing the resignation in March of the head of the government's anticorruption agency. Despite public criticism of its handling of corruption and other matters, however, the ruling National Front coalition appeared in no danger of being voted out of power and consolidated its majority in by- elections throughout the country against a fragmented opposition.

      Malaysia's economy remained robust in 2007, with growth in GDP forecast at 5.5% for the year. The country enjoyed a large trade surplus, but with plantations in Johor damaged by flooding, exports of palm oil (Malaysia's most valuable agricultural export) dropped by about 10%. In January the U.S.-based computer manufacturer Dell, already operating a factory in Penang, opened a global technical support centre in Cyberjaya near the capital. AirAsia X, the long-haul counterpart of the Malaysian budget airline AirAsia, announced in September that it would begin service to Australia and China. One year after its launch in September 2006, Malaysia's biotechnology initiative had attracted about 40 companies and investments of 1 billion ringgit (about $300 million). In August U.S.-based Actis Biologics unveiled plans for a $250 million factory in Malacca.

       Free-trade negotiations with the United States broke down in January, and in March the U.S. announced that it was postponing the agreement. In February Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei pledged to protect 200,000 sq km (124,000 sq mi) of rainforest on the island of Borneo, where palm oil plantations and logging had destroyed vast tracts of rainforest. In June the U.S. added Malaysia to a list of countries that it said were not doing enough to stop human trafficking, a charge Malaysia's government denied as inaccurate and unfair.

Janet Moredock

▪ 2007

329,876 sq km (127,366 sq mi)
(2006 est.): 26,640,000
Kuala Lumpur; some government offices have moved to Putrajaya (the new planned capital)
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agongs (Paramount Rulers) Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail and, from December 13, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud
Head of government:
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

 Long considered a model of ethnic and religious tolerance, Malaysia showed signs in 2006 that its carefully maintained social fabric was beginning to fray as tensions mounted between conservative Muslims and their non-Muslim countrymen. In March, Marina Mahathir, a newspaper columnist and the daughter of former prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad, touched off a fiery controversy when she likened the situation of Muslim women in Malaysia to that of South African blacks under apartheid. Malaysian media's reportage and discussion of religious issues was later censured by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who described such issues as “too sensitive” for debate. In April a crowd of Muslims destroyed a 19th-century Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur after the courts determined that the building had been built illegally, though it—and other non-Muslim houses of worship threatened with destruction—predated the keeping of land records in Malaysia. Some local governments enacted bans on couples' kissing and holding hands in public and on owning dogs (considered unclean by conservative Muslims). A coalition of nongovernmental groups known as Article 11 called on the government to enforce constitutional guarantees of religious equality and freedom of worship against creeping Islamization, but the prime minister instead accused Article 11 of endangering Malaysia's social harmony by focusing attention on sensitive issues. Critics warned that the government's weak response to the encroachments of Islamic fundamentalism might lead to the further erosion of religious freedom and interethnic harmony in Malaysia.

      In September Prime Minister Badawi opened the manufacturing facility of Inno Biologics, a new government-owned drug and biotechnology company, and announced the creation of a $200 million fund to support biotech initiatives in agriculture, medicine, and industry. With the fund and the launch of a new technology park near the capital, Malaysia sought to establish itself as a major hub in the burgeoning biotech industry and to reinvigorate its drive to achieve full socioeconomic development by 2020, a goal first articulated by then prime minister Mahathir in 1991. The country's economy continued its robust expansion, with exports to China and the United States reaching record levels, and a strong growth rate of 5.5% was forecast for the year.

      Malaysia remained one of the most cost-effective destinations for foreign companies in 2006. U.S.-based Dell and Intel expanded their operations in Penang, and in September the German chipmaker Infineon Technologies opened a state-of-the-art power semiconductor factory in nearby Kedah. Singapore-based electronics manufacturer Flextronics began construction of a factory in the southern port of Tanjung Pelapas.

      After fighting broke out between Israeli and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon in mid-July, Prime Minister Badawi condemned the international community's “paralysis” in dealing with the crisis. Badawi later sent 360 troops to join the international peacekeeping force in Lebanon. Malaysia's perennially thorny relations with neighbouring Singapore continued during negotiations to replace a causeway joining the two countries. Although Singapore opposed the project, in January Malaysia began work to raise its side of the causeway, which would have resulted in a crooked roadway. The project and all related negotiations were abandoned in April, however.

Janet Moredock

▪ 2006

329,847 sq km (127,355 sq mi)
(2005 est.): 26,130,000
Kuala Lumpur; some government offices have moved to Putrajaya (the new planned capital)
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail
Head of government:
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

      When Malaysia's minister of science and technology announced in August 2005 his government's plan to put an astronaut on the Moon by 2020, the declaration generated little surprise, consistent as it was with the country's record of technological advancement. Despite this latest sign of progress, however, Malaysia continued to struggle in 2005 with corruption, a troubled human rights record, and conflicts between Islamic law and individual rights. Although the devastating Indian Ocean tsunami that struck in late December 2004 had caused relatively light damage in Malaysia, in June the government reported receiving complaints that the recovery in some areas had been hampered by the misappropriation of relief funds by aid distributors. Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi's effort to root out government corruption yielded only one notable case during the year; Isa Samad, a cabinet minister and high-ranking officer in the ruling United Malays National Organization, was suspended from the party on charges of vote buying and asked to resign his cabinet post. In May a royal commission investigating corruption and human rights abuses in the Malaysian police force published its recommendations for reform, which included the establishment of an independent panel to review complaints of police misconduct. Earlier in the year, human rights groups had called for restrictions on state Islamic departments after Kuala Lumpur's Islamic department arrested some 100 Muslim patrons of a popular nightclub for immoral conduct. Activists charged that such actions violated constitutional guarantees of individual privacy. Responding to the furor over “state-sponsored snooping,” the Badawi administration ordered Islamic departments to seek permission from the police before arresting anyone for immoral behaviour. In August further protests greeted the government's order that police begin checking mobile telephones for pornography, which was illegal in Malaysia.

 After announcing the opening of free-trade talks with Australia in April, Malaysia sealed a free-trade pact with Japan in May. In October the government began trying to persuade oil companies to produce fuel made from a combination of petroleum and palm oil, of which Malaysia was the world's leading producer. With rising fuel prices exerting pressure on the economies of major trading partners, Malaysia's export-driven economy was projected to grow 4.9% in 2005, down significantly from the previous year's 7% growth rate. Early in the year the Badawi administration clashed with business leaders after the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants created a critical labour shortage. Undocumented immigrants, most of them from Indonesia, previously had made up one-tenth of Malaysia's workforce. In May the government invited the workers back and even set up centres in Indonesia to help expedite applications for work visas.

      Relations with neighbouring Thailand remained tense owing to the ongoing Muslim insurgency in southern Thailand. In late December 2004 the Thai government claimed to have obtained evidence that some insurgents had received training in the northern Malaysian state of Kelantan. When 131 Thai Muslims fled into Malaysia in early September to escape the fighting, the government refused to repatriate them immediately, despite the Thai prime minister's assertion that some of the refugees were Islamic separatists.

Janet Moredock

▪ 2005

329,847 sq km (127,355 sq mi)
(2004 est.): 25,584,000
Kuala Lumpur; some government offices have moved to Putrajaya (the new planned capital)
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail
Head of government:
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

      On Sept. 2, 2004, the High Court in Malaysia ended one of the country's most wrenching controversies when it released Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister imprisoned since 1998 on questionable charges. The court, having previously rejected repeated appeals from Anwar, overturned his conviction for sodomy, belatedly citing evidence that the prosecution's key witness was unreliable. The move was widely attributed to the anticorruption campaign of Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. (See Biographies. (Badawi, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad )) The arrests in February of a government minister and a prominent businessman on fraud charges gave early promise of Abdullah's success in combating corruption. Despite claims that further prosecutions were imminent, the effort appeared to have stalled in the months before Anwar's release. Nevertheless, Abdullah's anticorruption stance clearly resonated with Malaysians, who gave his United Malays National Organization (UMNO) a landslide victory in general elections held on March 21. The ruling National Front coalition, led by the UMNO, gained control of more than 90% of the seats in the federal parliament.

      In 2004 Malaysia's government struggled to combat rising crime rates. In January, following the rape and murder of two girls within one week, the government considered introducing public flogging as a punishment for child rape. Flogging demonstrations in Malaysian schools, launched in May to deter juvenile delinquency, were quickly discontinued following warnings that such demonstrations legitimized violence in the eyes of children. In February and March 85,000 teenagers reported for training in the country's new national service program, created to foster goodwill between ethnic groups and discipline among youth. By April, however, the program had started to founder amid reports of ethnic gang violence, sexual assaults, extortion, and drug abuse in its training camps. In August a royal commission reported that Malaysia's police force was riddled with corruption and brutality.

      Malaysia's economy continued to thrive in 2004, with estimated growth of 7% coupled with low inflation. The manufacturing and services sectors led the economy. High rates of consumer spending and a record number of tourist arrivals spurred growth in the services sector. The country was expected to maintain a positive overall balance of payments for the fourth consecutive year.

      Malaysia sought to foster greater cooperation between Asian nations in 2004. In an address before the East Asian Congress in June, the prime minister urged the formation of an Asian economic union. Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia began coordinating naval patrols in the Strait of Malacca in July. In October Abdullah met with Thailand's prime minister to discuss increasing security along the Thai border, where Thai Muslim separatists had launched several attacks. Malaysia also partook of its share of controversy in the international sphere. In February, U.S. Pres. George W. Bush accused Malaysia of trafficking in nuclear secrets, a charge vehemently denied by the government. Suspected terrorists imprisoned in Malaysia started a hunger strike in March to protest the country's internal security laws, which permitted the indefinite detention of suspects without charge. In April the New York-based Human Rights Watch charged Malaysia with mistreating refugees who were fleeing fighting in Aceh province, Indon.

Janet Moredock

▪ 2004

329,847 sq km (127,355 sq mi)
(2003 est.): 25,225,000
Kuala Lumpur; head of government office in Putrajaya (the future planned capital) from 1999
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail
Head of government:
Prime Ministers Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad and, from October 31, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi

      On Oct. 31, 2003, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad stepped down after 22 years in office. The early part of the year had had all the hallmarks of Mahathir's tumultuous rule. In April he accused educators in the country's Muslim religious schools of teaching hate and ended government subsidies to the schools, where more than 125,000 children were enrolled. Earlier, in March, Mahathir's former deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, had appealed his 2000 conviction on what his supporters had long claimed were trumped-up charges of sodomy. To no one's surprise the Court of Appeal upheld the original ruling, and in October Anwar filed an appeal with the country's highest court.

      The Malaysian economy performed strongly in 2003, with GDP growth at 4.5%, though challenges to future growth became increasingly apparent. Foreign investment in Malaysia was down, and the emergence of China as the region's preferred manufacturing destination was largely to blame. Malaysia, having earlier diversified its economy—at Mahathir's insistence—to become a world leader in electronics manufacturing and assembly, turned in its new search for growth to the development of service industries, including tourism and health care. In his final budget, which was released in mid-September, Mahathir incorporated tax breaks for small and medium-sized companies as well as special incentives for hotel and tourism operators.

      On October 31 Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Mahathir's handpicked successor, was sworn in as the country's new prime minister and assumed the leadership of the United Malays National Organization (the party of which his father was a founding member). The soft-spoken Abdullah had served as Malaysia's foreign minister and minister of education and defense before being named deputy prime minister in 1999. In November he moved quickly to set a new tone, and in his first parliamentary address as prime minister, he pledged to strengthen Malaysia's democratic culture, honour the system of checks and balances on power that Mahathir was widely considered to have undermined, and root out corruption.

      Internationally, Malaysia continued to assert its economic and political influence in Southeast Asia and, increasingly, the world. Mahathir was one of the most vociferous critics of the U.S.-led war in Iraq and of Western countries' treatment of Muslim countries and Muslims in general, despite his own intolerance toward Muslim fundamentalism and his role as a prominent U.S. ally in the international war on terrorism. Though Malaysia was among the top U.S. trading partners, it openly sought to strengthen its ties with other nations. Mahathir negotiated with the sultan of Brunei in May to end the dispute over a huge oil field off the coast of Borneo; Malaysia proposed to develop the oil field jointly with Brunei. In August Mahathir met Russian Pres. Vladimir Putin, who initialed a $900 million deal for Malaysia's purchase of 18 Sukhoy warplanes. In December 2002 the International Court of Justice had recognized Malaysia's claim to the disputed islands of Ligitan and Sipadan; the ruling allowed the country to continue development of Sipadan as one of the world's most popular scuba-diving destinations.

Janet Moredock

▪ 2003

329,847 sq km (127,355 sq mi)
(2002 est.): 24,370,000
Kuala Lumpur; head of government office in Putrajaya (the future planned capital) from 1999
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail
Head of government:
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad

      Malaysia's long-awaited political transition was under way in 2002. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad, in his closing address to the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) General Assembly in June, announced his intention to retire. Soon after, he outlined a 16-month transition scenario. Leadership of the politically dominant UMNO and the governing National Front coalition would pass to his deputy prime minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

      Transition scenarios had been the popular leitmotif of the latter part of Mahathir's two-decade-long leadership. The first collapsed in the brutal fallout in 1998 between Mahathir and his previous deputy, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who was subsequently imprisoned on dubious charges of corruption and sexual misconduct. Electoral setbacks followed in 1999 for the National Front and especially for the UMNO. Mahathir continued to seek an opportune time to begin the transition process but did not wish to withdraw at the bottom of a political down cycle.

      By mid-2002 Mahathir had largely restored his authority. He had shattered the broad opposition coalition that had united against him in 1999; curbed the ardour of the judiciary to challenge executive domination; offered himself, before Sept. 11, 2001, and even more forcefully thereafter, as a leading Muslim moderate in the worldwide struggle against regressive Islamism; moved against some of the unpopular but previously UMNO-cosseted Malay corporate barons; and survived politically until his “contrarian” anti-International Monetary Fund policies—denounced by international and domestic critics alike—were vindicated by a Malaysian economic recovery. His reputation rehabilitated and legacy assured, Mahathir found it possible to trigger the succession scenario.

      Some questioned whether Abdullah Ahmad Badawi would have the guile and will to dominate the unruly UMNO organization as the sometimes-criticized but always-feared Mahathir did. Yet Badawi was not to be underestimated. He had been centrally involved in Malaysian politics since he served as a key civil servant in the early 1970s; he had survived a falling-out with Mahathir during the traumatic UMNO split of the mid-1980s and had quietly worked his way back to the centre; and he enjoyed a reputation for Islamic piety and knowledge that could make him a more credible opponent of the fundamentalist Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS) than Mahathir had ever managed to be.

      Malaysia's economic outlook remained positive. Foreign investment continued to pour into the country, and the stock index had gained more than 5% by August. In what was interpreted as a particularly bright economic sign, Standard & Poor's upgraded Malaysia's long-term foreign-currency debt rating—a move prompted in part by the government's success in debt restructuring. Since the height of the Asian financial crisis in 1998, some $12 billion in Malaysian corporate debts had been resolved. A controversial shift from Malay- to English-language education, especially in the areas of science and mathematics, was intended to help the country become more competitive internationally in technically complex economic sectors but met with fierce resistance from Malay nationalists during the year.

Clive S. Kessler

▪ 2002

329,845 sq km (127,354 sq mi)
(2001 est.): 22,602,000
Kuala Lumpur; head of government office in Putrajaya (the future planned capital) from 1999
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agongs (Paramount Rulers) Tuanku Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah ibni al-Marhum Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah, Tuanku Mizan Zainal Abidin ibni al-Marhum Sultan Mahmud (acting) from October 8 and (interim) from November 21, and, from December 13, Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Syed Putra Jamalullail
Head of government:
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad

      The ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO), led by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad, began the year 2001 under stress. A diverse new opposition coalition had emerged called the Alternative Front, which included many younger generation Malaysians and counted among its members both Malays and non-Malays as well as Muslims and non-Muslims. The UMNO was also under unprecedented scrutiny from the newly created Human Rights Commission for its recourse to harsh measures limiting the rights of assembly and freedom of speech. Elements within the judiciary had begun to reassert their independence from the executive, and Mahathir faced mounting criticism over the government's continuing protection of UMNO-connected corporations with close ties to Finance Minister Tun Daim Zainuddin and his protégés.

      Although Mahathir's legitimacy among the nation's demographically and politically dominant Malay citizens was threatened by these issues and developments, by year's end he had turned the situation around decisively. He had accepted Tun Daim's resignation as finance minister and had further allayed public disquiet by removing from the personal grasp of Tun Daim's protégés the great national and party assets they controlled.

      Mahathir also turned up the pressure on the Alternative Front coalition by exploiting the deep and unresolved tensions between the coalition's two largest partners: the Islamic Party of Malaysia (PAS), which wanted Malaysia to become a Sharʿiah-based Islamic state, and the stridently anticlericalist Democratic Action Party (DAP), which held explicitly non-Malay-centric views of Malaysian society and identity. By September the Alternative Front had cracked.

      With the coalition's collapse, Mahathir and the UMNO were free to write their own political script leading up to the 2004 elections. To the UMNO's great advantage, Malaysian voters were once again likely to be faced in 2004 with the hardly attractive choice between the UMNO's crude regimen of statist authoritarianism and the PAS's increasingly assertive neotraditionalist Islamism.

      Arrests and detentions ensued of young PAS activists and other Islamic militants allegedly involved in jihad-type actions throughout Southeast Asia. Initially greeted with skepticism, this government action was placed beyond questioning by the September 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S. If the PAS/DAP entente had not already been dead, this would have killed it.

      Far from boasting of vindication, Mahathir coolly asserted that the arrests were unconnected with the search for Osama bin Laden's associates and pointedly questioned U.S. strikes against Afghanistan. Mahathir's political enemies were suddenly tainted by association with deeds far exceeding the most lurid UMNO propaganda. Domestic criticism of his strong-handed government was discredited, and, as a prominent Muslim moderate, Mahathir could be confident that international—especially U.S.—criticism of his rule as repressive would end.

Clive S. Kessler

▪ 2001

329,735 sq km (127,311 sq mi)
(2000 est.): 23,260,000
Kuala Lumpur; head of government office in Putrajaya (the future planned capital) from 1999
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah ibni al-Marhum Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad

      The year 2000 in Malaysia saw the conclusion of the sensational trial of Anwar Ibrahim, the former protégé of Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad who had been fired as deputy prime minister and finance minister in September 1998 and later arrested on sexual misconduct and sodomy charges. The judge refused Anwar's lawyers' requests that Mahathir be summoned to testify, and the trial came to an abrupt end in August. Anwar was found guilty on three charges of sodomy and was sentenced to nine years in prison. The few protests that followed were swiftly squashed by police. Continuing to maintain his innocence, Anwar claimed that the charges had been fraudulently concocted because he had fallen out of favour with Mahathir and the prime minister feared an electoral challenge within the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO).

      In May the UMNO held its triennial party elections. The polls had been put off for a year to prevent Anwar's supporters from gaining an upper hand. Mahathir and his allies succeeded in curtailing the campaign of another former finance minister, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah, who had challenged Mahathir for the UMNO leadership in 1987 and narrowly lost. Still, the party elected three former Anwar allies—Najib Razak, Muhammad Taib, and Muhyiddin Yassin—as vice presidents. The UMNO and the Malay community at large remained deeply divided between those who supported Anwar and those who opposed him.

      In October Mahathir and his allies proposed key amendments to the UMNO constitution that would replace the current electoral college system that elected the party's president, his deputy, and the Supreme Council with a much larger, more representative electoral college. This was seen as yet another attempt to reduce the influence of Anwar and his allies within the UMNO. Following a popular revolt in the party's ranks, Mahathir backtracked and diluted most of the amendments just before they were put to vote.

      Malaysia's economy continued to recover in 2000, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth at about 8%, up from 5.8% in 1999. As the world's third largest exporter of semiconductors, Malaysia benefited from a robust demand for electronics components from manufacturers of personal computers and telecommunications equipment. Toward the end of the year, however, there were signs that the demand for semiconductors and other electronics components was dramatically slowing. As a net exporter of oil, Malaysia also benefited from higher oil prices during the year, though higher government oil revenues were not enough to push Malaysia's chronic budget deficit into a surplus. The budget deficit remained a high 5% of Malaysia's total GDP. Malaysia stuck with its capital control measures throughout the year; the government kept the nation's currency pegged artificially low to the U.S. dollar to boost exports. In October the government announced that it would remove a 10% levy on foreign portfolio investments in order to improve lacklustre foreign interest in Malaysia's stock market.

Assif A. Shameen

▪ 2000

329,733 sq km (127,311 sq mi)
(1999 est.): 22,710,000
Kuala Lumpur
Chief of state:
Yang di-Pertuan Agongs (Paramount Rulers) Tuanku Ja'afar ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman and, from April 26, Tuanku Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah ibni al-Marhum Sultan Hisamuddin Alam Shah
Head of government:
Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad

      The year 1999 was another tumultuous one for Malaysia. Having fired Anwar Ibrahim from his posts as deputy prime minister and finance minister in September 1998, Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad had hoped to consolidate power and put the firing and Anwar's subsequent arrest behind him. It was not to be. Reverberations from the episode continued to shake the country and divide Malaysia's majority Malay community. Throughout 1999 there were periodic street demonstrations, though on a much smaller scale than the protests immediately following Anwar's firing.

      In early January Rahim Noor, Malaysia's chief of police and a close ally of Mahathir, resigned, confessing later that he had severely beaten Anwar in his jail cell. A government inquiry into the incident concluded that Rahim had acted alone and was not under orders from his superiors to assault Anwar. Rahim was charged with having willfully attempted to injure Anwar in custody. He pleaded not guilty and remained free on bail.

      Also in January Mahathir announced that he was postponing the June 1999 elections of the dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO) for up to 18 months. Anwar had intended to challenge Mahathir for leadership of the UMNO—and thereby the prime ministership—but Mahathir had preempted the move by sacking him. To replace Anwar, Mahathir appointed Foreign Minister Abdullah Badawi as deputy prime minister and a close personal confidant, billionaire businessman Daim Zainuddin, as finance minister.

      For much of the early part of the year, Anwar's sensational trial on four counts of abuse of power to cover up alleged sexual misconduct continued. In mid-March the trial came to an abrupt halt, with Anwar's defense attorneys held in contempt of court after they refused to make their closing arguments. Anwar was found guilty on all four charges and sentenced him to six years in prison. Street protests by Anwar's supporters erupted in Kuala Lumpur. Anwar appealed, but he was charged on two further counts involving sexual misconduct and sodomy, and that trial continued through the end of the year. Anwar charged that there was a political conspiracy to oust him from power. In September Malaysia was stunned by reports that arsenic had been discovered in Anwar's body, but later medical tests showed that it was below dangerous levels.

      Mahatir's Barisan National coalition won a closely contested snap parliamentary election in late November, thanks largely to the support of ethnic Chinese and Indian voters. Malay voters remained deeply divided in their party loyalties.

      Malaysia's economy continued to recover after a disastrous 7.5% contraction in 1998. In 1999 the economy grew just over 5%, primarily on the back of the artificially low ringgit, which remained pegged to the U.S. dollar. As a leading exporter of electronic components, Malaysia also benefited from an upturn in the global electronics market and surging demand for semiconductors.

Assif A. Shameen

▪ 1999

      Area: 329,733 sq km (127,311 sq mi)

      Population (1998 est.): 22,083,000

      Capital: Kuala Lumpur

      Chief of state: Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Ja'afar ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman

      Head of government: Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad

      Malaysia had expected 1998 to be the year that it proudly showed off to the rest of the world the remarkable accomplishments of years of prosperity. The capital, Kuala Lumpur, played host to two high-profile international events, the Commonwealth Games (in which Malaysians won 10 gold medals and placed fourth in the competition) and the annual summit meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum. As it turned out, however, both events were overshadowed by the biggest political convulsion in the country since the race riots of 1969.

      The drama began on September 2, when Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad fired Anwar Ibrahim from his posts as deputy premier and finance minister. One day later Anwar was expelled from the party, the dominant United Malays National Organization (UMNO). In the ensuing storm many Malaysians flocked to support him under the banner of reformasi ("reform" in Bahasa Malaysia), demanding an end to what they considered a corrupt political system. On September 20 Anwar was arrested under the Internal Security Act, a controversial law that allowed for detention without trial.

      Anwar was soon released from detention but almost immediately was brought up on formal charges of corruption and sodomy. He appeared in court on September 29, pleading innocence to all charges. Photographs showing him with a black eye, suggesting that he had been beaten in custody, further inflamed the situation, sparking a new round of demonstrations that continued well into October (although police managed to keep them from spinning out of control). Meanwhile, Anwar's wife, Wan Azizah, strongly defended her husband, describing charges of sexual misconduct as being a clumsy attempt to discredit him. The lurid trial was continuing at year's end.

      At one time Anwar had been seen as the logical successor to Mahathir, who had been prime minister since 1981. In 1997 Mahathir seemed relaxed enough about the succession to take a two-month vacation from running the country's affairs, leaving it in Anwar's hands. The East Asian financial crisis and Malaysia's consequent deepening recession (once averaging 8% growth per annum, the country's economy contracted by an estimated 7% in 1998), however, helped precipitate the split between the two men. Anwar favoured maintaining open markets and international investment, whereas Mahathir was openly and often vocally suspicious of various international "plots" to undermine the Malaysian economy.

      Their disagreement was presaged by the appointment of former finance minister Daim Zainuddin as a special economic adviser. Daim shared Mahathir's enthusiasm for low interest rates and increased public spending. Mahathir accompanied the firing of Anwar as finance minister (he took the portfolio for himself) by imposing controls on the Malaysian currency in order to remove it as an object of speculation and to permit the country to maintain lower interest rates than would be necessary to defend a free-floating currency.

      Domestic politics impinged on foreign affairs when the presidents and prime ministers of 21 nations fronting the Pacific Ocean arrived in Kuala Lumpur for the annual APEC summit. Several, including Pres. Joseph Estrada of the Philippines (see BIOGRAPHIES (Estrada, Joseph )) and U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, pointedly met with Wan Azizah to demonstrate their support for her husband. U.S. Vice Pres. Al Gore (substituting for Pres. Bill Clinton, who was distracted by the weapons-inspection crisis in Iraq) raised the stakes even higher when at the annual banquet he likened reformasi to the People's Power Revolt in the Philippines and other democratic landmarks.

      The year was also marked by spats with neighbouring Singapore, including the sovereignty over a railroad terminal in Singapore and Malaysia's refusal to allow the Singaporean air force to fly over its territory on training missions. Singapore's Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew also ruffled some feathers with the publication of the first volume of his memoirs, which contained frank observations about some of Malaysia's founders.


▪ 1998

      Area: 329,733 sq km (127,311 sq mi)

      Population (1997 est.): 21,767,000

      Capital: Kuala Lumpur

      Chief of state: Yang di-Pertuan Agong (Paramount Ruler) Tuanku Ja'afar ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman

      Head of government: Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad

      Malaysia's sometimes prickly relationship with Singapore entered a difficult period in March 1997 because of comments in an affidavit filed by Singapore Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew. His description of Johor, the Malaysian state across the causeway from Singapore, as being notoriously crime-ridden sparked outrage. Lee apologized, and the row died down, but the remarks rankled.

      Raging scrub and forest fires in Indonesia produced a noxious pall that enveloped Kuala Lumpur and other parts of Malaysia for months. Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, the worst-hit state, declared a 10-day state of emergency in September because of the smog.

      Differences over the practice of Islam, which was controlled by religious authorities in individual states, seemed likely to become a growing source of friction in the mainly Muslim country. The federal government and Muslim clerics clashed over several religious rulings, including bans for the faithful on beauty and body-building contests. Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad warned that rigid devotion to Islamic ritual could hurt economic development. His call for Muslims to reform their attitudes toward their religion angered Islamic conservatives.

      There was continuing speculation about Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's chances of inheriting the presidency of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) from Mahathir. UMNO was the dominant party in the ruling National Front coalition, and, consequently, its president heads the government. In part, the succession rumours were fueled by apparent differences between Mahathir and Anwar in handling issues affecting the economy.

      Mahathir's unprecedented decision in May to delegate sweeping powers to Anwar while he was away on a long vacation seemed to dispel notions that he was less than fully supportive of his deputy. The country's economic woes, however, drew attention to their contrasting approaches. Conventional wisdom initially held that Malaysia would not be badly affected by the regional currency turmoil that spilled over from Thailand when that nation devalued its currency in July. Sales of the ringgit by offshore funds combined with investor jitters, however, sent the Malaysian currency and stock market on a downward spin. The prime minister blamed foreigners bent on sabotaging the economy. He then intervened to shore up the market, apparently sidelining Anwar, who was also serving as finance minister.

      Measures that were taken included a directive to state-managed funds to buy shares in Malaysian companies and a short-lived ban on the short selling of some stocks, which was lifted when it prompted a massive sell-off by fund managers. Between January and September about $110 billion—more than four times the country's foreign currency reserves—were wiped from the market capitalization of the Kuala Lumpur stock exchange.

      In October the government presented an "austerity" budget to bring about a medium-term recovery. The program included export incentives and tighter fiscal policy. Import taxes were raised to reduce the current-account deficit, estimated at 13.1 billion ringgit on October 17. Several large-scale projects were deferred, including the Bakun dam in Sarawak; the Linear City, a shopping mall to be built over a river in Kuala Lumpur; a highway linking hill resorts; and a series of bridges linking Malaysia and Indonesia. The corporate income tax was cut from 30% to 28%.

      Many believed that the measures did not go far enough to trim the fat from Malaysia's decade-long boom. In December Anwar announced tougher plans to cope with the deepening woes. These included an 18% cut in 1998 government spending, curbs on big imports such as airplanes, and a freeze on new stock listings. Growth of gross domestic product was officially revised downward to 7% for 1997 and 4-5% in 1998, but private-sector economists believed the rate was likely to be lower.

      Mahathir's bitter attacks on "rogue speculators," hints of a "Jewish plot," and threat to ban currency trading drew international criticism. Domestically, however, his National Front partners rallied behind him. Especially in rural areas of Malaysia, the prime minister was seen as a hero who dared to stand up to developed nations.

      This article updates malaysia, history of (Malaysia).

▪ 1997

      A federal constitutional monarchy of Southeast Asia and member of the Commonwealth, Malaysia consists of the former Federation of Malaya at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula (excluding Singapore) and Sabah and Sarawak on the northern part of the island of Borneo. Area: 330,442 sq km (127,584 sq mi). Pop. (1996 est.): 20,359,000. Cap.: Kuala Lumpur. Monetary unit: ringgit, with (Oct. 11, 1996) a free rate of 2.51 ringgit to U.S. $1 (3.95 ringgit = £1 sterling). Paramount ruler in 1996, with the title of yang di-pertuan agong, Tuanku Ja'afar ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman; prime minister, Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad.

      Prime Minister Dato Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad experienced triumphs in 1996, reasserting his pre-eminence as leader of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the dominant party in the ruling National Front coalition. Though Mahathir and Deputy Prime Minister Dato Seri Anwar bin Ibrahim apparently worked harmoniously together, there were reports at the start of 1996 that Anwar might have enough momentum to challenge Mahathir for the party presidency, which carries with it the national prime ministership. But on May 4, UMNO's powerful policy-making Supreme Council ruled that no nominations would be accepted for the top two posts other than for Mahathir as party president and Anwar as deputy president, which effectively thwarted the possibility of a leadership challenge.

      In October Mahathir's allies scored impressive victories at triennial party elections by winning most of the Supreme Council seats. More important, Foreign Affairs Minister Abdullah Badawi defeated Anwar loyalist Muhyiddin Yassin for one of the three vice presidential positions. The other two vice presidential slots were held by incumbents Najib Tun Razak, the popular education minister, and Selangor Chief Minister Muhammad Taib. Anwar supporters did, however, enjoy two electoral triumphs. In a surprising defeat Mahathir stalwart Rafidah Aziz, the international trade and industry minister, lost her post as head of the UMNO women's wing to Siti Zaharah Sulaiman. Rahim Tamby Chik, the UMNO youth leader, was replaced by Zahid Hamidi. Both Rafidah and Rahim had been dogged by allegations of impropriety.

      Perhaps of longer-term significance was the return to UMNO of Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah. He had been a bitter foe of the government since trying unsuccessfully to displace Mahathir as party leader in 1987. Razaleigh subsequently quit UMNO and in 1989 founded an opposition party. One of the first public signs that the former allies would reconcile occurred when on May 11 Razaleigh attended celebrations for UMNO's 50th anniversary.

      The government continued to promote large-scale infrastructure designed to lure international investors and to modernize the nation by the year 2020. It put new impetus into a plan to make Kuala Lumpur an international centre for advanced information technology. Referred to as the Multimedia Super Corridor, the project was to stretch from the new international airport under construction at Sepang near the Negri Sembilan state border to central Kuala Lumpur's 452-m (1,483-ft) Petronas Towers. The twin towers became the world's tallest buildings when they were completed in February.

      The economy continued to perform well. Economists believed that the slowdown in growth from 9.5% to the 8-8.5% range would take some pressure off wages and inflation. There were new worries about the $7.2 billion current-account deficit, which was exacerbated by a slump in the global electronics market; electronics constituted 30.5% of the nation's exports. (STEVEN FRANK)

      This article updates malaysia, history of (Malaysia).

▪ 1996

      A federal constitutional monarchy of Southeast Asia and member of the Commonwealth, Malaysia consists of the former Federation of Malaya at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula (excluding Singapore) and Sabah and Sarawak on the northern part of the island of Borneo. Area: 330,442 sq km (127,584 sq mi). Pop. (1995 est.): 19,948,000. Cap.: Kuala Lumpur. Monetary unit: ringgit, with (Oct. 6, 1995) a free rate of 2.54 ringgit to U.S. $1 (4.01 ringgit = £1 sterling). Paramount ruler in 1995, with the title of yang di-pertuan agong, Tuanku Ja'afar ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman; prime minister, Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad.

      Malaysians gave Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad an even bigger parliamentary victory in 1995 than the 71% majority his ruling National Front coalition had won in the 1990 general election. Members of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) who were elected to Parliament, together with others belonging to five allied parties, totaled 162 and represented a majority of 84% in the expanded 192-seat House of Representatives. In state elections the coalition strengthened its grip on the Chinese-majority state of Penang, which the opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) had hoped to control. The Malaysian Chinese Association, a Front partner, won 29 of 33 seats in the state legislature.

      The DAP lost 11 of the 20 seats it had won in 1990, and the Sabah United Party (PBS), another opposition group, lost 6 of the 14 seats it had previously occupied. UMNO had wrested control of the Borneo state of Sabah from the PBS in 1994. The conservative Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (Pas) did better, not only keeping all the 7 parliamentary seats it had won five years earlier but also gaining 24 of 43 state seats. Pas ally Spirit of '46 (Semangat '46), a splinter group of UMNO, won 11 seats, making Kelantan the nation's only opposition-ruled state. In August a Kelantan court stripped Spirit of '46 leader Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah of his state seat because of a nomination technicality, but Razaleigh easily regained it in a by-election.

      In the ensuing Cabinet reshuffle, Mahathir reappointed most of his loyalists or moved them to new posts. Those close to his designated successor, Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, were given minor portfolios. Mahathir encountered a few setbacks later in the year, however. Several of his high-profile allies, among them former finance minister Daim Zainuddin and former agriculture minister Sanusi Junid, were eased out as UMNO division chiefs. Party members voted in many Anwar backers instead, fueling speculation that Anwar might challenge Mahathir for the presidency of UMNO (which brings with it the premiership) the following year.

      In announcing his Cabinet appointments, Mahathir said that government officials would be bound by a new code of conduct that, among other regulations, limited their involvement in business and regulated sexual conduct. Rahim Tamby Chik had been forced to resign as chief minister of Malacca state over allegations that he had had an affair with a minor. Rafidah Aziz, minister of industry and international trade, was accused of conflict of interest, but she was cleared by the anticorruption agency. She was present when a committee in her ministry allocated a large number of stocks to her son-in-law. Minister of Youth and Sports Muhyiddin Yassin was taken to court for alleged improper involvement in land acquisition when he was chief minister of Johore state.

      The government came under attack for reviving a plan to build the Bakun hydroelectric dam in Sarawak state at a cost of $6 billion. Dismissing an environmental-impact report that warned of serious ecological damage, the government awarded a contract in February to build the dam. With construction scheduled to begin in January 1996, some 80,000 ha (200,000 ac) of rain forest would eventually be submerged and nearly 10,000 people, most from tribal communities, displaced.

      The economy expanded at more than 9% in 1995, continuing the economic growth rates of 8% or better of the previous eight years. There were worries about a ballooning current-account deficit, which topped $5 billion in October. Mahathir also voiced concern about the 3.5% inflation rate, saying prices should not rise at all. In an address to the UN General Assembly in September, Mahathir said that the world body had become the preserve of rich nations and had to be reformed. (CESAR BACANI)

      This updates the article malaysia, history of (Malaysia).

▪ 1995

      A federal constitutional monarchy of Southeast Asia and member of the Commonwealth, Malaysia consists of the former Federation of Malaya at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula (excluding Singapore) and Sabah and Sarawak on the northern part of the island of Borneo. Area: 330,442 sq km (127,584 sq mi). Pop. (1994 est.): 19,506,000. Cap.: Kuala Lumpur. Monetary unit: ringgit, with (Oct. 7, 1994) a free rate of 2.56 ringgit to U.S. $1 (4.08 ringgit = £1 sterling). Paramount rulers in 1994, with the title of yang di-pertuan agong, Tuanku Azlan Muhibbudin Shah ibni al-Marhum Yusuff Ghafarullahu-Lahu Shah and, from April 26, Tuanku Ja'afar ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman; prime minister, Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad.

      Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad marked his 13th year in office in 1994, becoming Malaysia's longest-serving leader. But the nation's attention was also focused on his heir apparent, Anwar Ibrahim, who had been promoted to deputy prime minister in December 1993. A month earlier Anwar had faced no competition when he was elected deputy president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the senior partner in the ruling National Front coalition. His "Vision Team," comprising UMNO leaders in their 40s, also won key party posts.

      Anwar was UMNO's chief strategist for the February elections in Sabah, the Borneo state long ruled by the opposition United Sabah Party. UMNO and its allies in the National Front won 23 state assembly seats, whittling PBS's legislative strength down to 25. Joseph Pairin Kitingan, Sabah's chief minister for nine years, was forced to dissolve the new assembly even before it could convene in March because almost all PBS legislators had defected. UMNO's Sakaran Dandai then became Sabah's chief minister.

      In April, Tuanku Ja'afar ibni al-Marhum Tuanku Abdul Rahman, ruler of Negri Sembilan state, became king of Malaysia. (Under a unique system of constitutional monarchy, Malaysia's nine state rulers successively served five-year terms as king.) In May Parliament amended the constitution to make clear that the monarch was obliged to follow the government's advice at all times. Any bill not signed by the king within 30 days would automatically become law. The parliament also restructured the judiciary and made any breach of the judicial code of ethics grounds for impeachment. To guarantee the independence of the bench, the government agreed that judges should draft the code.

      Controversy erupted in February when a London newspaper reported that a British contractor, bidding on a contract to build an aluminum smelter in 1985, was prepared to bribe Mahathir. The allegation came amid media stories that British aid to build the soon-to-be-finished Pergau Dam was part of a 1988 deal for Malaysia to buy British arms. The Malaysian Cabinet responded by banning all new government contracts with British companies, but it quietly reversed the decision in September. Another furor broke out in March when Bank Negara, Malaysia's central bank, revealed that it had lost $2.1 billion in foreign-exchange trading in 1993, in addition to the $3,570,000,000 lost in 1992. The governor of the central bank resigned.

      In August Malaysia's highest Islamic religious body forbade the influential al-Arqam sect to hold public meetings or disseminate its literature and videos. The government later arrested the group's founder, Ashaari Muhammad, under the Internal Security Act, which allowed imprisonment without trial. After his release in October, Ashaari announced the disbanding of al-Arqam.

      The economy continued to perform strongly. Gross domestic product growth exceeded 8%, matching the previous year's robust expansion. The push for value-added manufacturing continued. Nine years after Proton produced its first highly successful automobile, state-backed Perodua unveiled its first subcompact model in August.

      Mahathir made numerous state visits. By going to the Philippines, he confirmed that Malaysia no longer regarded Manila's territorial claim over Sabah as an insurmountable barrier to closer relations. Mahathir also paid a call on U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton. The prime minister had boycotted the 1993 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in Seattle, Wash., because Clinton did not endorse his proposed East Asian Economic Caucus. In November, however, Mahathir attended the second APEC summit in Indonesia. (CESAR BACANI)

      This updates the article malaysia, history of (Malaysia).

▪ 1994

      A federal constitutional monarchy of Southeast Asia and member of the Commonwealth, Malaysia consists of the former Federation of Malaya at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula (excluding Singapore) and Sabah and Sarawak on the northern part of the island of Borneo. Area: 330,442 sq km (127,584 sq mi). Pop. (1993 est.): 19,077,000. Cap.: Kuala Lumpur. Monetary unit: ringgit, with (Oct. 4, 1993) a free rate of 2.55 ringgit to U.S. $1 (3.87 ringgit = £1 sterling). Paramount ruler in 1993, with the title of yang di-pertuan agong, Tuanku Azlan Muhibbudin Shah ibni al-Marhum Yusuff Ghafarullahu-Lahu Shah; prime minister, Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad.

      The principal political issues in 1993 were constitutional amendments that stripped the nine hereditary rulers of legal immunity in purely personal matters and the triennial elections of the preeminent New United Malays National Organization (UMNO). In late 1992 the Sultan of Johore allegedly assaulted a hockey coach. It was merely the latest of many such allegations, one involving the killing of a golf caddie. The sultan, however, enjoyed immunity and could not be prosecuted. That prompted Prime Minister Datuk Seri Mahathir bin Mohamad to challenge the royals once again. In 1983 the king had been deprived of his veto power over legislation, and in 1992 the rulers were rebuked for interfering in politics and business.

      When the rulers refused to give their required consent for laws directly affecting them, Mahathir proposed withdrawing privileges not guaranteed by law. In February the rulers accepted revised amendments. Later, when the Sultan of Kelantan objected, a UMNO legislator questioned his claim to the throne. Under amendments approved in March, any ruler could be tried by a special court. The decision of the court would be final and could not be appealed. But a convicted ruler could be pardoned by the Conference of Rulers after it had considered the attorney general's written opinion. A ruler sentenced to more than one day in prison would lose his crown, which would then go to his designated successor unless the ruler received a "free pardon" from the Conference of Rulers.

      With Mahathir running unchallenged as UMNO president, all attention focused on the deputy president, who traditionally became deputy premier. Mahathir initially suggested that Ghafar Baba be retained to preserve unity, but he did not bar Finance Minister Anwar Ibrahim from becoming a candidate. After four decades in UMNO, Ghafar enjoyed grassroots support, but Anwar won key Cabinet endorsements and backing from party treasurer Daim Zainuddin, whose supporters controlled major newspapers. By October Anwar, who had been jailed in 1974 as an activist, had obtained nearly all of the 153 possible nominations, thereby guaranteeing a victory in November.

      Tensions continued between the federal government and Sabah, the Borneo state ruled by Parti Bersatu Sabah (PBS), an opposition party in Parliament. Kuala Lumpur pursued corruption charges against Joseph Pairin Kitingan, the head of PBS. In January log exports from Sabah were banned, cutting its budgeted revenues by nearly half and creating problems for logging, transport, and equipment firms. After the Supreme Court voided a Sabah law barring its legislators from switching parties, the state assembly passed a measure allowing dismissal of lawmakers who "betray their mandate." The founder of the United Sabah National Organization (USNO) accepted an invitation to join UMNO, but his son, the leader of USNO, formed a coalition with its rival PBS. The federal government then revoked USNO's registration, but USNO filed an appeal. On the whole, the parliamentary opposition seemed divided, especially over royal immunity and the imposition of hudud, Muslim punishment that included amputation of hands for repeated theft and stoning for adultery.

      Fueled by lower interest rates and surging exports, the economy turned in faster-than-expected growth of 8.5-9%, up from 8% in 1992. Inflation was moderated by curbs in consumer spending and a slowdown in direct foreign investment. The stock market set records through much of the year. Malaysia hoped to attract more capital into small and medium-sized industries and increase local content in manufacturing. It reduced to 35% (from 51%) the minimum equity Malays or other bumiputra (indigenous people) had to own for ventures to be favoured as bumiputra enterprises.

      Malaysia supported Muslim concerns in the Middle East and the Balkans and offered to send 1,500 soldiers to Bosnia and Herzegovina. It continued to push for an East Asian Economic Caucus, but Mahathir refused to attend the September Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Seattle, Wash. He was the only national leader to boycott the gathering of 15 "Pacific economies."


      This updates the article malaysia, history of (Malaysia).

* * *

Malaysia, flag of   country of Southeast Asia, lying just north of the Equator, that is composed of two noncontiguous regions: Peninsular Malaysia (Semenanjung Malaysia), also called West Malaysia (Malaysia Barat), on the Malay Peninsula, and East Malaysia (Malaysia Timur) on the island of Borneo. The Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, lies in the western part of the peninsula, about 25 miles (40 km) from the coast; the administrative centre, Putrajaya, is located about 16 miles (25 km) south of the capital.

      Malaysia, a member of the Commonwealth, represents the political marriage of territories that were formerly under British rule. When it was established on Sept. 16, 1963, Malaysia comprised the territories of Malaya (now Peninsular Malaysia), the island of Singapore, and the colonies of Sarawak and Sabah in northern Borneo. In August 1965 Singapore seceded from the federation and became an independent republic.

Land (Malaysia)
  Peninsular Malaysia occupies most of the southern segment of the Malay Peninsula. To the north it is bordered by Thailand, with which it shares a land boundary of some 300 miles (480 km). To the south, at the tip of the peninsula, is the island republic of Singapore, with which Malaysia is connected by a causeway and also by a separate bridge. To the southwest, across the Strait of Malacca (Malacca, Strait of), is the island of Sumatra in Indonesia. East Malaysia consists of the country's two largest states, Sarawak and Sabah, and is separated from Peninsular Malaysia by some 400 miles (640 km) of the South China Sea. These two states occupy roughly the northern fourth of the large island of Borneo and share a land boundary with the Indonesian portion ( Kalimantan) of the island to the south. Surrounded by Sarawak is a small coastal enclave containing the sultanate of Brunei. Of the country's total area, which includes about 265 square miles (690 square km) of inland water, Peninsular Malaysia constitutes about 40 percent and East Malaysia about 60 percent.

      The long, narrow, and rugged Malay Peninsula extends to the south and southwest from Myanmar and Thailand. The Malaysian portion of it is about 500 miles (800 km) long and—at its broadest east-west axis—about 200 miles (320 km) wide. About half of Peninsular Malaysia is covered by granite and other igneous rocks, one-third is covered by stratified rocks older than the granite, and the remainder is covered by alluvium. At least half the land area lies more than 500 feet (150 metres) above sea level.

      Peninsular Malaysia is dominated by its mountainous core, which consists of a number of roughly parallel mountain ranges aligned north-south. The most prominent of these is the Main Range, which is about 300 miles (480 km) long and has peaks exceeding 7,000 feet (2,100 metres). karst landscapes—limestone hills with characteristically steep whitish gray sides, stunted vegetation, caves created by the dissolving action of water, and subterranean passages—are distinctive landmarks in central and northern Peninsular Malaysia. Bordering the mountainous core are the coastal lowlands, 10 to 50 miles (15 to 80 km) wide along the west coast of the peninsula but narrower and discontinuous along the east coast.

      East Malaysia is an elongated strip of land approximately 700 miles (1,125 km) long with a maximum width of about 170 miles (275 km). The coastline of 1,400 miles (2,250 km) is paralleled inland by a 900-mile (l,450-km) boundary with Kalimantan. For most of its length, the relief consists of three topographic features. The first is the flat coastal plain. In Sarawak, where the coastline is regular, the plain averages 20 to 40 miles (30 to 60 km) in width, while in Sabah, where the coastline is rugged and deeply indented, it is only 10 to 20 miles (15 to 30 km) wide. Inland from the coastal plain is the second topographic feature, the hill-and-valley region. Elevations there generally are less than 1,000 feet (300 metres), but isolated groups of hills reach heights of 2,500 feet (750 metres) or more. The terrain in this region is usually irregular, with steep-sided hills and narrow valleys. The third topographic feature is the mountainous backbone that forms the divide between East Malaysia and Kalimantan. This region, which is higher and nearer to the coast in Sabah than in Sarawak, is composed of an eroded and ill-defined complex of plateaus, ravines, gorges, and mountain ranges. Most of the summits of the ranges are between 4,000 and 7,000 feet (1,200 and 2,100 metres). Mount Kinabalu (Kinabalu, Mount) towers above this mountain complex; at 13,455 feet (4,101 metres), it is the highest peak in Malaysia and in the Southeast Asian archipelago as a whole.

      Peninsular Malaysia is drained by an intricate system of rivers and streams. The longest river—the Pahang (Pahang River)—is only 270 miles (434 km) long. Streams flow year-round because of the constant rains, but the volume of water transported fluctuates with the localized and torrential nature of the rainfall. Prolonged rains often cause floods, especially in areas where the natural regimes of the rivers have been disrupted by uncontrolled mining or agricultural activities.

      As in Peninsular Malaysia, the drainage pattern of East Malaysia is set by the interior highlands, which also form the watershed between Malaysia and Indonesia. The rivers, also perennial because of the year-round rainfall, form a dense network covering the entire region. The longest river in Sarawak, the Rajang (Rajang River), is about 350 miles (563 km) long and is navigable by shallow-draft boats for about 150 miles (240 km) from its mouth; its counterpart in Sabah, the Kinabatangan (Kinabatangan River), is of comparable length but is navigable only for about 120 miles (190 km) from its mouth. The rivers provide a means of communication between the coast and the interior, and historically, most settlement has taken place along the rivers.

      The soils of both portions of Malaysia have been exposed for a long period of time to intense tropical weathering, with the result that most of their plant nutrients have been leached out. Soils typically are strongly acidic and coarse-textured and have low amounts of organic matter. Any organic matter is rapidly oxidized when exposed to weathering, and the soils consequently become even poorer. Soil erosion is always a danger on sloping ground, where such preventive measures as building contour embankments or planting protective cover crops are required.

      Only a small proportion of the soils of Peninsular Malaysia is fertile, necessitating regular application of fertilizer to sustain crop yields. Generally, soil conditions in Sarawak and Sabah do not differ greatly from those on the peninsula. Of these three regions, only Sabah has appreciable areas of fertile soils. These are found in the southeastern coastal areas, where the parent substance from which the soil is formed is composed of chemically basic volcanic materials.

      Both peninsular and insular Malaysia lie in the same tropical latitudes and are affected by similar airstreams. They have high temperatures and humidities, heavy rainfall, and a climatic year patterned around the northeast and southwest monsoons (monsoon). The four seasons of the climatic year are the northeast monsoon (from November or December until March), the first intermonsoonal period (March to April or May), the southwest monsoon (May or June to September or early October), and the second intermonsoonal period (October to November). The onset and retreat of the two monsoons are not sharply defined.

      Although Malaysia has an equatorial climate, the narrowness and topographic configuration of each portion—central mountainous cores with flat, flanking coastal plains—facilitate the inland penetration of maritime climatic influences. The monsoons further modify the climate. The northeast monsoon brings heavy rain and rough seas to the exposed coasts of southwestern Sarawak and northern and northeastern Sabah, and it sometimes causes flooding in the eastern part of the peninsula. The southwest monsoon affects mainly the southwestern coastal belt of Sabah, where flooding is common. Neither peninsular nor insular Malaysia is in the tropical cyclone (typhoon) belt, but their coasts occasionally are subject to the heavy rainstorms associated with squalls (squall).

      Temperatures are uniformly high throughout the year. On the peninsula, they average about 80 °F (27 °C) in most lowland areas. In coastal areas in East Malaysia, minimum temperatures range from the low to mid-70s F (about 23 °C), and maximum temperatures hover around 90 °F (32 °C); temperatures are lower in the interior highland regions. The mean annual rainfall on the peninsula is approximately 100 inches (2,540 mm); the driest location, Kuala Kelawang (in the district of Jelebu), near Kuala Lumpur, receives about 65 inches (1,650 mm) of rain per year, while the wettest, Maxwell's Hill, northwest of Ipoh, receives some 200 inches (5,000 mm) annually. Mean annual precipitation in Sabah varies from about 80 to 140 inches (2,030 to 3,560 mm), while most parts of Sarawak receive 120 inches (3,050 mm) or more per year.

Plant and animal life
      The characteristic vegetation of Malaysia is dense, evergreen rainforest. Rainforest still covers more than two-fifths of the peninsula and some two-thirds of Sarawak and Sabah; another fraction of the country is under swamp forest. Soil type, location, and elevation produce distinctive vegetation zones: tidal swamp forest on the coast, freshwater- and peat-swamp forest on the ill-drained parts of the coastal plains, lowland rainforest on the well-drained parts of the coastal plains and foothills up to an elevation of about 2,000 feet (600 metres), and submontane and montane forest (also called cloud forest) in higher areas. The highly leached and sandy soils of parts of central Sarawak and the coast support an open, heathlike forest commonly called kerangas forest.

 The flora of the Malaysian rainforest is among the richest in the world. There are several thousand species of vascular plants, including more than 2,000 species of trees, as well as the parasitic monster flower (Rafflesia arnoldii of the Rafflesiaceae family), which bears the world's largest known flower, measuring nearly 3 feet (1 metre) in diameter. Numerous varieties of the carnivorous pitcher plants ( Nepenthes) also grow in Malaysia's forests. One acre (0.4 hectare) of forest may have as many as 100 different species of trees, as well as shrubs, herbs, lianas (liana) (creepers), and epiphytes (epiphyte) (nonparasitic plants that grow on other plants and derive nourishment from the atmosphere). The forest canopy is so dense that little sunlight can penetrate it. As a result, the undergrowth usually is poorly developed and—contrary to popular belief—is not impenetrable. Much of the original rainforest has been destroyed by clearances made for agricultural or commercial purposes, by severe wind and lightning storms, and by indigenous peoples clearing it for shifting cultivation. When such cleared land is subsequently abandoned, coarse grassland, scrub, and secondary forest often develop.

 The forests and scrublands are inhabited by a large variety of animal life. Mammals on the peninsula include elephants, tigers, Malayan gaurs (gaur) (or seladang, massive wild oxen), Sumatran rhinoceroses, tapirs (hoofed and snouted quadrupeds), wild pigs, and many species of deer, including pelandok, or chevrotains (chevrotain) (small, deerlike ruminants, commonly called mouse deer). Crocodiles, monitor lizards, and cobras also are indigenous to the country, while green sea turtles and giant leatherback turtles nest on the beaches of the east coast.

      Animal life in East Malaysia is even more varied than it is on the peninsula. In addition to the peninsular species, East Malaysia is also the home of fast-disappearing orangutans (orangutan) and rhinoceroses, sun bears (sun bear) (also called honey bears), and unique proboscis monkeys (proboscis monkey)—a reddish tree-dwelling species. There also are vast numbers of cave swifts, whose nests are regularly collected and sold as the main ingredient of Chinese bird's nest soup.

People (Malaysia)
      The people of Malaysia are unevenly distributed between Peninsular (Peninsular Malaysia) and East Malaysia, with the vast majority living in Peninsular Malaysia. The population shows great ethnic, linguistic, cultural, and religious diversity. Within this diversity, a significant distinction is made for administrative purposes between indigenous peoples (including Malays), collectively called bumiputra, and immigrant populations (primarily Chinese and South Asians), called non-bumiputra.

Ethnic groups and languages
      The Malay Peninsula and the northern coast of Borneo, both situated at the nexus of one of the major maritime trade routes of the world, have long been the meeting place of peoples from other parts of Asia. As a result, the population of Malaysia, like that of Southeast Asia as a whole, shows great ethnographic complexity. Helping to unite this diversity of peoples is the national language, a standardized form of Malay (Malay language), officially called Bahasa Malaysia (formerly Bahasa Melayu). It is spoken to some degree by most communities, and it is the main medium of instruction in public primary and secondary schools.

      In general, peninsular Malaysians can be divided into four groups. In the order of their appearance in the region, these include the various Orang Asli (“Original People”) aboriginal peoples, the Malays (Malay), the Chinese, and the South Asians. In addition, there are small numbers of Europeans, Americans, Eurasians, Arabs, and Thai. The Orang Asli constitute the smallest group and can be classified ethnically into the Jakun, who speak a dialect of Malay (Malay language), and the Semang and Senoi, who speak languages of the Mon-Khmer language (Mon-Khmer languages) family.

 The Malays originated in different parts of the peninsula and archipelagic Southeast Asia. They constitute about half of the country's total population, they are politically the most powerful group, and, on the peninsula, they are numerically dominant. They generally share with each other a common culture, but with some regional variation, and they speak dialects of a common Austronesian language (Austronesian languages)—Malay. The most obvious cultural differences occur between the Malays living near the southern tip of the peninsula and those inhabiting the eastern and western coastal areas. Unlike the other ethnic groups of Malaysia, Malays are officially defined in part by their adherence to a specific religion, Islam.

      The Chinese, who make up about one-fourth of Malaysia's population, originally migrated from southeastern china. They are linguistically more diverse than the Malays, speaking several different Chinese languages; in Peninsular Malaysia, Hokkien and Hainanese (Southern Min languages), Cantonese (Cantonese language), and Hakka (Hakka language) are the most prominent. Because these languages are not mutually intelligible, it is not uncommon for two Chinese to converse in a lingua franca such as Mandarin (Mandarin language) Chinese, English, or Malay. The community that is colloquially called Baba Chinese includes those Malaysians of mixed Chinese and Malay ancestry who speak a Malay patois but otherwise remain Chinese in customs, manners, and habit.

      The peoples from South Asia—Indians, Pakistanis, and Sri Lankans—constitute a small but significant portion of the Malaysian population. Linguistically, they can be subdivided into speakers of Dravidian languages (Tamil (Tamil language), Telugu (Telugu language), Malayalam (Malayalam language), and others) and speakers of Indo-European languages (Punjabi (Punjābī language), Bengali (Bengali language), Pashto (Pashto language), and Sinhalese (Sinhalese language)). The Tamil speakers are the largest group.

      The population of East Malaysia is ethnographically even more complex than that of Peninsular Malaysia. The government, tending to oversimplify the situation in Sarawak and Sabah, officially recognizes only some of the dozens of ethnolinguistic groups in those two states.

      The main ethnic groups in Sarawak are the Iban (Sea Dayak), an indigenous group accounting for more than one-fourth of the state's population, followed by the Chinese, Malays, Bidayuh (Land Dayak), and Melanau. An array of other peoples, many of whom are designated collectively as Orang Ulu (“Upriver People”), constitute an important minority. The various indigenous peoples of Sarawak speak distinct Austronesian languages.

      The Iban, formidable warriors of the 19th and early 20th centuries, trace their origins to the Kapuas River region in what is now northern West Kalimantan (Kalimantan Barat), Indonesia. The traditional Iban territory in Sarawak spans the hilly southwestern interior of the state. Iban who still live in rural regions usually cultivate rice through shifting agriculture, whereby fields are cleared, planted for a short period, and then abandoned for several years to allow the soil to regenerate. The Iban language is related to, but distinct from, Malay.

      The Chinese of Sarawak generally live in the region between the coast and the uplands. In the rural areas, they usually grow cash crops in smallholdings. They speak mostly Hakka and Fuzhou (a Northern Min language (Min languages)) rather than Cantonese, Hokkien, and Hainanese, which are predominant among peninsular Chinese.

      Few Malays of Sarawak are of peninsular origin; rather, most are the descendants of various indigenous peoples who since the mid-15th century have converted to Islam. Despite their diverse ancestries, the Malays of Sarawak and those of Peninsular Malaysia share many cultural characteristics, cultivated largely through the practice of a common religion. Sarawak Malays, however, speak dialects of the Malay language that are distinct from those spoken by their peninsular counterparts.

      Like the Iban, the Bidayuh originally came from regions that now lie in northwestern Indonesian Borneo; in Sarawak the Bidayuh homeland is in the far western portion of the state. Most rural Bidayuh practice shifting rice cultivation. Although they have for centuries lived in close proximity to the Iban, the Bidayuh speak a separate language, with a number of different but related dialects that to some extent are mutually intelligible.

      Sarawak's south-central coastal wetlands between the city of Bintulu and the Rajang River are the traditional territory of the Melanau. The Melanau are especially known for their production of starch from the sago palms that surround their villages. Culturally and linguistically linked to certain inland peoples to the southeast, the Melanau purportedly moved to the coast from the interior centuries ago. The dialects of the northeastern portion of the Melanau region differ so starkly from those of the southwest that some local Melanau speakers hear the dialects as separate languages.

      Smaller indigenous groups, such as the Orang Ulu—an ethnic category embracing the Kenyah, Kayan, Kelabit, Bisaya (Bisayah), Penan, and others—also contribute much to Sarawak's ethnic and cultural character. The Kenyah, Kayan, and Kelabit generally trace their origins to the southern mountains on the border with East Kalimantan (Kalimantan Timur), Indonesia. Other Orang Ulu groups stem from lower-lying inland areas, primarily in Sarawak's northeastern region. Many distinct languages, some with multiple dialects, are spoken by Sarawak's indigenous peoples, often within just a few miles of each other.

      Sabah also has a kaleidoscopic mixture of peoples. The largest groups, who in roughly equal numbers account for about half of the population, are the Kadazan (also called Dusun or Kadazan Dusun), the Bajau, and the Malays. Indigenous peoples, such as the Murut, Kedayan, Orang Sungei, and Bisaya, together constitute a significant portion of the state's inhabitants as well. Chinese, Europeans, Eurasians, Indonesians, Filipinos, and South Asians make up the remainder.

      Until the late 20th century, the Kadazan were generally called Dusun, an ethnic term that, like the term Orang Ulu in Sarawak, applied to a number of related peoples. Since that time, however, Kadazan has become the more common term in colloquial usage. For administrative purposes, the government has used both names together, sometimes merging them into the term Kadazandusun (especially when referring to language). The various Kadazan peoples speak related dialects that most other Kadazan can understand.

      Sabah's Chinese population is predominantly Hakka-speaking, but there are also many speakers of Cantonese, Hokkien, Chaozhou (Chaoshan), and Hainanese. The Bajau are a diverse community split into two main groups: sedentary agriculturists of the north coast and seafaring people of the east coast. Their languages, which are related to those of the southern Philippines, are not all mutually intelligible. The Murut of Sabah inhabit an area from the western lowland south through the hills into East Kalimantan, Indonesia. The lowland-dwelling Murut generally call themselves Timugon, while their upland counterparts are known as Tagal. Both communities engage in shifting agriculture. Murut languages are, for the most part, mutually intelligible.

 Islam (Islām), Malaysia's official religion, is followed by about three-fifths of the population. With adherence to Islam as one of the most important factors distinguishing a Malay from a non-Malay, Malays are overwhelmingly Muslim, both in Peninsular and East Malaysia. The Chinese do not have a dominant religion; many, while subscribing to the moral precepts of Confucianism, follow Buddhism or Daoism; a small minority adheres to various denominations of Christianity. Most of the Indians and Sri Lankans practice Hinduism, while the Pakistanis are predominantly Muslim. Some Indians are Christian. The Sikhs, originally from the Indian state of Punjab, largely adhere to their own religion, Sikhism.

      Among the non-Malay indigenous peoples, many of the peninsula's Orang Asli have adopted Islam, but some communities maintain local religions. In Sarawak, the Iban, the Bidayuh, and most others tend to follow Anglicanism, various other Protestant Christian denominations, or Roman Catholicism. The Melanau, however, are primarily Muslim, with a Christian minority. Local religions have been maintained by only small segments of Sarawak's population. Local religions also are practiced by a minority of the non-Malay indigenous populations of Sabah. The Kadazan and Murut are primarily Christian, although there is also a significant Muslim community. Most Bajau follow Islam.

Settlement patterns
Rural settlement
      About one-third of Malaysia's population is rural. The basic administrative unit in both East and Peninsular Malaysia is the kampung (village, or community of houses).

      In Peninsular Malaysia rural houses usually are built of wood and raised on stilts. Some still feature a thatched roof, called an atap, woven from the leaves of the nipa palm (Nypa fruticans; a species also used for basketry). In the 21st century, however, roofs of corrugated metal are much more common. Each house is typically surrounded by a grove of coconut palms and scattered banana, papaya, and other fruit trees. The four main types of rural Malay settlement—fishing villages, paddy or wet-rice (irrigated) villages, cash-crop villages, and mixed-crop villages—all conform to this basic structural pattern on the peninsula.

      Most other villages in Peninsular Malaysia are associated with peoples who have settled in the country since the early 19th century. The first of these immigrant settlements were mining camps, established primarily by Chinese around tin fields in the west. Some of the camps have since grown into large towns, but others—especially in the Kinta River valley—have remained small. In the mid-1800s the British introduced the plantation system of agriculture, and the subsequent cultivation of rubber (Hevea brasiliensis) and oil palm trees (Elaeis guineensis) changed the face of rural Peninsular Malaysia. Added to the landscape was the plantation (estate) settlement, typically a group of buildings consisting of the processing factory and storehouse, the labourers' quarters, and the manager's house. Many of the workers on these plantations were from southern India, brought to Malaysia by the British colonial government, especially during the rubber boom of the early 20th century; plantation housing has continued to be occupied largely by Indian Malaysians.

      New Villages represent a type of settlement that is unique to Peninsular Malaysia. They were originally established by the government as roadside relocation settlements for rural Chinese during the Malayan Emergency (1948–60), a period of intense conflict between the British administration and a (largely Chinese) communist guerrilla insurgency that arose after World War II. With the end of the emergency in 1960, some of the New Villages were abandoned, but most of them became permanent settlements.

      A more recent and significant government program has involved the resettlement of poor Malays into forest areas, which are cleared and planted in rubber trees and oil palms. Since the mid-20th century, hundreds of thousands of families have been resettled.

 Much of the population of East Malaysia still lives in rural areas, where a great variety of settlement types is encountered. This variety is a direct reflection of the considerable ethnic diversity of the population and of the mixture of indigenous and immigrant groups that have settled in the rural areas. The non-Malay indigenous ethnic groups are thinly scattered in the foothill country, the mountains, and, to some extent, in the coastal lowlands as well. They are primarily shifting cultivators and live in locations on or near riverbanks. The traditional dwelling of most of these peoples is the longhouse. Each longhouse is raised on piles and is composed of a number of rooms, known (in both Iban and Malay) as bilik; each bilik houses a family. A longhouse can grow by accretions of related families, and an Iban longhouse, for example, may in time reach a length of dozens of bilik. Many groups, especially the Melanau of Sarawak and the Kadazan of Sabah, have abandoned the longhouse settlement form in favour of single-family dwellings. Some, however, particularly in Sarawak, have chosen to maintain old longhouses or to build new ones, often using an upgraded design.

      The Malays and the Melanau of East Malaysia share many characteristics with their rural counterparts on the peninsula. They tend to be riverine and coastal peoples, with an economy based on agriculture and fishing. Many live in villages in the midst of coconut palms, mangroves, or other swamp trees. Their houses generally are built on stilts. The rural Chinese, by contrast, typically live in homesteads strung along both sides of the roads. Their houses are commonly built at ground level and thus are easily distinguishable from the stilt-raised dwellings of the indigenous peoples.

Urban settlement
 The cities and large towns of Peninsular Malaysia were built up during the colonial and postcolonial periods and are distributed mainly in the tin and rubber belt along the west side of the peninsula. The towns are associated with mining, manufacturing and industry, trade, and administrative functions, although each town usually functions in several of these areas. Some towns are located at coastal or riverine sites, reflecting the early importance of water transport, while more recently developed towns have been built in inland areas that rely on road, rail, and air transport.

      Urbanization in Peninsular Malaysia has been especially rapid since the 1970s. Planned satellite towns, such as Petaling Jaya and Shah Alam (made the state capital of Selangor in 1978), outside Kuala Lumpur, have emerged as cities, while new settlements have sprouted alongside them. Most of the towns of Peninsular Malaysia, however, are unplanned, having grown up around small nuclei. Urban land use generally is mixed, and buildings are put to multiple uses. Many streets that were built for a more leisurely era are now too narrow and often congested. In the larger cities, such as Kuala Lumpur, Ipoh, and George Town (on the island of Penang), distinct central business districts have arisen. These areas are densely populated and characterized by heavy street traffic, high land values, and a concentration of shopping, banking, insurance, entertainment, and other facilities.

      Urbanization in Sarawak and Sabah also has proceeded at a quick pace, indeed surpassing that of some of the states of Peninsular Malaysia by the early 21st century. The largest towns are Kuching, Miri, and Sibu in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, and Tawau in Sabah. The large towns invariably are located on coastal or riverine sites. The layout and appearance of these towns are markedly similar: a wharf area, rows of Chinese shop-houses in the central business districts, more-substantial buildings in the governmental administrative area, and one or more villages of timber and thatch (or corrugated metal) built on the riverbanks.

Demographic trends
      Before World War II, there was a free flow of people to and from both Peninsular and East Malaysia, and the rate of population growth was greatly influenced by a net surplus from immigration. However, a series of laws passed since 1945, particularly after the political separation of Singapore in 1963, restricted the entry of immigrants from all countries. Thus, legal immigration has long ceased to be a major cause of population growth.

      The major area of population concentration in Peninsular Malaysia is an axis of economic development on the west side of the peninsula. Smaller concentrations are found in the Kelantan and Terengganu river deltas in the northeast. Most of the remainder of the peninsula—the interior uplands and most of the east—is sparsely populated. The bulk of the population of the peninsula's urban centres is Chinese and Malay, with Indians and Pakistanis forming a small but salient minority.

      The population density of East Malaysia is considerably less than that of the rest of the country. As on the peninsula, settlements are concentrated along the coasts and rivers. In Sarawak the density of people in the southwest makes this region the most important in East Malaysia. In Sabah the population is similarly clustered on the coast, but riverine settlements are less important there than they are in Sarawak. Malays are less prominent in Sabah's cities than on the peninsula; Chinese, various non-Malay indigenous peoples, and, in some areas, Indonesians account for the vast majority of the urban population.

      Malaysia's economy has been transformed since 1970 from one based primarily on the export of raw materials (rubber and tin) to one that is among the strongest, most diversified, and fastest-growing in Southeast Asia. Primary production remains important: the country is a major producer of rubber and palm oil, exports considerable quantities of petroleum and natural gas, and is one of the world's largest sources of commercial hardwoods. Increasingly, however, Malaysia has emphasized export-oriented manufacturing to fuel its economic growth. Using the comparative advantages of a relatively inexpensive but educated labour force, well-developed infrastructure, political stability, and an undervalued currency, Malaysia has attracted considerable foreign investment, especially from Japan and Taiwan.

      Since the early 1970s the government has championed a social and economic restructuring strategy, first known as the New Economic Policy (NEP) and later as the New Development Policy (NDP), that has sought to strike a balance between the goals of economic growth and the redistribution of wealth. The Malaysian economy has long been dominated by the country's Chinese and South Asian minorities. The goal of the NEP and the NDP has been to endow the Malays (Malay) and other indigenous groups with greater economic opportunities and to develop their management and entrepreneurial skills. Official economic policy also has encouraged the private sector to assume a greater role in the restructuring process. A major component of this policy has been the privatization of many public-sector activities, including the national railway, airline, automobile manufacturer, telecommunications, and electricity companies.

Agriculture, forestry, and fishing
 Agriculture, forestry, and fishing once formed the basis of the Malaysian economy, but between 1970 and the early 21st century their contribution to the country's gross domestic product (GDP) declined from roughly one-third to less than one-tenth. Similarly, the proportion of the labour force engaged in agriculture decreased from about one-half to less than one-eighth over the same time span, and the trend has continued.

      The main food crop, rice, is grown on small farms. Despite the widespread advances brought about by the introduction of improved plant varieties and chemical fertilizers and pesticides (the so-called Green Revolution of the 1960s and '70s), rice production declined steadily during the second half of the 20th century. The main causes of this decline were unfavourable weather conditions and the loss of farm labour to urban manufacturing jobs. Increasingly deficient in rice production, the country has been forced to make up the shortfall with imports, chiefly from Thailand. Consequently, the government has taken measures to raise its self-sufficiency in rice, largely by implementing programs to consolidate smallholdings and to increase labour productivity through group farming schemes; by 2000 production had begun to rise, despite the continued labour shortage.

   rubber and palm oil are the dominant cash crops. Although the contribution of rubber to GDP has declined significantly since the mid-20th century, rubber production remains important and closely tied to domestic manufacturing. Palm oil plantations have proliferated since the 1970s, to some degree at the expense of rubber plantations. By the early 21st century, Malaysia had become one of the world's top producers of palm oil. Other common cash crops include cocoa, pepper, coffee, tea, various fruits, and coconuts.

      The extensive forests of both Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia are heavily exploited for their timber. The lowland evergreen tropical rain forest, rich in species of the economically valuable Dipterocarpaceae family, is the principal forest formation of commercial importance. Sarawak and Sabah account for the greater part of all timber production. Concern has been raised, however, about the pace of deforestation caused by the combination of shifting agriculture and intensive logging operations in East Malaysia. Attempts have been made to curtail log exports from the region and to substitute wood-based industries, such as the manufacture of plywood and furniture. Logging remains important in Peninsular Malaysia, although much of the easily accessible timber has been cut. The region also has a long history of careful forest management and conservation. The government in 2005 launched a forest plantation scheme—part of a sustainability initiative pitched to the private sector—to plant lands primarily with rubberwood but also with acacia, teak, and an easily workable hardwood called sentang.

 Historically, most of Malaysia's fish catch has been from the shallow seas off its coasts, where the water's nutrient levels—and hence its productivity—generally have been low. In the 1970s the country's fishing (commercial fishing) industry was improved and expanded, notably by the addition of trawlers and mechanized fishing boats. This allowed the more abundant offshore fish resources to be tapped, leading to a dramatic increase in catches. Malaysia has become a major fishing country, even though production peaked in about 1980 and much of the fishing industry has remained confined to the overexploited shallow onshore waters. As a result, the government has actively promoted deep-sea fishing and aquaculture production. Although the latter industry has been rather slow to develop, by the early 21st century more than one-tenth of Malaysia's fish yield came from aquaculture.

Resources and power
      Malaysia is rich in mineral resources, and mining (including petroleum extraction) accounts for a significant portion of GDP, although it employs only a tiny fraction of the workforce. The major metallic ores are tin, bauxite (aluminum), copper, and iron. A host of minor ores found within the country include manganese, antimony, mercury, and gold. Tin is found largely in alluvial deposits along the western slopes of the Main Range in Peninsular Malaysia, with smaller deposits on the east coast of the peninsula; its production formed one of the pillars of the country's economic development in the mid-20th century. Malaysia's bauxite production is centred near Johor at the south end of the peninsula, while the country's copper comes from western Sabah.

      Since the 1970s, tin output has declined dramatically because of the depletion of readily accessible alluvial deposits, rising mining costs, and fluctuating demand in the world tin market. Nevertheless, the country has remained among the world's top suppliers of tin. Production of other minerals (except petroleum) similarly decreased during the last decades of the 20th century, although the mining of iron ore began to rebound in the mid-1990s.

      Malaysia's most valuable mineral resources are its reserves of petroleum and natural gas. Crude oil, refined petroleum, and, more recently, liquefied natural gas together account for a major portion of the country's commodity export earnings. Almost all the major oil and gas fields are offshore—off the east coast of the peninsula, the northeast coast of Sarawak, and the west coast of Sabah.

 Malaysia is self-sufficient in energy production, and petroleum resources constitute the major energy source for power generation. The country's proven reserves of coal and peat are not economical to mine and have remained largely unexploited. Wood and charcoal were once common domestic fuels, but in the urban areas they have been replaced by bottled gas. A small portion of Malaysia's power is generated by hydroelectric (hydroelectric power) plants, mostly on the peninsula. The abundant rainfall and steep gradients of the rivers in the interior highlands of both Peninsular and East Malaysia hold great potential for further hydroelectric development; in Sarawak, construction of a large hydroelectric dam on the Balui River began in the 1990s and continued into the 21st century. Malaysia also has begun to produce biofuel from palm oil.

 Manufacturing has undergone rapid expansion since the 1970s, with the aim of producing goods for export, while shifting away from import substitution (a policy of replacing imported products with those made domestically). By the early 21st century the sector had become the backbone of Malaysia's economic growth, constituting the largest share (nearly one-third) of the country's GDP and employing more of the workforce than all the primary activities (e.g., agriculture and mining) combined.

      Growth has been especially notable in the assembly of electronic equipment, electrical machinery, and appliances, as well as in the production of chemicals and textiles. There also has been substantial development of a variety of heavy industries, including steelmaking and automobile production—the latter implemented through a Malaysian-Japanese joint venture. Peninsular Malaysia, especially the urban area of Kuala Lumpur and the rest of the developed zone along the western side of the peninsula, is responsible for the bulk of the country's manufacturing output.

      One strategy designed to promote manufactured exports has been the establishment of a number of free-trade zones, which have provided duty-free access to imported raw materials and semifinished parts in addition to numerous investment and export incentives. Industrial estates also have been established in less-developed parts of the country to stimulate manufacturing and to balance industrial growth, but manufacturing capacity has remained highly concentrated. The country's heavy industries—more important politically than economically—generally have been saddled with excess capacity and high production costs. Increasingly, development strategy has shifted to the promotion of small and medium industries that manufacture their own parts and acquire technology from more economically developed countries, the aim being to move beyond the stage of assembly-only manufacturing. Such initiatives have enabled Malaysian industries such as automobile manufacturing to move from assembly-only production in the mid-1980s to full-fledged production—with minimal reliance on imported components—in the 21st century.

 Malaysia has an active and growing financial sector, which has been encouraged by government policies that promote foreign investment, market competition, and the privatization of publicly held enterprises. Banking and insurance are regulated by the state-run Bank Negara Malaysia, which issues the national currency, the ringgit. The state permits a variety of banking activities, including semipublic banks that operate on Islamic financial principles. Since 1990 the island of Labuan, off the southwest coast of Sabah, has served as an international financial centre; a regulatory authority there issues offshore banking licenses. Kuala Lumpur has a commodity exchange and a stock exchange.

      Malaysia's export structure shifted dramatically during the last decades of the 20th century, from one dominated by rubber and tin to one in which manufactured goods accounted for well over half of all export earnings by the early 21st century. Electrical and electronic products constitute the largest proportion of exported manufactures. Commodities exports, however, especially palm oil and rubber, remain important. Imports are dominated by electronics parts, machinery, and other manufactured goods. Malaysia's chief trading partners are Japan, Singapore (because of its status as an entrepôt port in the region), the United States, and mainland China. Other prominent partners include Thailand, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea. Malaysia belongs to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN), and trade with member countries has been increasing.

Labour and taxation
      Malaysia's rapid economic expansion has created a great demand for additional labour for the manufacturing, construction, and service sectors. Although the labour shortage has tended to increase wages—attracting many workers from rural regions—companies nevertheless have found it necessary to recruit foreign labour, primarily from Indonesia, the Philippines, Bangladesh, and Thailand. The presence of foreign workers in large numbers has become a source of social and political tension within Malaysia. Moreover, the rural-to-urban migration prompted by industrialization has led to severe labour shortages in the rural economy.

      The primary role of the country's fiscal system is to raise revenue for governmental expenditure, and the greater part of its revenue is raised through taxation. Direct (income) taxes on companies (including petroleum companies) and individuals constitute the primary source of tax revenue. Indirect taxes (e.g., customs and excise duties), however, also contribute significantly to the national budget.

 Although Malaysia's transportation systems improved considerably in the second half of the 20th century, demand generally has continued to outstrip capacity. In addition, much more attention has been given to developing the infrastructure of Peninsular Malaysia than that of East Malaysia. The peninsula's road network includes high-speed express highways and numerous hard-surfaced secondary roads; it is especially well developed in the major industrial states of the western region. The road network in Sarawak and Sabah is less extensive, with fewer paved roads. Malaysia's small railway system is of much less significance than its roads and is confined primarily to the peninsula, where it runs from the southern tip (where it is connected to Singapore) northward to the border with Thailand. The country's first light-rail transport was inaugurated in Kuala Lumpur in 1996. Since then, several monorail and express lines have opened in the Kuala Lumpur metropolitan area, and a private company has established regular and rapid commuter service on double-tracked, electrified lines between Kuala Lumpur, Port Kelang on the western coast, and several other cities nearby.

      River transport is of great importance in East Malaysia, especially in Sarawak. In addition, Malaysia's long and accessible coastlines have fostered maritime trade for more than a millennium. Several ports, notably Port Kelang (the principal port) and Penang (George Town) on the Strait of Malacca (Malacca, Strait of), have become major container-handling facilities. Numerous other ports have been developed, including Tanjung Pelepas and Pasir Gudang in the southern state of Johor, Kuantan on the eastern coast of the peninsula, Kuching in Sarawak, and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah.

      Air transport has grown rapidly, with passenger traffic increasing especially on the peninsula. An internal air network connects almost all Malaysian states. Airports in Penang, Kota Kinabalu, and Kuching have limited international service. In 1998 a new international airport opened in Sepang, about 30 miles (50 km) south of Kuala Lumpur, replacing the old international airport in Subang, about 15 miles (25 km) west of the capital city. The airport in Subang has continued to offer some domestic and specialized service.

Government and society

Constitutional framework
 Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy with a ceremonial head of state—a monarch—who bears the title Yang di-Pertuan Agong (“paramount ruler”) and who is elected from among nine hereditary state rulers for a five-year term. The Malaysian constitution, drafted in 1957 following the declaration of independence (from the British) by the states of what is now Peninsular Malaysia, provides for a bicameral federal legislature, consisting of the Senate (Dewan Negara) as the upper house and the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat) as the lower. The paramount ruler appoints a prime minister from among the members of the House of Representatives. On the advice of the prime minister, the monarch then appoints the other ministers who make up the cabinet. The number of ministers is not fixed, but all must be members of the federal parliament. The federal government also includes an independent judiciary and a politically neutral civil service.

      The powers of the federal parliament are relatively broad and include the authority to legislate in matters concerning government finances, defense, foreign policy, internal security, the administration of justice, and citizenship. The constitution also provides that some issues may be addressed by either the federal legislature or a state legislature. Of the roughly 200 members of the House of Representatives, about two-thirds are from Peninsular Malaysia, one is from the federal territory of Labuan, and the remaining seats are divided fairly evenly between Sarawak and Sabah. Members are elected to office from single-member constituencies to terms of five years. The Senate consists of about six dozen members; of these, nearly two-thirds (including those from the federal territories of Kuala Lumpur and Labuan) are appointed by the paramount ruler on the recommendation of the prime minister, and the others are elected by the state legislative assemblies. Election to either house is by a simple majority, but amendments to the constitution require a two-thirds majority. A bill passed by both houses and sanctioned by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong becomes a federal law.

Local government
      Malaysia comprises 13 states and 3 federal territories. Each state has its own written constitution, legislative assembly, and executive council, which is responsible to the legislative assembly and headed by a chief minister. The federal territories, which include the capital city region of Kuala Lumpur, the administrative capital of Putrajaya, and the island of Labuan off the coast of East Malaysia, carry the same status as states, but they do not have separate legislatures or heads of state.

      Most of the peninsular states are led by hereditary rulers. Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Pahang, Perak, Selangor, and Terengganu have sultans (sultan), while Perlis has a raja (“king”), and Negeri Sembilan is ruled by the Yang di-Pertuan Besar (“chief ruler”). The heads of state of Melaka, Penang Island (Pulau Pinang; also Penang), Sarawak, and Sabah—known as Yang di-Pertuan Negeri (“state ruler”)—are appointed to office. The ruler of a state acts on the advice of the state government. The constitution provides for federal parliamentary elections and for elections to state legislatures, to be held at least every five years.

      All states in Malaysia are subdivided into districts. In Sarawak and Sabah, however, these districts are grouped into larger administrative units called divisions. The village, headed by a tua kampung (“village leader”), is the smallest unit of government.

 The constitution of Malaysia, which is the supreme law of the country, provides that the judicial power of the federation shall be vested in two High Courts—one in Peninsular Malaysia, called the High Court in Malaya, and the other in East Malaysia, called the High Court in Sarawak and Sabah—and also in subordinate courts. Appeals from the High Courts are heard first by the Court of Appeal; they may then be appealed to the highest court in Malaysia, the Federal Court (formerly called the Supreme Court), which is headed by a chief justice. A separate Special Court handles cases involving charges against the paramount ruler or the heads of states.

      Each High Court consists of a chief judge and a number of other justices. The High Court has criminal and civil jurisdiction and may pass any sentence allowed by law. Below each High Court are three subordinate courts: the Sessions Court, the Magistrates' Court, and the Court for Children. These lower courts have criminal and civil jurisdiction—criminal cases come before one or the other court depending on the seriousness of the offense and civil cases depending on the sum involved. In addition, there are religious courts in those Malay states that are established under Islamic law (syariah, or Sharīʿah). These Islamic courts are governed by state—not federal—legislation.

Political process
      Malaysia has a multiparty political system; the country has held free elections and generally has changed prime ministers peacefully. All citizens who are at least 21 years old are permitted to vote. Although their numbers in political positions have been increasing since the late 20th century, women have remained underrepresented in the political process. Most ministerial appointments are held by Malays, but a few posts are filled by indigenous and nonindigenous minorities.

      Party affiliation generally is based on ethnicity, although this tendency has diminished somewhat since the mid-20th century. Malaysian political life and government has been dominated since the early 1970s by the National Front (Barisan Nasional), a broad coalition of ethnically oriented parties. Among the oldest and strongest of these parties are the United Malays National Organization (UMNO; long the driving force of the National Front), the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA), the Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC), and several parties from Sarawak and Sabah, including Sarawak United Peoples' Party (SUPP) and the Sabah United Party (Parti Bersatu Sabah; PBS). The main opposition parties are the Democratic Action Party (DAP), which consists primarily of Chinese; the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (Parti Islam SeMalaysia; Pas); and, since the early 21st century, the People's Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat; PKR). There are also a number of smaller parties based mainly in Sarawak and Sabah.

      The Malaysian armed forces have increased in strength and capability since the formation of Malaysia in 1963. After the withdrawal of British military forces from Malaysia and Singapore at the end of 1971, a five-country agreement between Malaysia, Singapore, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Kingdom was concluded to ensure defense against external aggression. Additional regional security is provided by ASEAN.

      The armed forces consist of an army, a navy, and an air force. The army is the most experienced and the largest of the three units, constituting roughly three-fourths of all military personnel. The Royal Malaysian Navy concentrates mainly on defending the long indented coastlines and narrow waters of the country. The Royal Malaysian Air Force has combat aircraft as well as many transport aircraft and helicopters. Military service is voluntary, with a minimum age requirement of 18 years.

      The states of Malaysia inherited from their common colonial past an internal security system based on the British model. The police force is well trained and combats not only crime but also armed insurrections. As a paramilitary unit, the police are separate from the armed forces.

Health and welfare
      The general level of health improved considerably in the second half of the 20th century. This improvement not only contributed significantly to a decline in death and infant-mortality rates but also, by the 21st century, largely freed Malaysia from many of the diseases that plague tropical countries. Such diseases as malaria remain a problem in some rural areas, however. Health conditions and health facilities vary among the states, but facilities are generally better equipped and staffed in Peninsular Malaysia than in Sabah and Sarawak. Health services generally are more extensive in the towns and cities than in the rural areas. Segments of the rural population often rely to some extent on traditional treatments rather than on doctors and medicines that are the product of formal research and academic training. Most health services are provided by the government. Welfare services, however, are provided by both government and private agencies and include relief programs for senior citizens, for the economically disadvantaged, and for people with disabilities.

      The multicultural character of the population of Malaysia is visibly reflected in the wide variety of houses, which range from the traditional longhouses and stilt houses of the rural peoples to examples of modern high-rise architecture in the cities. Housing shortages are rare in rural areas, but squatter settlements are common in the larger towns and cities. A governmental housing authority has had success in establishing low-cost housing in urban areas.

 The federal government allocates a significant portion of its budget to education, and it provides free public schooling at the primary and secondary levels. Although only six years of primary education (from age six) are compulsory, most children receive at least some secondary education. Secondary school consists of one three-year segment followed by a four-year segment; students may enroll in a technical or vocational school (in lieu of pursuing a strictly academic curriculum) for their second segment of secondary study.

      The number of students advancing to the postsecondary level rose rapidly in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The country offers dozens of tertiary institutions, including universities, teacher-training colleges, and other public and private institutions with assorted specializations. Among the most prominent institutions of higher learning are the University of Malaya (1962) in Kuala Lumpur, the University of Science, Malaysia (1969) in Penang, the National University of Malaysia (1970) in Bangi, and the International Islamic University (1983) in Kuala Lumpur. Major state universities were established in Sarawak and Sabah in the mid-1990s.

Cultural life

Cultural milieu
      Malaysia is a point of convergence of several major cultural traditions that stem from archipelagic Southeast Asia as well as from China, South Asia, the Middle East, and the West. Malay culture, the Orang Asli cultures of Peninsular Malaysia, and many of the cultures of East Malaysia are indigenous to the area. In the first one and a half millennia CE, indigenous Malay culture in the Malay Peninsula and in other parts of Southeast Asia was strongly marked by pre-Islamic Indian and early Islamic influences. Indian contact with the Malay Peninsula, which extended from about the 2nd or 3rd century to the late 14th century, exerted a profound influence on religion (through Hinduism and Buddhism), art, and literature. Islam (Islām), introduced to Malacca (now Melaka) in the 15th century, soon became the dominant religion of the Malays. Western cultural influences, especially since the 19th century, also have affected many aspects of Malay life, particularly in the realms of technology, law, social organization, and economics. Contemporary Malay culture is thus multifaceted, consisting of many strands—indigenous, early Hindu, early and modern Islamic, and, especially in the cities, Western—interwoven to yield a pattern that is distinct from other cultures yet recognizably Malay.

      The early Chinese traders who settled in Malacca and on the island of Penang were partially assimilated (at least to the extent of adopting the Malay language). By contrast, the Chinese who emigrated in large numbers to the Malay Peninsula in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were both a more heterogeneous group and a largely transient population that tended to establish self-contained communities. Chinese cultural influence in this region, then, has been less pronounced.

      Most of the Indians and Pakistanis originally came as labourers to work in the coffee and rubber plantations from the mid-19th to the early 20th centuries. Like the Chinese, they also were mainly transients (until World War II), living in closed communities and remaining relatively unassimilated.

      The communities of Malaysia have been affected profoundly by British colonial rule and Western cultural influences, especially in education and institutional forms. The rural areas—particularly in eastern Peninsular Malaysia and in the interior of East Malaysia—have been least affected, while the cities have been the focus of the most-rapid cultural changes. However, extraordinary economic growth and development since the mid-20th century increasingly has allowed a cosmopolitan outlook, carried largely from the urban centres by an expanding middle class, to penetrate smaller towns and even newer rural settlements.

Daily life and social customs
 Malaysia has a rich cultural life, much of which revolves around the traditional festivities of its diverse population. The major Muslim holidays are Hari Raya Puasa (“Holiday of Fasting”), or Aidilfitri ( Īd al-Fiṭrʿ), to celebrate the end of the fasting month of Ramadan (Ramaḍān), and Hari Raya Haji (“Holiday of the Pilgrimage”), or Aidiladha ( Īd al-Aḍḥāʿ), to celebrate the culmination of the season of pilgrimage to Mecca. Buddhists honour the life of the Buddha on Hari Wesak (“Wesak Day”), and Chinese Malaysians celebrate Chinese New Year. Deepavali ( Diwali), a Hindu festival of lights spanning several days, is observed by many Indian Malaysians, while Christmas is the principal holiday of the Christian community. On most of these holidays, it is customary to host an “open house,” where guests are treated to Malaysian delicacies and hospitality. A holiday that spans all ethnic groups and religions is Hari Kebangsaan (National Day), a celebration of Malaysia's independence on August 31.

 The states have their own holidays. Sarawak, for instance, celebrates Gawai Dayak (“Dayak Festival”). Rooted in the harvest rituals and festivities (gawai) of the Iban and Bidayuh peoples, this holiday broadly honours the state's non-Malay indigenous heritage.

      Beyond the official holidays and other religious festivities, important life events such as birth, circumcision (for young Muslim men), and marriage are usually celebrated by a feast, known in Malay as kenduri. The wedding ceremony is generally the most important and elaborate of such events among both Malay and non-Malay peoples. In rural areas the kenduri is normally held at the house of the host family, while in urban areas the feast often takes place in a large hall or hotel.

      Malaysian cuisines reflect the mixture of ethnic groups in the country's population. The three most prominent cuisines are Chinese, Indian, and Malay. Popular Chinese foods include sweet-and-sour Cantonese dishes and a milder favourite, Hainanese chicken rice. Indian cuisine ranges from the hot vegetarian dishes of southern Indian cooking to the more subtly spiced Muslim Indian food to the yogurt-marinated meats of tandoori cookery from northern India. All these foods, while recognizably Chinese or Indian, have developed a distinctly Malaysian character.

      Traditional Malay cuisine consists of white rice served with various curries and fried dishes. Sate, small skewers of chicken or beef dipped in a spicy peanut sauce, nasi goreng (“fried rice”), and nasi lemak (“fatty rice”), which is coconut rice served with fried anchovies, peanuts, and a curry dish, are among the most common Malay foods. Noodles, cooked and served in various styles, are also local favourites.

      Non-Muslim indigenous peoples of Peninsular and East Malaysia typically eat a staple food such as rice, tapioca, or sago served with locally grown or gathered vegetables (e.g., ferns and tapioca leaves) and fish, wild boar, venison, or other game. The food is generally not spicy or only mildly so.

Cultural institutions
      The history and cultural life of Malaysia are exhibited primarily in various museums in Kuala Lumpur and several state capitals throughout the country. Built in a Malay architectural style in 1963, the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur houses a diverse archaeological and ethnographic collection that documents Malaysia's social, cultural, artistic, and economic history. The Perak Museum in Taiping is the oldest museum in Peninsular Malaysia and contains collections of the natural history and material culture of the region. The Penang Museum and Art Gallery highlights Penang Island's immigrant and colonial history. In East Malaysia, the Sabah Museum in Kota Kinabalu and the Sarawak Museum in Kuching, both established in the late 19th century, chronicle the unique prehistory and history of these states and their peoples.

      In addition to the broadly ethnographic or historical museums, there also are numerous institutions dedicated to the documentation of particular Malaysian phenomena. The Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur, for instance, traces the advent and growth of the art and culture of Islam in Malaysia from the 7th century to contemporary times. Other such topical museums include a numismatic museum, a museum of telecommunications, and an armed forces museum, all located in the capital city.

      Malaysia is home to many art galleries and theatres for the performing arts as well. The National Art Gallery has permanent exhibitions of modern paintings by Malaysian artists and rotating exhibitions of art from around the world. Plays, dances, and musical productions by Malaysian and international performers are staged regularly at the grand national theatre, called the Istana Budaya (“Palace of Cultures and Arts”), in Kuala Lumpur.

Sports and recreation
 Sports in Malaysia are a mixture of traditional and Western games. From the mid-19th century, British expatriates introduced football (soccer), cricket, track and field events, and rugby to the peninsula; they formed a number of clubs and organized competitions. The Malaysia Cup (formerly the H.M.S. Malaya Cup), first contested in 1921, is the country's premier football competition.

      Traditional sports also enjoy local popularity. top-spinning (main gasing) competitions are seriously contested, with winning tops often spinning for well over an hour. In some areas, top spinning is not merely a random pastime but is associated with the agricultural cycle. Kite flying also is a favourite activity, as are bird-singing contests, which may feature hundreds of birds, all with unique songs. Sepak takraw (“kick ball”) is a uniquely Southeast Asian game (now played in other regions) that is similar to volleyball but is played with a woven rattan ball and without using the hands. The sport is internationally competitive, and Malaysia has fronted winning teams.

      Malaysia made its debut at the Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956. At the 1992 and 1996 Summer Games the country took medals in men's badminton. Malaysia was one of the founders of the biennial Southeast Asian Games and has hosted the event several times since its inception in 1957.

Media and publishing
      The press is the principal source of information in urban areas of Malaysia. The newspapers are all privately owned (many by political parties) and vary greatly in circulation, quality of reporting, and news coverage. Dozens of daily papers circulate in all the major languages of the country, including Malay, English, Chinese, and Tamil. In Sabah several dailies also are issued in the Kadazan language.

      Although many public and private radio stations cater to urban listeners, radio is the primary information channel in remote rural areas. Both on the peninsula and in East Malaysia, the government-operated Radio Television Malaysia (RTM) broadcasts in Malay, English, and assorted Chinese languages, as well as in various indigenous languages, such as Iban in Sarawak. RTM also broadcasts internationally in Arabic, English, Chinese, and the national languages of several of Malaysia's Southeast Asian neighbours.

      Television is a popular medium across geographical and linguistic boundaries. The government had a monopoly on television broadcasting until the mid-1990s, when it opened the industry to private operators. Since that time several commercial stations have been established, and the emergence of private cable and satellite companies has allowed television broadcasting to reach the most remote rural regions of the country.

Ooi Jin Bee Thomas R. Leinbach Zakaria Bin Ahmad

      Extending well into the western zone of the Southeast Asian archipelago, the Malay Peninsula has long constituted a critical link between the mainland and the islands of Southeast Asia. Because Malaysia itself is divided between the two regions, the history of the country can be understood only within a broad geographic context. The Strait of Malacca (Malacca, Strait of), narrowly separating the peninsula from the archipelago, has been a crossroads for peoples, cultures, and trade passing through or taking root in both areas. Influences from china, India, the Middle East, and, later, Europe followed the maritime trade. Peninsular Malaysia and the two states of East Malaysia, Sarawak and Sabah, have shared many historical patterns, but each region also has developed in unique ways.

Prehistory and the rise of Indianized states
      Malaysia's prehistory remains insufficiently studied, but bone and artifact discoveries at the Niah Cave site in northern Sarawak confirm that the area was already inhabited by Homo sapiens about 40,000 years ago. The vast cave complex contains remains that not only indicate a nearly unbroken succession of human visits and occupations but also chronicle the evolution of stone tools until some 1,300 years ago. Peninsular Malaysia has been inhabited for at least 6,000 years, archaeologists having unearthed evidence of Stone Age and early Bronze Age civilizations; Neolithic (Neolithic Period) culture was apparently well established by 2500 to 1500 BCE. Early historical studies postulated that successive waves of peoples—ancestors of the contemporary Malays—migrated into the region from China and Tibet during the 1st millennium BCE, pushing earlier inhabitants into the western Pacific or remote mountain enclaves. More recently it has been suggested that the southward migration consisted of small groups who imposed their culture and language and created new ethnic fusions.

      Small Malay kingdoms appeared in the 2nd or 3rd century CE, a time when Indian traders and priests began traveling the maritime routes, bringing with them Indian concepts of religion, government, and the arts. Over many centuries the peoples of the region, especially those within the royal courts, synthesized Indian and indigenous ideas, making selective use of Indian models—including Hinduism and Mahayana Buddhism—in shaping their political and cultural patterns. The most significant complex of Indianized temple ruins has been found around Kedah Peak in northwestern Peninsular Malaysia.

      Because the peninsula and northern Borneo both lacked broad, fertile plains, they were unable to support the high population densities that were the foundation of other, more powerful Southeast Asian civilizations, such as those that flourished on the island of Java and on the mainland in what is now Cambodia. However, scant documentation, chiefly from Chinese written sources, suggests that perhaps 30 small Indianized states rose and fell in Malaya—the Malay region of the peninsula—during the 1st millennium CE. The most important of these states, Langkasuka, controlled much of the northern part of the region.

      Malaya developed an international reputation, both as a source of gold and tin and as the home of renowned seafarers; as its reputation grew, however, Malaya increasingly was exposed (or subjected) to cultural influences from surrounding powers. Between the 7th and 13th centuries many of the region's small, often prosperous maritime trading states likely came under the loose control of Srivijaya (Śrivijaya empire), the great Indianized empire based in Sumatra. At various times, other Indianized powers of Southeast Asia—including the Khmer (Cambodian) empire based at Angkor, the Tai kingdom of Ayutthaya, and the Majapahit empire centred in eastern Java—also claimed suzerainty in the region. These early cultural forces in Malaya left a living legacy, traces of which are still evident in the political ideas, social structures, rituals, language, arts, and other traditions of Malay Muslims.

      Although development was slower in more remote, less fertile northern Borneo, the area that is now Sarawak had entered the Iron Age by CE 600. Archaeological excavations in the Sarawak River delta have revealed much evidence not only of early ironworking but also of extensive trade with China and the Southeast Asian mainland. The local peoples offered edible bird's nests, rhinoceros horns, hornbill “ivory” (from the casque atop the bird's beak), camphor, spices, wood, and other goods in exchange for Chinese ceramics, metal, and probably clothing. Meanwhile, Neolithic boatbuilders along the east coast of present-day Sabah were involved in extensive interregional trade; the maritime peoples of the area called the territory the “land below the wind” because it lay south of the tropical cyclone (typhoon) belt.

The advent of Islam (Islāmic world)
      From the 13th through the 17th century, Sunni Islam, carried chiefly by Arab and Indian merchants, spread widely through peninsular and insular Southeast Asia. The new religion offered equal-opportunity social advancement through spiritual devotion, which ultimately challenged (but did not entirely eliminate) the power of the traditional elites; Islam also embodied a complex theology that held much appeal for farmers and merchants in the coastal regions. The dissemination of Islam was intimately linked to the florescence of the great Indian Ocean trading (international trade) routes that connected China through the Strait of Malacca to India, the Middle East, and eastern Africa.

 The arrival of Islam coincided with the rise of the great port of Malacca (Malacca, sultanate of) (now Melaka), established along the strait on Malaya's southwest coast by Sumatran exiles about 1400. The Indianized king—who successfully sought a tributary relationship with powerful China—converted to Islam, becoming a sultan and hence attracting Muslim merchants. Soon Malacca became Southeast Asia's principal trading entrepôt, while at the same time it gained suzerainty over much of coastal Malaya and eastern Sumatra. Malacca also served as the regional centre for the propagation of Islam and as the eastern terminus of the Indian Ocean trading network. Indonesian spices, Malayan gold, and Chinese silks and tea all passed through Malacca on their way to South Asia, the Middle East, and, ultimately, Europe. At its height in the late 15th century, Malacca hosted some 15,000 merchants of many nationalities, including Chinese, Arabs, Persians, and Indians; attracted by a stable government and a policy of free trade, the ships in the harbour purportedly outnumbered those in any other port in the known world. The Chinese admiral Zheng He called at the port several times in the first decades of the 15th century as part of the great naval expeditions of the Ming dynasty to the western Indian Ocean. Malacca's political and religious influence reached its height under Tun Perak (Perak, Tun), who served as chief minister (1456–98) after defeating the expanding Siamese (Thai) in a fierce naval battle; during his tenure Islam became well entrenched in such districts (and subsidiary sultanates) as Johor (Johore), Kedah, Perak, Pahang, and Terengganu.

      The mostly Islamicized people of 15th-century Malacca began calling themselves “Malays (Malay)” (“Melayu”), likely a reference to their Sumatran origins. Thereafter the term Malay was applied to those who practiced Islam and spoke a version of the Malay language. Religious and linguistic behaviour, rather than descent, then, became the criteria for being Malay; this enabled previously Hindu-Buddhist peoples and former adherents of local religions to identify themselves (and even merge) with the Malays—regardless of their ancestry. Over time this loose cultural designation became a coherent ethnic group populating what is commonly called the “Malay world,” a region encompassing Malaya, northern and western Borneo, eastern Sumatra, and the smaller islands in between. Islam, however, came to overlay the earlier beliefs so that, before the rise of religious reform movements in the 19th century, few Malays were orthodox Muslims. Hindu-influenced ritual remained important for those of noble heritage, and local spirits were richly incorporated into Islamic practices.

Early European intrusions and emerging sultanates
      The fame of Malacca as the crossroads of Asian commerce had reached Europe by the beginning of the 16th century. The Portuguese, who for a century had been seeking a sea route to eastern Asia, finally arrived at Malacca in 1509, inaugurating a new era of European activity in Southeast Asia. Although much of Southeast Asia, including northern Borneo, experienced little Western impact before the 19th century, Malaya was one of the first regions to be disrupted. In 1511 a Portuguese fleet led by Afonso de Albuquerque (Albuquerque, Afonso de, the Great) captured Malacca.

      Because few merchants of Malacca chose to endure the conquerors' high taxes and intolerance of Islam, the city ultimately languished under Portuguese control. The sultanate of Aceh (Acheh) in northern Sumatra subsequently leaped into the political vacuum created by Malacca's decline, and during the 16th and early 17th centuries the Acehnese were deeply involved in peninsular affairs, warring against various sultanates and at times controlling some or most of them. Indeed, the understaffed Portuguese authority in Malacca was barely able to repulse repeated assaults by the sultanate of Aceh. Meanwhile, the Dutch, having established the Dutch East India Company in 1602, arose as the dominant European power in Southeast Asia. In 1641 the Dutch seized Malacca, and although they tried to revive its trade, the city never recovered its earlier glory.

      Throughout the rise and fall of Malacca, new sultanates were emerging elsewhere in the Malay world. They usually were situated at the mouth of a major river and sought to control trade to and from the interior, which often was populated by seminomadic peoples such as the aboriginal Orang Asli (“Original People”) of Malaya and the various indigenous peoples of Borneo. Younger sultanates—such as Riau-Johor and Kedah, both on the peninsula, and Brunei, on Borneo's northern coast—took over some of the trading functions of Malacca and flourished for several centuries. Islam reached other areas of northern Borneo in the 15th and 16th centuries; many coastal peoples converted, but most of the inhabitants of the interior continued to practice local religions well into the 20th century. Malay political control spread, with the Brunei sultans laying claim to much of what are today Sarawak and Sabah—although their actual power seldom reached much beyond the coastal zone. Attempts by Brunei to control the interior often failed, especially after the aggressive Iban (Sea Dayak) people commenced their migrations into present-day Sarawak from western Borneo (16th through 18th centuries). The Siamese came to control some of the northern Malay sultanates, and the southernmost part of present-day Thailand still has a predominantly Malay Muslim population. The Malay sultanates included many, often feuding chiefdoms. Consequently, wars within and between the sultanates erupted from time to time. From the Europeans' perspective, the sultanate system—with its hierarchical but fluctuating spheres of influence over mobile populations—was politically unstable.

      During the 17th century many Minangkabau people migrated from western Sumatra into southwestern Malaya, bringing with them a matrilineal sociocultural system by which property and authority descended through the female side. They elected their chiefs from among eligible aristocratic candidates, a model that has been incorporated into contemporary Malaysia's selection of a king. Later the Minangkabau formed a confederation of nine small states ( Negeri Sembilan). The political pluralism of Malaya in the 18th century also facilitated large-scale penetration of the peninsula by Buginese people from southwestern Celebes (Sulawesi), a large island to the southeast of Borneo that is now part of Indonesia. With a well-earned reputation as maritime traders, Buginese immigrants established the sultanate of Selangor on the west coast of Malaya in the mid-1700s. To the southeast, they gained prominence in the sultanate of Johor, which, at the tip of the peninsula, was a prosperous trading entrepôt that attracted Asian and European merchants. Despite continuous movement of peoples from the archipelago into the area, Malaya and northern Borneo remained sparsely populated into the early 19th century. Many present-day Malays are descendants of immigrants from elsewhere in archipelagic Southeast Asia who arrived after 1800. Indeed, immigrants from Java, Celebes, and Sumatra demonstrated a tendency to assimilate to the existing Malay community over time, a process that steadily accelerated with the rise of Malay nationalism and vernacular education in the 1930s. Some of the traditions brought by Minangkabau, Javanese, and other immigrants are still practiced in districts where they settled, contributing to the many regional variations of Malay culture and language.

Malaya and northern Borneo under British control (colonialism, Western)
      Except for Malacca (Malacca, sultanate of), Western influence was negligible in Malaya and northern Borneo until the late 18th century, when Britain became interested in the area. The British sought a source for goods to be sold in china, and in 1786 the British East India Company acquired the island of Penang (Pulau Pinang), off Malaya's northwest coast, from the sultan of Kedah. The island soon became a major trading entrepôt with a chiefly Chinese population. British representative Sir Stamford Raffles (Raffles, Sir Stamford) occupied the island of Singapore off the southern tip of the peninsula in 1819 and acquired trading rights in 1824; a strategic location at the southern end of the Strait of Malacca (Malacca, Strait of) and a fine harbour made Singapore the centre for Britain's economic and political thrust in the peninsula. The British attracted Chinese immigrants to the sparsely populated island, and soon the mainly Chinese port became the region's dominant city and a major base for Chinese economic activity in Southeast Asia. By then the predominant industrial capitalist power in Europe, Britain next obtained Malacca from the Dutch in 1824 and thereafter governed the three major ports of the Strait of Malacca—Penang, Malacca, and Singapore—which collectively were called the Straits Settlements. The British Colonial Office took direct control in 1867.

      With the opening in 1869 of the Suez Canal, which provided a dramatically shorter maritime route between Europe and Southeast Asia, the full effect of European technological development swept over the region. The feuding Malay states were little prepared for the political ramifications of increased European commercial activity, with the exception of Johor, which was led by the strong, shrewd, and progressive sultan Abu Bakar. The other state administrations generally were weak and failed to cope with their mounting problems, including the steady immigration of Chinese. By the early 19th century the Chinese—who were being driven to emigrate by increasing poverty and instability in their homeland—began settling in large numbers in the sultanates along the peninsula's west coast, where they cooperated with local Malay rulers to mine tin. The Chinese organized themselves into tightly knit communities and formed alliances with competing Malay chiefs, and Chinese factions fought wars with each other for control of minerals. Chinese settlers also established towns such as Kuala Lumpur and Ipoh, which later grew into major cities. The Chinese and Malays increasingly became entrenched in an inadequately integrated sociopolitical structure that continually generated friction between the two communities.

      British investors were soon attracted to Malaya's potential mineral wealth, but they were concerned about the political unrest. As a result, by the 1870s local British officials began to intervene in the internal affairs of various Malayan sultanates—establishing political influence (sometimes by force or the threat of force) through a system of British residents (advisers). Initial intervention was crude and incompetent; the first British resident to Perak was murdered by Malays outraged by his assertive actions. Gradually, the British refined their techniques and appointed more-able representatives; notable among these was Sir Frank Swettenham (Swettenham, Sir Frank), who in 1896 became the first resident-general of a Malay federation of Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, and Pahang, with Kuala Lumpur as the capital. By 1909 the British had pressured Siam (now Thailand) into transferring sovereignty over the northern Malay states of Kedah, Terengganu, Kelantan, and Perlis; Johor was compelled to accept a British resident in 1914. These five sultanates remained outside the Malay federation, however. Britain had now achieved formal or informal colonial control over nine sultanates, but it pledged not to interfere in matters of religion, customs, or the symbolic political role of the sultans. The various states kept their separate identities but were increasingly integrated to form British Malaya.

       Sarawak also entered a new historical era when the English adventurer James (later Sir James) Brooke helped the sultan of Brunei suppress a local revolt by several Iban groups that (theoretically) were under the sultanate's control. In gratitude, the sultan of Brunei appointed Brooke raja (governor) of the Sarawak River basin in 1841. Brooke inaugurated not only a new form of imperial endeavour but also a century of rule by successive generations of a remarkable English family—a dynasty known as the Brooke Raj. As traditional Bornean rulers, generally benevolent autocrats, and cautious modernizers, the Brookes viewed themselves as protectors of Sarawak's people. James Brooke spent the years before his death in 1868 consolidating his control of surrounding districts and defending his government against various challenges. Sarawak acquired the status of an independent state under British protection during the reign of its second raja, Charles Brooke (nephew of James Brooke). Relations with Britain, however, were often strained, chiefly because of a consistent Brooke policy of incorporating territory at the expense of the declining Brunei sultanate, which also became a British protectorate in the late 19th century. The present boundaries of Sarawak were achieved by 1906.

      Northeastern Borneo, the territory that is now Sabah, was the last area to be brought under British control. In the early 1700s Brunei transferred its claims over much of the region to the sultan of Sulu, who ruled from the Sulu Archipelago (now part of the Philippines) to the east. Except in the far northeast, actual Sulu power remained limited. Occasional local resistance to Brunei or Sulu influence, as well as extensive coastal raiding and confusion of suzerainty, invited Western interest beginning in the 18th century. Despite short-lived American activity in the 1860s, British power proved most decisive. By 1846 the British had already acquired the offshore island of Labuan from Brunei. They gained a toehold in northeastern Borneo proper in 1872, when British merchant William Cowie founded an east-coast settlement at Sandakan, on lease from Sulu. Having obtained rights to much of the territory by 1881, the British launched the British North Borneo Company, which, based in Sandakan, ruled the British protectorate—as North Borneo—until 1941. The company operated the state in the interest of its shareholders but was only moderately prosperous, owing to high overhead and poor management; its 60 years of rule, however, established the economic, administrative, and political framework of contemporary Sabah.

The impact of British rule
      The British presence in the region reflected several patterns: direct colonial rule in the Straits Settlements, relatively indirect control in some of the peninsula's east-coast sultanates, and family or corporate control in Borneo. Regardless of the political form, however, British rule brought profound changes, transforming the various states socially and economically.

      The Brookes and the North Borneo Company faced prolonged resistance before they consolidated their control, while occasional local revolts punctuated British rule in Malaya as well. In Sarawak in 1857, for example, interior Chinese gold-mining communities nearly succeeded in toppling the intrusive James Brooke before being crushed, while Muslim chief Mat Salleh fought expanding British power in North Borneo from 1895 to 1900. The Brookes mounted bloody military campaigns to suppress headhunting (practiced at the time by many indigenous peoples of the interior) and to incorporate especially the Iban into their domain; similar operations were carried out in North Borneo. Those who resisted British annexation or policies were portrayed by the British authorities as treacherous, reactionary rebels; many of the same figures, however, were later hailed in Malaysia as nationalist heroes.

      The British administration eventually achieved peace and security. In Malaya the Malay sultans retained their symbolic status at the apex of an aristocratic social system, although they lost some of their political authority and independence. British officials believed that the rural Malay farmers needed to be protected from economic and cultural change and that traditional class divisions should be maintained. Hence, most economic development was left to Chinese and Indian immigrants, as long as it served long-term colonial interests. The Malay elite enjoyed a place in the new colonial order as civil servants. Many Malayan and Bornean villagers, however, were affected by colonial taxes and consequently were forced to shift from subsistence to cash-crop farming; their economic well-being became subject to fluctuations in world commodity prices. Much economic growth occurred; British policies promoted the planting of pepper, gambier (a plant producing a resin used for tanning and dyeing), tobacco, oil palm, and especially rubber, which along with tin became the region's major exports. Malaya and British North Borneo developed extractive, plantation-based economies oriented toward the resource and market needs of the industrializing West.

      British authorities in Malaya devoted much effort to constructing a transportation infrastructure in which railways and road networks linked the tin fields to the coast; port facilities also were improved to facilitate resource exports. These developments stimulated growth in the tin and rubber industries to meet world demand. The tin industry remained chiefly in immigrant Chinese hands through the 19th century, but more highly capitalized, technologically sophisticated British firms took over much of the tin production and export by World War II. The rubber tree was first introduced from Brazil in the 1870s, but rubber did not supersede the earlier coffee and gambier plantings until near the end of the century. By the early 20th century thousands of acres of forest had been cleared for rubber growing, much of it on plantations but some on smallholdings. Malaya became the world's greatest exporter of natural rubber, with rubber and tin providing the bulk of colonial tax revenues.

      The British also improved public health facilities, which reduced the incidence of various tropical diseases, and they facilitated the establishment of government Malay schools and Christian mission (mostly English-language) schools; the Chinese generally had to develop their own schools. These separate school systems helped perpetuate the pluralistic society. Some Chinese, Malays, and Indians benefited from British economic policies; others enjoyed no improvement or experienced a drop in their standard of living. Government-sanctioned opium and alcohol use provided a major source of revenue in some areas.

      Between 1800 and 1941 several million Chinese entered Malaya (especially the west-coast states), Sarawak, and British North Borneo to work as labourers, miners, planters, and merchants. The Chinese eventually became part of a prosperous, urban middle class that controlled retail trade. South Indian Tamils (Tamil) were imported as the workforce on Malayan rubber estates. At the turn of the 19th century Malays accounted for the vast majority of Malaya's residents, but the influx of immigrants over the subsequent decades significantly eroded that majority. A compartmentalized society developed on the peninsula, and colonial authorities skillfully utilized “divide and rule” tactics to maintain their control. With most Malays in villages, Chinese in towns, and Indians on plantations, the various ethnic groups basically lived in their own neighbourhoods, followed different occupations, practiced their own religions, spoke their own languages, operated their own schools, and, later, formed their own political organizations. By the 1930s ethnically oriented nationalist currents began to stir in Malaya, Singapore, and Sarawak. Malay groups either pursued Islamic revitalization and reform or debated the future of the Malays in a plural society, while Chinese organizations framed their activities around political trends in China.

      The Borneo states experienced many of the same changes. Sir Charles Brooke, second raja of Sarawak, passed the state on to his son, Charles Vyner de Windt Brooke, in 1917. Vyner Brooke reigned until 1946, furthering the pattern of personal rule established by his father and by his great-uncle, Sir James Brooke. Economic incentives attracted Chinese immigrants, and by 1939 the Chinese accounted for about one-fourth of the state's population. Similar to Malaya, Sarawak became ethnically, occupationally, and socially segmented, with most Malays in government or fishing, most Chinese in trade, labour, or cash-crop farming, and most Iban in the police force or shifting cultivation. Gambier and pepper were planted, with Sarawak emerging as the major world supplier of the latter crop. Later, rubber became dominant, and a petroleum industry developed. Most cash-crop agriculture remained in smallholdings rather than in the plantations that were characteristic elsewhere. Christian missionary activity and church, Chinese, and Malay schools also generated sociocultural change. In the 1930s ethnic consciousness rose among both the Chinese and the Malay communities as Vyner Brooke's personal rule began to erode.

      The North Borneo Company operated differently from the Brookes in that it concentrated on developing an extractive economy for the benefit of its shareholders, based mostly on Western-owned tobacco and rubber estates and forest exploitation. Like the Brookes, however, the company created a single state out of many local societies and tolerated little open political activity. Christian missions facilitated change among non-Muslims. Significantly, immigrant Chinese and Indonesians also diversified the population through their employment as plantation workers.

Political transformation
      The occupation of Malaya and Borneo by Japan (1942–45) during World War II generated tremendous changes in those territories. Their economies were disrupted, and communal tensions were exacerbated because Malays and Chinese reacted differently to Japanese control. The Japanese desperately needed access to the natural resources of Southeast Asia; they invaded Malaya in December 1941, having neutralized American military power in Hawaii through the Pearl Harbor attack and in the Philippines through attacks on Manila. Shortly thereafter, the Japanese controlled the peninsula, Singapore, and Borneo. Pro-communist, predominantly Chinese guerrillas waged resistance in Malaya, and a brief Chinese-led revolt also erupted in North Borneo. In many places increasing politicization and conflict within and among ethnic groups developed as a result of economic hardship and selective repression; in northern Borneo the rule of the Brookes and of the North Borneo Company was permanently undermined, while in Malaya the Chinese and Malays also realized that British domination was not everlasting. Nonetheless, most people welcomed the Japanese defeat in 1945.

      After the end of the war, Sarawak and North Borneo, both of which had been British protectorates until the Japanese occupation, became British crown colonies. Sarawak, however, faced a turbulent political situation. Many Malays opposed the termination of Brooke rule and Sarawak's cession to Britain, and the resulting sociopolitical divisions persisted for years. With the establishment of the British North Borneo colony, the capital was moved from Sandakan to Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu). Some local self-government was introduced in Malaya. The major catalyst of political organization, however, was a British proposal to form a single Malayan Union, incorporating all the Malayan territories except Singapore, that would diminish state autonomy and accord equal political and citizenship rights to non-Malays. A tremendous upsurge of Malay political feeling against this plan, led by Dato' Onn bin Jaafar (Onn bin Jaafar, Dato'), resulted in the creation in 1946 of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) as a vehicle for Malay nationalism and political assertiveness. Strikes, demonstrations, and boycotts doomed the proposed Malayan Union, and the British began to negotiate with UMNO about the Malayan future.

      The negotiations resulted in the creation in 1948 of the Federation of Malaya, which unified the territories but provided special guarantees of Malay rights, including the position of the sultans. These developments alarmed the more radical and impoverished sectors of the Chinese community. In 1948 the Communist Party of Malaya—a mostly Chinese movement formed in 1930 that had provided the backbone of the anti-Japanese resistance—went into the jungles and began a guerrilla insurgency to defeat the colonial government, sparking a 12-year period of unrest known as the Malayan Emergency. The communists waged a violent and ultimately futile struggle supported by only a small segment of the Chinese community. The British took measures to suppress the insurgency by military means, which included a strategy that forcibly moved many rural Chinese into tightly controlled New Villages located near or along the roadsides. Although this policy isolated villagers from guerrillas, it also increased the government's unpopularity. The British finally achieved success when, under the leadership of British high commissioner Sir Gerald Templer, they actively began to address political and economic grievances as well as the insurgency, which further isolated the rebels.

      Promising independence, British officials commenced negotiations with the various ethnic leaders, including those of UMNO and the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA), formed in 1949 by wealthy Chinese businessmen. A coalition consisting of UMNO (led by the aristocratic moderate Tunku Abdul Rahman (Abdul Rahman Putra Alhaj, Tunku)), MCA, and the Malayan Indian Congress contested the national legislative elections held in 1955 and won all but one seat. This established a permanent political pattern of a ruling coalition—known first as the Alliance Party and later as the National Front (Barisan Nasional)—that united ethnically based, mostly elite-led parties of moderate to conservative political leanings, with UMNO as the major force.

      On Aug. 31, 1957, the Federation of Malaya achieved independence under an Alliance government headed by Tunku Abdul Rahman as prime minister. Singapore, with its predominantly Chinese population, remained outside the federation as a British crown colony. The arrangement tended to favour the Malays politically, with UMNO leaders holding most federal and state offices and the kingship rotating among the various Malay sultans, but the Chinese were granted liberal citizenship rights and maintained strong economic power. Kuala Lumpur became the federal capital.

      New currents also were emerging in Borneo. Colonial rule succeeded in rebuilding and expanding the economies of the two colonies, with rubber and timber providing the basis for postwar economic growth. Health and education facilities slowly reached beyond the towns. Political consciousness began to spread as elections were held for local councils. During the 1950s the Kadazan community, stimulated particularly by the development of radio broadcasting and newspapers, became involved in North Borneo politics, while Chinese and Malay leaders formed Sarawak's first political parties—some espousing multiethnic identities—in expectation of independence. Political activity accelerated with the mooting in 1961 of the proposal by Malayan and British officials for a federated state that would include Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo, Brunei, and Singapore. New parties formed in North Borneo representing the Kadazan, Chinese, and various Muslim communities. Elections were held in North Borneo and in Sarawak, with most of the parties in both colonies accepting independence through merging with the new federation, called Malaysia; the inclination to join Malaysia increased after the Philippines claimed North Borneo, based on former Sulu suzerainty.

      British leaders proposed a Malaysian federation as a way of terminating their now burdensome colonial rule over Singapore, Sarawak, and North Borneo, even though those states were historically and ethnically distinct from Malaya and from each other. It was in many ways to be a marriage of convenience. Malaya was closely linked economically with bustling Singapore, and the Malays felt a kinship to the various Muslim groups in Borneo. Tunku Abdul Rahman believed the federation could defuse potential leftist Chinese activity while balancing the Chinese majority in Singapore with the non-Chinese majorities of the Borneo states. Malaya already contained a Chinese minority of nearly 40 percent, with Malays barely in the majority there. Hence, on Sept. 16, 1963, the Federation of Malaysia was formed, with North Borneo—renamed Sabah—and Sarawak constituting East Malaysia. Brunei, which had been invited to join, chose to remain a British protectorate and later became independent as a small, oil-rich Malay sultanate.

Craig A. Lockard

Malaysia from independence to c. 2000
      The new, hurriedly formed country faced many political problems, including a period of Indonesian military opposition that ended in 1966, sporadic communist insurgency in Sarawak, periodic disenchantment in East Malaysia over federal policies and the domination of Peninsular Malaysia, and the secession of Singapore from the federation (at Malaysia's urging) in 1965. The latter event resulted from increasing friction between the mostly Malay federal leaders and the mostly Chinese state leaders, especially Singapore's independent-minded chief minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who disagreed on national goals. Under Lee's autocratic direction and unconventional economic policies, Singapore became a highly prosperous but tightly controlled country, and relations with Malaysia gradually improved. Both countries became founding members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations ( ASEAN) in 1967.

      The secession of Singapore allowed UMNO to exercise more influence over federal policies, even if it did not end political uncertainties. Communal tensions on the peninsula following a heated election generated riots and a countrywide state of emergency in 1969–70. Many non-Malays resented the government's attempts to build national unity and identity through such measures as increasing the use of the Malay language in education and public life. The Chinese were particularly worried by government policies aimed at distributing more wealth to Malays. For instance, the New Economic Policy, launched in 1971 and renewed as the New Development Policy in 1991, was designed to increase significantly the wealth and economic potential of the bumiputra (Malays and other indigenous peoples)—especially the Malays. It included affirmative-action policies for bumiputra citizens in education and in employment in the civil service. A growing Islamic movement also fueled tensions in the country and wrought divisions within the Malay community itself. Beginning in the late 1970s, this Islamic fundamentalist revival, or dakwah movement, increasingly attracted the support of young Malays who felt alienated by what they perceived as the growth of a Westernized, materialistic society. Finally, although rural development policies reduced poverty rates, large pockets of urban and especially rural poverty persisted, with many regional and ethnic inequities in the distribution of wealth. Radical critics of the government (including communists, socialists, Islamic militants, and progressive intellectuals) were politically marginalized and sometimes detained.

      For Sarawak and Sabah, politics within Malaysia proved to be a turbulent experience. The decision to join the federation was made in haste, and many people continued to resent the loss of their autonomy, especially their loss of control over growing petroleum revenues. Political crises occurred periodically in Sarawak, although it was governed after 1970 by a Malay-dominated, profederal but multiethnic coalition that represented a triumph of peninsular alliance-style politics. By the mid-1980s, however, some Iban leaders had challenged the coalition for being too accommodating to wealthy Malay and Chinese interests. The government encouraged the assimilation of Sarawak society to that of the peninsula and dramatically increased the exploitation of timber resources, often at the expense of interior peoples. Sabah politics also were contentious, with ongoing tensions between Muslim and non-Muslim groups. Between 1967 and 1975 Chief Minister Tun Mustapha ruled the state rigidly, absorbing or repressing opponents, promoting Islam, and challenging federal policies. The multiethnic coalition that replaced Mustapha continued to preside over rapid economic growth spurred by the exploitation of Sabah's bountiful natural resources. Tensions resurfaced in the mid-1980s, however, when a Christian Kadazan-led party swept into power and followed policies opposed by federal leaders. Although peninsular sociopolitical patterns increasingly influenced Sabah and Sarawak, the states remained unique within the Malaysian system.

      Despite these difficulties, the country as a whole maintained its quasi-democratic parliamentary political system, including regular elections and moderate political diversity but also some restrictions on civil liberties, such as a ban on public discussion of issues deemed “sensitive.” Tunku Abdul Rahman was succeeded as prime minister by Tun Haji Abdul Razak bin Hussein (Abdul Razak bin Hussein, Tun Haji) in 1970. Upon Abdul Razak's death in 1976, another UMNO leader, Datuk (later Tun) Hussein Onn, replaced him. In 1981 Tun Hussein Onn, owing to ill health, relinquished his positions as president of UMNO and as Malaysian prime minister, allowing Mahathir bin Mohamad to become the fourth prime minister and the first nonaristocrat to hold that office.

      Mahathir's 22-year tenure as prime minister was marked by an authoritarian style and economic success. His assertive manner and controversial policies generated a major split within UMNO: in 1986 Deputy Prime Minister Musa Hitam resigned, citing irreconcilable differences, and the following year Mahathir only narrowly survived a challenge to his role as UMNO president (and thus as prime minister). A subsequent challenge to Mahathir's victory led the courts to declare UMNO illegal because it had failed to register properly. Mahathir was able to outmaneuver his opponents, however, by dissolving UMNO and forming a new Malay party, UMNO Baru (New UMNO; Baru was subsequently dropped in 1997 and the original name restored). Mahathir's opponents countered by forming Semangat '46 (Spirit of '46), which claimed to embody the ideals of the original UMNO (established in 1946) and attempted to unite the disparate opposition groups against the National Front, which was headed by UMNO.

      During the 1980s Anwar Ibrahim rose rapidly within the ruling party, and many believed he was being groomed to be Mahathir's successor. In 1993 Anwar was elected deputy president of UMNO and deputy prime minister, and within a few years he was considered a potential contestant for the offices of UMNO president and prime minister of Malaysia. In 1997 the country faced a severe economic downturn, and Mahathir and Anwar (who also served as the country's finance minister) differed over the economic prescriptions necessary to rescue the economy. In September 1998 Mahathir removed Anwar from office, and Anwar subsequently was expelled from UMNO and charged with (and, eventually, convicted of) corruption and sexual misconduct. Demonstrations, under the banner of reformasi (“reform”), ensued in support of Anwar, whose backers claimed that the charges were a bid to humiliate him and to eliminate him as a potential rival of Mahathir.

Malaysia in the 21st century
      The dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Anwar caused intense divisions within Malaysia, but Mahathir, benefiting from an economic recovery, was able to retain his grip on political power. In 2003 Mahathir stepped down as prime minister and was replaced by Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (his handpicked successor), who won a landslide victory the following year. With Mahathir out of office, Anwar's conviction was overturned in 2004, and he was released. In 2008 Anwar officially returned to politics after a solid victory in a parliamentary by-election.

      With relative political stability over the last decades of the 20th century, government and business leaders managed to carry Malaysia into the 21st century with a prosperous, diversified economy. Commodity exports have remained important, however, and certain parts of the country have struggled with severe environmental problems, largely as a result of the exploitation of natural resources. Although development policies have been criticized as lacking ethnic and regional balance, Malaysia nonetheless has achieved considerable success in creating national unity and sociopolitical stability out of deep regional and ethnic divisions.

Craig A. Lockard Zakaria Bin Ahmad Ed.

Additional Reading

R.S. Milne and Diane K. Mauzy, Malaysia: Tradition, Modernity, and Islam (1986), is a comprehensive overview of the social, economic, and religious dynamics of the country. Ooi Jin-Bee, Peninsular Malaysia, new ed. (1976), offers a valuable geographic overview. James C. Jackson, Sarawak (1968), is a fine study of the state's history and development through the mid-20th century. Studies of Malaysia's people include Judith Nagata, Malaysian Mosaic: Perspectives from a Polyethnic Society (1979); Kernial Singh Sandhu, Indians in Malaya: Some Aspects of Their Immigration and Settlement (1786–1957) (1969); Heather Strange, Rural Malay Women in Tradition and Transition (1981); Heng Pek Koon, Chinese Politics in Malaysia: A History of the Malaysian Chinese Association (1988); and James V. Jesudason, Ethnicity and the Economy: The State, Chinese Business, and Multinationals in Malaysia (1989). Raj Kumar, The Forest Resources of Malaysia, Their Economics and Development (1986); and S. Robert Aiken et al., Development and Environment in Peninsular Malaysia (1982), focus on both environmental concerns and economic development. Other important economic studies include Mohamed Ariff, The Malaysian Economy: Pacific Perspectives (1991); and George Cho, The Malaysian Economy: Spatial Perspectives (1990). Aspects of Malaysia's political economy are addressed in E.K. Fisk and H. Osman-Rani (eds.), The Political Economy of Malaysia (1982); Gordon P. Means, Malaysian Politics: The Second Generation (1991); and Edmund Terence Gomez and Jomo K.S., Malaysia's Political Economy: Politics, Patronage, and Profits (1997). Peter Searle, The Riddle of Malaysian Capitalism: Rent Seekers or Real Capitalists? (1999); and R.S. Milne and Diane K. Mauzy, Malaysian Politics Under Mahathir (1999), focus particularly on the economic and political dynamics of Malaysia in the late 20th century.

The best comprehensive history of Malaysia is Barbara Watson Andaya and Leonard Y. Andaya, A History of Malaysia, 2nd ed. (2001). A good survey of the country's growth in the few decades following independence is John Gullick, Malaysia: Economic Expansion and National Unity (1981). Both of these works are stronger on Malaya than on the Borneo states. Steven Runciman, The White Rajahs: A History of Sarawak from 1841 to 1946 (1960, reissued 1992); and Robert Pringle, Rajahs and Rebels: The Ibans of Sarawak Under Brooke Rule, 1841–1941 (1970), provide excellent coverage of the Brooke era. Among the detailed accounts of ancient Malaya, Paul Wheatley, The Golden Khersonese: Studies in the Historical Geography of the Malay Peninsula Before AD 1500 (1961, reissued 1980), remains a classic work. Leonard Y. Andaya, The Kingdom of Johor, 1641–1728 (1975), is a fine analysis of that sultanate. Lim Teck Ghee, Peasants and Their Agricultural Economy in Colonial Malaya, 1874–1941 (1977), treats economic history during the colonial era. William R. Roff, The Origins of Malay Nationalism, 2nd ed. (1994), is a stimulating work that explores Malay society in the colonial years. Victor Purcell, The Chinese in Malaya (1948, reissued 1967), though somewhat dated, remains an important general survey. R.S. Milne and Diane K. Mauzy, Politics and Government in Malaysia, rev. ed. (1980), offers a particularly thorough account of the late colonial and early independence periods.Zakaria Bin Ahmad

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Universalium. 2010.

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