Sunday, October 05, 2008

Visit Malaysia

Malaysia (pronounced /məˈleɪʒə/ or /məˈleɪziə/) is a country that consists of thirteen states and three federal territories in Southeast Asia with a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometres (127,355 sq mi).[2][3] The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, .[6]while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. The population stands at over 25 million.[3] The country is separated into two regions—Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo—by the South China Sea. [3] Malaysia borders Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines.[3] The country is located near the equator and experiences a tropical climate.[3] Malaysia's head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (conventionally referred to as 'the King' or 'the Agong') and the government is headed by a Prime Minister.[4][5] The government is closely modeled after the Westminster parliamentary system Malaysia as a unified state did not exist until 1963. Previously, a set of colonies were established by the United Kingdom from the late-18th century, and the western half of modern Malaysia was composed of several separate kingdoms. This group of colonies was known as British Malaya until its dissolution in 1946, when it was reorganised as the Malayan Union. Due to widespread opposition, it was reorganised again as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and later gained independence on 31 August 1957.[7] Singapore, Sarawak, British North Borneo and the Federation of Malaya joined to form Malaysia on 16 September 1963.[8] The early years of the new union were marred by an armed conflict with Indonesia and the expulsion of Singapore.[9][10] The Southeast Asian nation experienced an economic boom and underwent rapid development during the late-20th century. With a GDP per capita standing at USD14,400, it has, from time to time, been considered a newly industrialised country.[11][12] Because Malaysia is one of three countries that control the Strait of Malacca, international trade plays a large role in its economy.[13] At one time, it was the largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil in the world.[14] Manufacturing has a large influence in the country's economy.[15]

The Malays form the majority of the population. Some Malays are of Arab[citation needed] descent and there are sizable Chinese and Indian communities. Islam is the largest as well as the official religion of the federation.[3][16] The Malay language is the official language.[17] The Malay language was originally written in Pallava from India, the earliest known inscriptions in Malay were found in southern Sumatra and on the island of Bangka and date from 683-6 AD. They were written in an Indian script during the time of the kingdom of Srivijaya, but nowadays, the Roman alphabet (Rumi) is more often used.[18]

Malaysia is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and participates in many international organisations such as the United Nations.[19][20] As a former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.[21] It is also a member of the Developing 8 Countries.[22]



Main article: Prehistoric Malaysia

Archaeological remains have been found throughout peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. The Semang have a deep ancestry within the Malay Peninsula, dating to the initial settlement from Africa over 50,000 years ago. The Senoi appear to be a composite group, with approximately half of the maternal lineages tracing back to the ancestors of the Semang and about half to Indochina. This is in agreement with the suggestion that they represent the descendants of early Austronesian speaking agriculturalists, who brought both their language and their technology to the southern part of the peninsula approximately 5,000 years ago and coalesced with the indigenous population. The Aboriginal Malays are more diverse, and although they show some connections with island Southeast Asia, some also have an ancestry in Indochina around the time of the Last Glacial Maximum[citation needed], followed by an early-Holocene dispersal through the Malay Peninsula into island Southeast Asia.

[edit] Early history

Ptolemy showed the Malay Peninsula on his early map with a label that translates as "Golden Chersonese", the Straits of Malacca were referred to as "Sinus Sabaricus".[27] From the mid to the late first millennium, much of the Peninsula as well as the Malay Archipelago were under the influence of Srivijaya.

There were numerous Malay kingdoms in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE—as many as 30 according to Chinese sources. Kedah—known as Kedaram, Cheh-Cha (according to I-Ching) or Kataha, in ancient Pallava or Sanskrit—was in the direct route of invasions of Indian traders and kings. Rajendra Chola, Tamil Emperor who is now thought to have laid Kota Gelanggi to waste, put Kedah to heel in 1025 but his successor, Vir Rajendra Chola, had to put down a Kedah rebellion to overthrow the invaders. The coming of the Chola reduced the majesty of Srivijaya which had exerted influence over Kedah and Pattani and even as far as Ligor.

The Buddhist kingdom of Ligor took control of Kedah shortly after, and its King Chandrabhanu used it as a base to attack Sri Lanka in the 11th century, an event noted in a stone inscription in Nagapattinum in Tamil Nadu and in the Sri Lankan chronicles, Mahavamsa. During the first millennium, the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted Hinduism and Buddhism and the use of the Sanskrit language until they eventually converted to Islam.
There are reports of other areas older than Kedah—the ancient kingdom of Gangga Negara, around Beruas in Perak, for instance, pushes Malaysian history even further into antiquity. If that is not enough, a Tamil poem, Pattinapillai, of the second century CE, describes goods from Kadaram heaped in the broad streets of the Chola capital. A 7th century Sanskrit drama, Kaumudhimahotsva, refers to Kedah as Kataha-nagari. The Agnipurana also mentions a territory known as Anda-Kataha with one of its boundaries delineated by a peak, which scholars believe is Gunung Jerai. Stories from the Katasaritasagaram describe the elegance of life in Kataha.
In the early-15th century, the Malacca Sultanate was established under a dynasty founded by Parameswara or Sultan Iskandar Shah, a prince from Palembang with bloodline related to the royal house of Srivijaya, who fled from Temasek (now Singapore). Parameswara decided to establish his kingdom in Malacca after witnessing an astonishing incident where a white mouse deer kicked one of his hunting dogs into a nearby river. He took this show of bravery by the mouse deer as a good sign and named his kingdom "Melaka" after the tree under which he was resting at the time. At its height, the sultanate controlled the areas which are now peninsular Malaysia, southern Thailand (Patani), and the eastern coast of Sumatra. It existed for more than a century, and within that time period Islam spread to most of the Malay Archipelago. Malacca was the foremost trading port at the time in Southeast Asia.[28]
The first evidence of Islam in the Malay Peninsula dates from the 14th century in Terengganu, but according to the Kedah Annals, the 9th Sultan of Kedah, Maharaja Derbar Raja, converted to Islam and changed his name to Sultan Muzaffar Shah. In 1511, Malacca was conquered by Portugal, which established a colony there. The sons of the last Sultan of Malacca established two sultanates elsewhere in the peninsula—the Sultanate of Perak to the north, and the Sultanate of Johor (originally a continuation of the old Malacca sultanate) to the south. After the fall of Malacca, three nations struggled for the control of Malacca Strait: the Portuguese (in Malacca), the Sultanate of Johor, and the Sultanate of Aceh. This conflict went on until 1641, when the Dutch (allied to the Sultanate of Johor) gained control of Malacca.
British arrival

Britain established its first colony in the Malay peninsula in 1786, with the lease of the island of Penang to the British East India Company by the Sultan of Kedah. In 1824, the British took control of Malacca following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 which divided the Malay archipelago between Britain and the Netherlands, with Malaya in the British zone. In 1826, Britain established the crown colony of the Straits Settlements, uniting its four possessions in Malaya: Penang, Malacca, Singapore and the island of Labuan. The Straits Settlements were initially administered under the East India Company in Calcutta, before first Penang, and later Singapore became the administrative centre of the crown colony, until 1867, when they were transferred to the Colonial Office in London.

During the late-19th century, many Malay states decided to obtain British help in settling their internal conflicts. The commercial importance of tin mining in the Malay states to merchants in the Straits Settlements led to British government intervention in the tin-producing states in the Malay Peninsula. British gunboat diplomacy was employed to bring about a peaceful resolution to civil disturbances caused by Chinese and Malay gangsters, and the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 paved the way for the expansion of British influence in Malaya. By the turn of the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States (not to be confused with the Federation of Malaya), were under the de facto control of British Residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers. The British were "advisers" in name, but in reality they exercised substantial influence over the Malay rulers.
The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under rule from London, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century. Of these, the four northern states of Perlis, Kedah, Kelantan and Terengganu had previously been under Siamese control. The other unfederated state, Johor, was the only state which managed to preserve its independence throughout most of the 19th century. Sultan Abu Bakar of Johor and Queen Victoria were personal acquaintances, and recognised each other as equals. It was not until 1914 that Sultan Abu Bakar's successor, Sultan Ibrahim accepted a British adviser.

On the island of Borneo, Sabah was governed as the crown colony of British North Borneo, while Sarawak was acquired from Brunei as the personal kingdom of the Brooke family, who ruled as white Rajahs.

Following the Japanese Invasion of Malaya its occupation during World War II, popular support for independence grew.[29] Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the Malayan Union foundered on strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the emasculation of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese.[30] The Malayan Union, established in 1946 and consisting of all the British possessions in Malaya with the exception of Singapore, was dissolved in 1948 and replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection.

During this time, rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency, as it was known, lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya. Although the insurgency quickly stopped there was still a presence of Commonwealth troops, with the backdrop of the Cold War.[31] Against this backdrop, independence for the Federation within the Commonwealth was granted on 31 August 1957.[7]

[edit] Post independence

In 1963, Malaya along with the then-British crown colonies of Sabah (British North Borneo), Sarawak and Singapore, formed Malaysia. The Sultanate of Brunei, though initially expressing interest in joining the Federation, withdrew from the planned merger due to opposition from certain segments of its population as well as arguments over the payment of oil royalties and the status of the Sultan in the planned merger.[32][33]

The early years of independence were marred by conflict with Indonesia (Konfrontasi) over the formation of Malaysia, Singapore's eventual exit in 1965, and racial strife in the form of race riots in 1969.[34][9] The Philippines also made an active claim on Sabah in that period based upon the Sultanate of Brunei's cession of its north-east territories to the Sulu Sultanate in 1704. The claim is still ongoing.[35] After the 13 May race riots of 1969, the controversial New Economic Policy—intended to increase proportionately the share of the economic pie of the bumiputras ("indigenous people", which includes the majority Malays, but not always the indigenous population) as compared to other ethnic groups—was launched by Prime Minister Abdul Razak. Malaysia has since maintained a delicate ethno-political balance, with a system of government that has attempted to combine overall economic development with political and economic policies that promote equitable participation of all races.[36]

Between the 1980s and the mid-1990s, Malaysia experienced significant economic growth under the premiership of Mahathir bin Mohamad.[37] The period saw a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. It was during this period, too, that the physical landscape of Malaysia has changed with the emergence of numerous mega-projects. The most notable of these projects are the Petronas Twin Towers (at the time the tallest building in the world), KL International Airport (KLIA), North-South Expressway, the Sepang F1 Circuit, the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the Bakun hydroelectric dam and Putrajaya, a new federal administrative capital.

In the late-1990s, Malaysia was shaken by the Asian financial crisis as well as political unrest caused by the sacking of the deputy prime minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim.[38] In 2003, Dr Mahathir, Malaysia's longest serving prime minister, retired in favour of his deputy, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. On November 2007 Malaysia was rocked by two anti-government rallies. The 2007 Bersih Rally numbering 40,000 strong was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on 10 November campaigning for electoral reform. It was precipitated by allegations of corruption and discrepancies in the Malaysian election system that heavily favour the ruling political party, Barisan Nasional, which has been in power since Malaysia achieved its independence in 1957.[39] The 2007 HINDRAF rally was held in Kuala Lumpur on 25 November. The rally organiser, the Hindu Rights Action Force, had called the protest over alleged discriminatory policies which favour ethnic Malays. The crowd was estimated to be between 5,000 and 30,000.[40] In both cases the government and police were heavy handed and tried to prevent the gatherings from taking place.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia