Malaysia has a population of over 25 million people who reside in the Peninsular and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the Borneo Island. The country prides itself on the harmonious existence of various races as a nation. While the majority are Malays, Chinese, Indians, Ibans, Kadazan, Dusuns and other ethnic groups make up a colourful and vibrant society. Malaysia’s official language is Bahasa Malaysia, but English is widely spoken. The official religion of Malaysia is Islam, and the nation comprises Muslims, Christians, Buddhists, Hindus and followers of other religions. The various ethnic groups, cultures and languages make Malaysia, Truly Asia.
Brief history/ Legend/ Myths
Malaysia’s recorded history dates back to the first century BC. Located strategically at the crossroads between the East and West. Peninsula Malaysia had attracted early travellers from different parts of the world. Evidence of ancient civilizations such as tomb stones can be found in Bujang Valley and Merbok Valley in the state of Kedah, as well as Hindu-Buddhist influences from India and China.
Islamic influence came during the Melaka Sultanate in the 1400s with traders from the Middle East and India. It spread across the nation when the Sultan of Melaka embraced the religion and personally helped spread it across the nation. The reign of the Sultanate also created trade ties with the Kingdom of China.
Melaka’s spice trade led to its attack by the Portuguese in 1511, resulting in the fall of the Sultanate. Together with their conquest, the Portuguese brought in Catholic Christianity to the locals. But in 1641 the Dutch took over control of Melaka. The British came at the end of the 18th century in the wake of the Industrial Revolution in Europe. They formed crown colony states of the Peninsular called the Straits Settlements and subtly intervened in the administration of the previously independent states.
In East Malaysia, Sabah became a British protectorate under the Chartered Company, British North Borneo, whilst the Brooke family ruled Sarawak as the White Rajah, meaning the White King, for 100 years. In 1941, the Japanese invaded the country and ruled for about three years before their surrender to the Allied Forces after the bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
The end of World War II was the beginning of the birth of nationalism in the country. Independence was proclaimed on August 31, 1957 at 9.00 am, Tunku Abdul Rahman (who became the first Prime Minister) read the Proclamation of Independence. It marked the birth of a new nation, the Federation of Malaya. In 1963, Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak joined hands to form Malaysia. Singapore, however, withdrew herself from the Federation in 1965 to become an independent government.