Capital : Kuala Lumpur
Size: 127 000 sq m
Population: 18 181 000
The area that is now Malaysia was part of the Buddhist Srivijaya empire from the C9th to C14th. It was overthrown by Java's last Hindu kingdom, Majapahit and there was a period of Indian influence. Islam was introduced and a powerful Muslim empire developed. Its expansion was limited by the Portuguese conquest of Malacca in 1511. In 1641, the Dutch drove out the Portuguese and except for a brief return to Dutch rule from 1818-24, the area was under British control from 1786.
An economy based on rubber and tin exports was and Chinese and Indian labourers were brought in. Local chiefs remained fairly autonomous and only Singapore, Penang and Malacca became part of the Straits Settlements colony in 1826. Britain extended its control to Negri Sembilan, Perak, Pahang and Selangor in 1874, Johore in 1885, Kedah, Kelantan, Trengganu and Perlis between 1910 and 1930.
The Federated Malay States were formed in 1895 and in 1948 the Malay Peninsula was joined with Sarawak and the UK protectorates in Borneo to form the 11 state Federation of Malaya crown colony. In 1963, it became the Federation of Malaysia, with North Borneo renamed Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore which seceded in 1965. After 1966, the 11 Malay Peninsula states were known as West Malaysia and Sabah and Sarawak as East Malaysia. There was some opposition by guerrillas backed by Sukarno of Indonesia and in 1968, the Phillipines made a claim for sovereignty over Sabah. The country joined and adopted a pro-Western, anti-Communist stance.
The multi-racial government of the first Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, had to give way to an emergency administration after anti-Chinese riots in Kuala Lumpur in 1969. Support for his United Malays' National Organization (UMNO) fell and he resigned in 1970. His successor, Tun Abdul Razak, was head of a broader coalition, which included opposition parties. In 1971, a new economic policy was started with the aim of increasing ethnic Malay-owned business and giving more Malays the chance to receive university education. The economy expanded during the 1970s.
The federal government annoyed the Chinese community when it refused to welcome Vietnamese refugees and fundamentalist Islam has been revived in the north and west. Racial problems grew worse after Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad became prime minister in 1981 and adopted a more narrowly Islamic and Malay policy. He wanted to industrialize the country on a similar pattern to Japan and was re-elected in 1982 and 1986 despite opposition from the Malaysian Chinese and conflict between the Christians and Muslims in Sabah. Economic growth slowed as world prices of tin rubber and palm oil fell.
Malay-Chinese relations grew worse and in 1987, Mahathir had over 100 opposition activists arrested, including Lim Kit Siang, leader of the Democratic Action Party. UMNO had been split when ex-premier Rahman and former trade and industry minister Razaleigh Hamzah leaving to form a new multiracial group, Semangat '46, in 1989, but it was reconstituted by Mahathir and the 1971 pro-Malay policy was somewhat relaxed. He won a large majority in the 1990 elections and Semangat '46 did not mount the challenge expected although Islamic and Chinese party allies were well supported locally. The pro-Malay policy ended in December 1990 and was replaced by a less discriminatory 'new development policy', which aims to turn Malaysia into a 'fully developed state' by 2020.
Recently, although links have developed with Japan, Malaysia has also become closer to communist and Islamic powers. Racial problems have not been entirely eradicated, with the success of the country's hosting of the 1998 Commonwealth Games marred by riots in Kuala Lumpur.
Size: 240 sq miles
Population: 2 812 000
This area was covered by swamp and jungle until the British East India Company leased it from the Sultan of Johore as a trading post in 1819. In 1858, it passed to the crown and from 1867 was part of the Straits Settlements. This was a province of the East India Company from 1826-58, and a British crown colony from 1867-1946. It also included Malacca, Penang, the Cocos Islands, Christmas Island and Labuan.
During the Second World War, Singapore was an important British military base, designed to ward of naval attacks, but it was invaded by land and occupied by Japan from February 1942 to September 1945. In 1946, it became a separate British crown colony and was self-governing from 1959 with Lee Kuan Yew as prime minister. In 1963, it joined the Federation of Malaysia but left in 1965 due to alleged discrimination against the Chinese members. It became an independent republic within the Commonwealth in September 1965. Lee and his People's Action Party dominated internal politics and held a monopoly in parliamentary seats from 1968-1980.
Singapore quickly developed into a commercial and financial centre and new export industries were established. Economic growth slowed in the 1980s and opposition to Lee's regime led a reduced majority in the elections of December 1984 and two opposition deputies winning seats for the first time. Lee began to take a tougher line against dissenters and J.B. Jeyaretnam, leader of the Workers' Party, was deprived of his parliamentary seat after being found guilty of perjury in November 1986. The PAP won the election of September 1988 with only one seat going to the opposition. Lee resigned in November 1991 but remained a senior member of the cabinet under his former deputy, Goh Chok Tong, and the PAP was re-elected in the general election of August 1991.
During the 1960s, Singapore had become closely allied with the USA but from the mid-1970s it pursued a neutralist policy and relations with China improved. It is a member of the Association of South East Asian Nations.
This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.
Copies may be made for personal use only.
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