Malaysia is a nation of two parts: West Malaysia, the peninsular part on the mainland bounded on the north by Thailand; and East Malaysia on the western coast of the island of Borneo. Between these two parts lie 400 miles (645 km) of South China Sea that gives the country an oddly dislocated appearance on the map. With an area of 127,584 sq. miles (330,442 sq. km), it is a little larger than Great Britain which formerly ruled it.
Malaysia represents the political union of the territories under British rule that included Malaya on the peninsular part on the mainland Southeast Asia, the island of Singapore, and the states of Sarawak and Sabah on the island of Borneo. Malaya became independent in 1957, and in 1963 it joined with Sarawak and Sabah, and Singapore in creating the new nation of Malaysia.
Singapore withdrew from the federation in 1965 and became an independent republic. The Sarawak and Sabah unit was officially named East Malaysia which covers about 60 percent of Malaysia’s land area, although less than 15 percent of Malaysia’s 23 million people live there. East Malaysia shares a land boundary with Indonesia’s Kalimantan province.
West Malaysia has a mountainous core, with hills aligned in a north-south direction; the most prominent range rises to elevations of 7,200 feet (2,190 meters). The peripheral U-shaped coastal plains and lowlands, 10 to 50 miles (16 to 18 km) wide along the west coast and narrower and discontinuous along the east coast, surround the highland core.
The coastline is over 1,200 miles (1,920 km) in length, and is mostly lined with mangrove swamps. East Malaysia also has a mountainous interior, with the usual swampy coastal plain of 10 to 40 miles wide. Sabah’s coastline is rugged and indented, while that of Sarawak’s comparatively more regular. The mountainous eastern boundary forms the divide between East Malaysia and Indonesia.
Both East Malaysia and West Malaysia are covered with tropical evergreen rain forest, although that of East Malaysia is far more extensive than that of West Malaysia; indeed, these forests make up the largest tract of untouched rainforests in Southeast Asia. In West Malaysia, the unbroken forest is confined to the central mountain region. At lower elevations, stretches of jungle are interspersed with villages surrounded by rice fields, with plantations of rubber estates and settlements.
West Malaysia is located between 2° and 6° north latitude and most of the land is less than 100 miles (160 km) from the sea. It has an equatorial climate characterized by uniformly high temperatures averaging 78°F to 82°F (25° to 28°C), and by over 80 inches (2,000 millimeters) of annual rainfall. All of Malaysia is frost-free.
Climatic conditions in East Malaysia are quite similar to those prevailing in West Malaysia, but the range of seasonal temperatures and the amount of annual precipitation are greater in East Malaysia. The soils of both East and West Malaysia have been exposed for a long period of time to intense tropical weathering and have been leached out and are poorer except for small areas along the coast. Only Sabah has some areas of fertile soil near the rivers.
Cultural and Historical Factors:
Malaysia, like its neighboring nations, has a rich and diverse ethnic mix, but is unique in that its predominant Malay group has been in an uncomfortable minority until recently. In addition to its various indigenous groups, it also accommodates Chinese and Indian populations large enough to make the Malays a slim majority in their native land.
In combination with other native inhabitants—know, like them, as Bumiputras, “sons of the soil”—the Malays make up a modest majority of 58 percent. Chinese account for about 25.4 percent, and Indians close to 7.2 percent of the population. This uneasy mix of races causes occasional bitter conflicts, and often dictates all political, social and economic calculations in the country.
Until the middle of the 19th century the country remained a rural, feudal Malay society. Malays were landowners, and peasant agriculturists. The picture changed dramatically when tin became a major item in international commerce and the tin mines of Malaysia proved of great value.
The Malays, who themselves did not engage in industry, encouraged Chinese and Europeans to operate tin mines and to import large numbers of Chinese laborers from Southern China to work in the mines. Initially, living in large unassimilated communities, these organized several secret societies, and fought among themselves and the mine owners, often ignoring local laws.
These societies became entrenched in the towns, posing a threat to the native Malays. The Malaysian ethnic composition was further compounded when, at the turn of the century, Tamil laborers in vast numbers from India were imported by the British rulers and estate holders to work on rubber plantations. In 1920 Malayan rubber production accounted for 53 percent of the world’s total production.
The importation of Chinese and Indian labor was originally welcomed by the Malays as it did not compete with the Malay economic structure but produced new wealth from tin mines and rubber plantations. However, political problems arose when the combined Chinese and Indian populations exceeded that of the Malays and when the Chinese and Indians were not allowed landowning rights, they slowly branched out into several commercial and business enterprises.
They are now found in large numbers in cities throughout the nation and some parts of the countryside as well. They are especially concentrated on the densely populated western flank of the Malayan peninsula. Indeed, the ethnic mix in the small towns in these parts makes them microcosms of the nation.
In addition to the Malays, Chinese, Indians, and the aborigines, small numbers of Europeans, Americans, Thailand Arabs are residents in Malaysia—a reflection of the crossroads location of the Malay Peninsula and a meeting place for peoples from other parts of Asia.
The aborigines (Orang Asli) contain several groups, some of which speak Malay and related languages but others speak Mon-Khmer languages. They are primarily adherents of traditional religions, although many have been converted to Islam. The Malays speak Malay, an Austronesian language (officially called Bahasa Malaysia) which is the national language, and is related to the languages spoken in Indonesia.
They are overwhelmingly Muslim. Adherence to Islam generally distinguishes a Malay from a non-Malay; the number of Malays who are not Muslim is negligible. The Chinese are less homogeneous than the Malays in language and religion. They speak several dialects (Cantonese, Hakkai, and Hainanese) reflecting the region of their origins in China. In general, they do not follow a dominant religion, and most of them, while subscribing to Confucian faith, are either Buddhist or Taoist. A small minority is that of Christians.
The peoples from South Asia—Indians, Pakistanis and Sri Lankans, commonly- grouped as Indians—can linguistically be divided into speakers of Dravidian languages (Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam) and speakers of Indo-European languages (Hindi, Urdu, Punjabi, Bengali, and Sinhalese). Most of the Indians and Sri Lankans are Hindus, while the Pakistanis are Muslims. The Sikhs from the Punjab portion of India adhere to their own religion, Sikhism.
The Ethnic-linguistic composition of East Malaya is even more complex. The main ethnic groups in Sarawak are: Chinese, Malays and the several aboriginal tribesmen including the Dayaks, all adding racial, linguistic and ethnic heterogeneity to the cultural scene. Sabah, even more than Sarawak has a kaleidoscopic mixture of peoples.
The largest groups consist of the aborigines, while a small proportion includes Malays, Indonesians, Filipinos, Europeans and South Asians. A great number of aborigines are animists, and a small number of them have been converted to Islam or Christianity. Most of them are shifting cultivators. Although they are divided into sub-tribes, their languages are mutually intelligible.
The Chinese have been a special irritant in Malaysian political and economic structure. The Malays and Chinese differ culturally and economically. Most Malays speak Malay, the official national language, which is taught in the schools along with English, while Chinese mostly adhere to their own dialects, while frequently using English. Many Chinese have resisted learning Malay, even as a third language.
Malays are Muslims, while the Chinese are Buddhists, Confucianists or Taoists. As elsewhere, dislike of Chinese is fueled by the fact that they control most commerce. Although each nationality practices its own tradition with respect to foods, festivals, music, art and architecture, Malays own most of the land and control most governmental posts. Numerically less significant than Chinese, are the Indians who are less assertive, and are rarely involved in the occasional racial conflicts.
When the British controlled the country, they awarded “special privileges” to the Malays in terms of landowning rights, access to jobs in the civil service, recognition of Malay as the national language, and designation of Islam as the state religion. After independence in 1957, racial antagonisms surfaced during the early 1960s leading to serious race riots in 1969. Despite the Malaysian administration’s efforts to pursue policies conducive to the development of national unity during the late 1970s and early 1980s, a true Malaysian nationalism has thus far failed to emerge.
Resources and Development:
Malaysia is rich in mineral resources. Its major metallic ores are tin, bauxite (aluminum), copper, and iron. The most valuable one is that of tin; minor ones include manganese, mercury, antimony, and gold. Tin mining is concentrated largely in the alluvial deposits along the western slopes of the Main Range in West Malaysia, with smaller deposits on the east coast.
While a good part of the country’s development effort was spent on the production of tin until the 1980’s, Malaysia’s most valuable mineral resources now are its reserves of petroleum and natural gas, although modest by world standard, are likely to grow. The major fields are all offshore, along the east coast of West Malaysia and Sarawak. Malaysia,
in addition, contains considerable reserves of coal, peat, wood, and has a large potential for the development of hydro- electricity.
Since 1970, agriculture, fishing and forestry, the traditional basis of the economy, have been declining in importance. Their contribution to the national product has gone down from one-third in 1970 to less than one-fifth, although a large part of the workforce is still engaged in these activities.
Rice, the primary food crop, is grown on small farms. The total production is nearly two million tons. The production has declined a little during the last decade, primarily due to loss of farm labor to growing urban manufacturing sectors. As a result, the country which has been until the late 1980s, self-sufficient in rice production, has to make up the shortfall with imports chiefly from Thailand. Food items (rice being the major one) accounted for over 5 percent of Malaysia’s imports in the mid-1990s.
Traditionally, the most important cash crops have been palm oil and rubber, but their proportion to Malaysia’s exports declined considerably during the 1980s and 1990s, resulting primarily from the unpredictable fluctuations in the price of these commodities in the world market. This has also resulted in a decline in the number of plantations.
Malaysia is still the world’s largest producer of natural rubber, and in normal years produces 35-40 percent of the world’s output. Most of the plantations are in the coastal and piedmont zone of West Malaysia and primarily in Chinese and European hands, although the European ownership has considerably declined since independence.
Palm oil has become a more important commodity than rubber in terms of value and contributes significantly to the exports in the category of vegetable oils. Cocoa, pepper, and coconuts are other valuable crops raised.
Malaysia’s export structure has changed dramatically since 1970, from the one dominated by rubber and tin to one in which manufactured items account for most of the export earnings. Electrical and electronic products, transport equipment, and machinery and other manufactured goods have replaced the traditional commodity goods as major exports.
Its chief trading partners are Japan, Singapore and the United States. The newly industrialized Asian nations such as South Korea and Taiwan account for a growing share of its foreign trade. The transportation system has improved substantially since independence; although more attention has been received by the Peninsular Malaysia than East Malaysia. The nation has enjoyed a favorable balance of trade consistently for the past several decades.
In all Malaysia has a railroad track of only 2,222 km, but the total length of the paved roads is more extensive (nearly 70,000 km). The road network in East Malaysia is much smaller and river transport is of greater importance, especially in Sarawak. All the best ports such as George Town and Port-Kelang are along the west coast of West Malaysia. A new port of Kuantan has been developed on the eastern coast of the Peninsula.
The Kuching in Sarawak and Kota Kinabalu in Sabah serve East Malaysia. Since independence air transport has grown rapidly in West Malaya. Kuala Lumpur (1.1 million) in West Malaysia is the nation’s capital and the chief inland city, served by Port Kelang on the Strait of Malacca. Apart from Its administrative functions, it is the country’s most important commercial center of tin-mining and rubber production industry.
Founded by the Chinese tin-mining in 1957, it became the capital of the Federated Malay States under the British in 1896, and was named the national capital when Malaysia gained freedom in 1957. Among the notable buildings that adorn the city is the modern Parliament building in Moorish style.
The move to industrialize has left only a fifth of all Malaysians still on the land, the remaining have taken to professional, commercial, and other jobs. The nation, however, feels hampered in its drive to industrialize by its small population base. It is encouraging procreation and a large family size in order to create a bigger domestic market and a larger labor force.
Administration’s exhortations to women to raise more children, however, make the Chinese and Indians uneasy, as most Malays remain largely rural and tend to rear larger families. Any future increase in population is likely to push the proportion of Malays well above the 50 percent mark, making them an absolute majority.
Malaysia enjoys the highest standard of living in Southeast Asia with the exception of the such smaller countries as Brunei and Singapore. During the last decade its economy has recorded impressive growth rates averaging 8-9 percent annually. Since independence the administration has pursued calculated policy of economic diversification.
An increasingly large slice of the government’s developmental effort has been devoted to heavy industrial projects, among them pig-iron production, shipyards, cement plants and engineering complexes. Malaysia is now making electronic components for export. Today, manufacturers bring in over a half of Malaysia’s export earnings, while petroleum accounts for 8 percent of exports.
The main development goal of the administration enunciated in its New Economic Policy (NEP) has been the manufacture of goods for export, with a lesser emphasis on import substitution. Industrial estates within free trade zones have been established in the less-developed parts of the country.
Malaysia is a country which has different races of different skin colour, religious views, tradition and culture. However, it is all seems peaceful in this multiracial condition because it is hardly any racial disputes happening. Yet it was not all good if we look back in the olden days. What we have today is a blessing and a fruit of wisdom of our forefathers who see the importance of social integrity to realise the dream of a peaceful, modern and liberal country.
In the past of 55 years, Malaysia hasn’t change abit much. The people are still so graceful and demure. Besides, the warm, sunny weather cloaked the people for these past 5 decades. Nonetheless on the outer facade we have totally transformed into a global image of modernisation and boasts mega structures along with advance infrastructures such as Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) and Putrajaya After 55 years of hardwork and determination, Malaysian even has its own car production, Proton. Furthermore, this enterprise is so successful that it even bought over Lotus, a British sports car brand. We have fully free from the Colonial powers and now show who is the leader in the global community.
Malaysia’s economy has been grow consistently and the political arena is getting more matured and cultured. If compare to 55 years ago, there were only hooligans that know of pleasing the British Officers or contented with the exploitation of the outside influence. Nowadays, Malaysians have been more educated and know of their rights and will do anything to defend the country’s name. This is a huge step towards becoming a developed country. As a conclusion, we hope that our country will be remain peaceful and become a more better in the future.