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13

THE GUIDE TO MALAYSIA

Sir James Brooke (ruled 1841-1868),

the first of Sarawak’s century-long

dynasty of White Rajahs.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj (1903-1990), Malaysia’s first Prime

Minister, proclaims independence for Malaya at the Merdeka Stadium, Kuala

Lumpur, 31

st

August, 1957.

Malaysia with extensive

tropical rainforests and over

50% of the country remains

under forest cover. Malaysia

is home to roughly 20% of

the world’s species of fauna

and flora, a large proportion

of which are not found

elsewhere on the planet.

Conservation International

rates Malaysia as one of

the 17 most biodiverse

countries in the world.

Historical Background

Malaysia’s history has

been shaped by its

location on the principal

trade routes between

East and West Asia, with

archaeological evidence

of trade between China

and the Malay Peninsula

from the 1

st

Century CE.

Modern Malaysian history

began with the founding

of Melaka by Parameswara

at the beginning of the

15

th

Century. Over a few

decades Melaka grew in

importance economically

to become the capital of

the Melaka Sultanate. As a

major maritime hub, Melaka

attracted Muslim traders

from various part of the

world and became a center

of Islam in the region.

Following a period of

Portuguese and Dutch

control, British colonisation

began in the 18

th

Century,

with the lease of Prince

of Wales Island (Pulau

Pinang) and Province

Wellesley (Seberang Perai)

by the British East India

Company, along with the

founding of Singapore by

Sir Stamford Raffles (1819)

and the ceding of Melaka

by the Dutch (1824).

In East Malaysia, Sabah

was originally governed

by the Sultan of Sulu

and ceded to the British

in 1881. Sarawak, a loose

dependency of the Brunei

Sultanate, was surrendered

to James Brooke in 1841

and governed by Brooke

and his descendants for

the next 100 years.

The British tapped

Malaysia’s resources for tin,

iron ore, copper and bauxite,

and cleared vast tracts of

land for rubber, pepper and

other agricultural products.

To support these activities

an influx of Chinese and

Indian workers dramatically

changed Malaysia’s ethnic

makeup. However the

British also developed the

country, with a modern

system of government,

judiciary, schools, hospitals,

roads, utilities, post and

telecommunications.

The advent of WWII

in 1941 resulted in the

Japanese occupation of

Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak

and Sabah for three and

a half years. Following

Japanese surrender, the

British returned and

formed the Malayan

Union in the peninsula,