Malaysia: Location, History, Size, Population, & Government

About the location, history, size, population, and government of the country Malaysia.



Location--Malaysia is located at the southeastern tip of Asia. The 11 states of West Malaysia occupy the southern 400 mi. of the Malay peninsula. The 2 states of East Malaysia, 400 mi. across the South China Sea, follow the northwestern coast of the island of Kalimantan (Borneo), shared with Indonesia.

How Created--By the early 1900s, the British had gained control of Malaya and North Borneo through conquest and deals made with the Sultans. In 1948 they combined the 11 states of Malaya into the Federation of Malaya and in 1957 they granted formal independence.

Under British auspices the Federation of Malaya, together with the Crown Colonies of North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore, and the protectorate of Brunei, planned to form the new Federation of Malaysia in 1963. Brunei backed out before federation, and Singapore pulled out in 1965.

Size--128,553 sq. mi. (332,952 sq. km.): West Malaysia (the former Federation of Malaya), 50,915 sq. mi., and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), 77,638 sq. mi.

Population--11,750,000: West Malaysia--Malay, 50.6%; Chinese, 36.3%; Indian and Pakistani, 11%; other, 2.1%. (Malays are Muslim, Chinese are Buddhist, Confucian, and Taoist, and Indians are Hindu and Muslim.) Sabah--Kadazan, 29.8%; Chinese, 21.9%; Bajau, 11.7%; Murut, 4.4%; European, 0.4%; other indigenous, 18.1%; other, 13.7%. 37.9% Muslim, 16.6% Christian, 45.5% Animist and other. Sarawak--Chinese, 33.1%; Iban, 28.6%; Malay, 18.2%; Land Dayak, 8.4%; Melanau, 5.7%; European, 0.2%; other, 5.8%. 23.4% Muslim, 15.8% Christian, 60.8% Animist and other.

Who Rules--Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, with an elective monarch. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong, or head of state, is elected by the hereditary rulers (most are Sultans) of 9 states. The 4 former Crown Colonies--Sabah, Sarawak, Penang, and Malacca--are headed by appointed governors.

Malaysia's political system is modeled after Britain's. The upper house, the Senate, is both elective and appointive. The powerful lower house, the House of Representatives, is fully elective.

Who REALLY Rules--Britain carefully orchestrated Malaysia's independence and development because it has a strong economic interest there. Malayan tin and rubber exports have been a major source of British income for decades. Now American business interests are moving in. Foreigners reportedly control 70% of Malaysia's investment.

With the growth of American investment, American foundations have stepped in to train and advise young leaders, scholars, and officials. The Agricultural Development Council, the Asia Foundation, and a number of American universities have replaced the British as Malaysia's mentors.

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