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Malaysia

The Federation of Malaysia is a country in the southeast of Asia. It consists of two separate parts divided by the South China Sea: West Malaysia on the Malay Peninsula, bordered to the north by Thailand and enclosing Singapore to the south; and East Malaysia, the northern part of the island of Borneo, bordered to the south by Indonesia and enclosing Brunei to the north.

Persekutuan Malaysia
(In Detail[?])
National motto: Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu
(Malay: Unity provides Strength)
Official languageMalay
Capital Kuala Lumpur¹
King Tuanku Syed Sirajuddin[?]
Prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 64th
329,750 km²
0.3%
Population
 - Total
 - Density
Ranked 46th
21,793,293
69/km²
Independence
 - Date
From the United Kingdom
August 31, 1957
Currency Ringgit[?]
Time zone UTC +8
National anthem Negara Ku[?]
Internet TLD.MY
Calling Code60
(1) The federal administration is in the process of moving to newly-built Putrajaya

Table of contents

History Main article: History of Malaysia

The Malay Peninsula developed as a major Southeast Asian commercial centre, as trade between China and India and beyond flourished through the busy Straits of Malacca. Islam arrived in the 14th century, followed by European traders in the 16th century, after which the Portuguese, Dutch and British successively dominated the Straits.

The British crown colony of the Straits Settlements was established in 1826 and Britain gradually increased its control over the rest of the peninsula. Following a Japanese occupation during World War II popular support for independence grew, coupled with a communist insurgency. Independence was achieved for the peninsula in 1957 under the name of Malaya, which did not include the port of Singapore.

A new federation under the name of Malaysia was formed on September 16, 1963 through a merging of Malaya, Singapore, and the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak on the northern coast of Borneo. The early years were marred by Indonesian efforts to control Malaysia, Philippine claims to Sabah, and Singapore's eventual secession in 1965.

Politics Main article: Politics of Malaysia

The federation of Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy, nominally headed by the Paramount Ruler[?] or Yang di-Pertuan Agong, customarily referred to as the king. Kings are elected for 5-year terms from among the nine sultans of the peninsular Malaysian states.

Executive power is vested in the cabinet led by the prime minister; the Malaysian constitution stipulates that the prime minister must be a member of the lower house of parliament who, in the opinion of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commands a majority in parliament. The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses of parliament and is responsible to that body.

The bicameral parliament consists of the Senate (Dewan Negara) and the House of Representatives (Dewan Rakyat). All 69 senate members sit for 6-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, and 43 are appointed by the king. Representatives of the House are elected from single-member districts by universal adult suffrage. The 193 members of the House of Representatives are elected to maximum terms of 5 years. Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures.

States Main article: States of Malaysia[?]

Malaysia is divided into 13 states (negeri-negeri) and 3 federal territories (wilayah-wilayah persekutuan), marked by a *:

Geography Main article: Geography of Malaysia

The two distinct parts of Malaysia, separated from each other by the South China Sea, share a largely similar landscape in that both West- and East Malaysia feature coastal plains rising to often densely forested hills and mountains, the highest of which is Mount Kinabalu at 4,093 m on the island of Borneo. The local climate is tropical and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons.

Putrajaya is a newly created administrative capital for the federal government of Malaysia, aimed in part to ease growing congestion within Malaysia's largest city, Kuala Lumpur. The prime minister's office moved in 1999 and the move is expected to be complete in 2005. Kuala Lumpur remains the seat of parliament, as well as the commercial and financial capital of the country. Other major cities include Malacca, Ipoh[?], Klang[?], and Johor Bahru[?].

Economy Main article: Economy of Malaysia

Malaysia, a middle income country, transformed itself from 1971 through the late 1990s from a producer of raw materials into an emerging multi-sector economy. Growth is almost exclusively driven by exports - particularly of electronics - and, as a result Malaysia was hard hit by the global economic downturn and the slump in the Information Technology (IT) sector in 2001. GDP in 2001 grew only 0.3% due to an estimated 11% contraction in exports, but a substantial fiscal stimulus package has mitigated the worst of the recession and the economy is expected to grow by 2% to 3% in the immediate future.

Kuala Lumpur's stable macroeconomic environment, in which both inflation and unemployment stand at 3% or less, coupled with itshealthy foreign exchange reserves and relatively small external debt make it unlikely that Malaysia will experience a crisis similar to the Asian financial crisis of 1997, but its long-term prospects are somewhat clouded by the lack of reforms in the corporate sector, particularly those dealing with competitiveness and high corporate debt.

Demographics Main article: Demographics of Malaysia

Malaysia's population comprises many ethnic groups, with the politically dominant Malays[?] comprising a plurality. By constitutional definition, all Malays are Muslim. About a quarter of the population is Chinese, who have historically played an important role in trade and business. Malaysians of Indian descent comprise about 7% of the population and include Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, and Christians. About 85% of the Indian community is Tamil.

Non-Malay indigenous groups make up more than half of the state of Sarawak's population and about 66% of Sabah's population. They are divided into dozens of ethnic groups, but they share some general patterns of living and culture. Until the 20th century, most practiced traditional beliefs, but many have become Christian or Muslim. Other Malaysians also include those of, inter alia, European and Middle Eastern descent. Population distribution is uneven, with some 15 million residents concentrated in the lowlands of the Malay Peninsula.

Culture Main article: Culture of Malaysia[?]

Malaysia is a multicultural society, with Malays, Chinese and Indians living side by side. The Malays are the largest community. They are Muslims, speak Bahasa Malaysia and are largely responsible for the political fortunes of the country. The Chinese comprise about a third of the population. They are mostly Buddhists and Taoists, speak Hokkein, Hakka and Cantonese, and are dominant in the business community. The Indians account for about 10% of the population. They are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India, speaking Tamil, Malayalam, and some Hindi, and live mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. There is also a sizeable Sikh community. Eurasians and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population. Bahasa Malaysia is the official language but when members of these different communities talk to each other, they generally speak either English or Bahasa Malaysia - the more highly educated will tend to speak English to each other.

The largest indigenous tribe in terms of numbers is the Iban of Sarawak, who number 395,000. They are largely longhouse dwellers and live along the Rejang and Baram rivers. The Bidayuh (107,000) are concentrated on Sarawak's Skrang River. The Orang Asli (80,000) live in small scattered groups in Peninsular Malaysia. Traditionally nomadic agriculturalists, many have been absorbed into modern Malaysia.

Malaysian traditional music is heavily influenced by Chinese and Islamic forms. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes percussion instruments (some made of shells), flutes, trumpets and gongs. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian and Portuguese origin. Other artistic forms include wayang kulit (shadow-puppets), silat (a stylised martial art) and crafts such as batik, weaving and silver and brasswork.

It's not easy to find authentic Malay food in Malaysian restaurants, though you can take your pick of Chinese, Nyonya (a local variation on Chinese and Malay food - Chinese ingredients, local spices), Indian, Indonesian or (sometimes) Western cuisines. Satays (meat kebabs in spicy peanut sauce) are a Malaysian creation and they're found everywhere. Other dishes include fried soybean curd in peanut sauce, sour tamarind fish curry, fiery curry prawns and spiced curried meat in coconut marinade. Muslim Indian dishes have developed a distinctly Malaysian style. The variety of wonderful tropical fruits and fruit juices available is huge, and strange sweet concoctions include cendol (sugar syrup, coconut milk and green noodles) and ais kacang (beans and jellies topped with shaved ice, syrups and condensed milk).

Holidays
DateEnglish NameLocal NameRemarks
August 31National DayHari Merdeka

Miscellaneous topics

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