Malaysia has a land area that consists of two major parts: the Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia, separated at the nearest by 500 kilometers of the South China Sea. The country is spread over 330,000 sq. kilometers with the Peninsula comprising 138,000 sq. kilometers of land area. Malaysia is made up of rainforests, swamps, and mountains. Kuala Lumpur is the country's capital.
With 1957's independence, a new series of difficult decisions lay ahead of Malaya, the first of which was to determine exactly what territories would be included in the new state. In 1961, the term "Malaysia" came into being after Tunku convinced Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak to join Malaya in a federal union (Singapore later opted out of the union, peacefully, in 1965). Afraid that the union would interfere with his expansionistic plans, Indonesia's president Sukarno launched attacks against Malaysia in Borneo and on the peninsula, all of which were unsuccessful.
Another immediate problem was the determination of a national identity. Malaysia was a mix of people from many races and cultures, and uniting them under a common flag was not an easy enterprise. Because Malays represented the majority, the constitution gave them permanent spots in the government, made Islam the national religion, and made Malay the national language; but the Chinese firmly dominated business and trade, and most Malay were suffering economic hardships. The government, controlled by the United Malay National Organization, passed the New Economic Policy, which attempted to increase economic opportunity for the Malay by establishing various quotas in their favor. Unsurprisingly, many Chinese opposed the new arrangement and formed a significant opposition party. In 1969, after the opposition party won a significant seats, riots swept through Kuala Lumpur and the country was placed in a state of emergency for two years. It was a painful moment in the young nation's history that most Malaysians prefer to forget.
the last two decades, Malaysia has undergone tremendous growth and
prosperity, and has arguably made significant progress in race relations.
However, poverty persists particularly in rural areas of the country, and especially
among non-Malay ethnic groups. Malaysia's New Economic Policy (1970-1990),
according to the CIDA, emphasized poverty alleviation and the promotion
of ethnic Malays by favoring greater participation of Malays in education,
commercial activities and government agencies. The participation of
Malays in higher education was to be proportionate to their representation
in the total population. The New Development Policy (1990-2000) continues
to emphasize growth with equity, but is more balanced in its approach.
Women in politics, governance and decision-making
face no legal limits on participation in government and politics,
and the Government proposed a "plan of action for the advancement
of women" to redress inequalities that do exist.
Important political facts
Most recent elections
Malays National Organization Head: Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, President
Head: Dato' Seri Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad, President
Tindakan Demokratik/Democratic Action Party (DAP)
United People's Party
Progressive Party Head: Datuk Yong
Head: Datuk Yong
Related political resources on Malaysia