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Malaysia is a federalconstitutional monarchy in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 329,845 square kilometres (127,354 sq mi). The country is separated by the South China Sea into two regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo (also known as West and East Malaysia respectively). Malaysia shares land borders with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei and has maritime boundaries with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. The population as of 2009 stood at over 28 million.

Malaysia has its origins in the Malay Kingdoms present in the area which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British Empire. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements. Peninsular Malaysia, then known as Malaya, was first unified under the commonwealth in 1946, before becoming the Federation of Malaya in 1948. In 1963, Malayaunified with Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore. In 1965, Singapore opted out of the federation and became an independent city state. Since its independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for the first 50 years of independence.[9] The economy of the country has, traditionally, been fuelled by its natural resources, but is now also expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism.

Malaysia's head of state is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, conventionally referred to as "the Head" or "the Agong". The Agong is an elected monarch chosen from one of the sultans from the 9 Malay states. The head of government is the Prime Minister.[10][11] The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system [12] and the legal system is based on English Common Law.

Malaysia, which, in Tanjung Piai, can claim the southernmost point of continental Eurasia, is located near the equator and has a tropical climate.[2] It has a biodiverse range of flora and fauna, and is considered one of the 17 megadiverse countries.[13] It is a founding member of theAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference, and a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Motto: "Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu"
"Unity Is Strength" [1]
Anthem: Negaraku (My Country)
      Malaysia in       ASEAN
      Malaysia in       ASEAN
Capital Kuala Lumpur[a]
Putrajaya (administrative centre)
3°08′N 101°42′E / 3.133°N 101.7°E / 3.133; 101.7
Largest city Kuala Lumpur
Official language(s) Bahasa Malaysia[b]
Ethnic groups  50.4% Malay
23.7% Chinese
 7.1% Indian
11.0% Indigenous
 7.8% Other [2]
Demonym Malaysian
Government Federal constitutional elective monarchy and parliamentary democracy
 -  Yang di-Pertuan Agong Mizan Zainal Abidin
 -  Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak
 -  Deputy Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin
 -  From the United Kingdom (Malaya only) 31 August 1957 
 -  Federation (with Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore[c] 16 September 1963 
 -  Total 329,845 km2 (66th)
127,354 sq mi 
 -  Water (%) 0.3
 -  2009 estimate 28,310,000[3] (43rd)
 -  2000 census 24,821,286 
 -  Density 85.8/km2 (114th)
222.3/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $403.042 billion[4] 
 -  Per capita $14,275.371[4] 
GDP (nominal) 2010 estimate
 -  Total $213.065 billion[4] 
 -  Per capita $7,546.559[4] 
Gini (2004) 40.3 
HDI (2007) 0.829[5] (high) (66th)
Currency Ringgit (RM) (MYR)
Time zone MST (UTC+8)
 -  Summer (DST) Not observed (UTC+8)
Date formats dd-mm-yyyy
Drives on the Left
Internet TLD .my
Calling code +60
^ a. Kuala Lumpur is the capital city and is home to the legislative branch of the Federal government. Putrajaya is the primary seat of the federal government where the executive and judicial branches are located.



The name Malaysia was adopted in 1963 when the existing states of the Federation of Malaya, plus Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak formed a new federation.[14] Prior to that, the name itself had been vaguely used to refer to areas in Southeast Asia. A map published in 1914 in Chicago has the word Malaysia printed on it referring to certain territories within the Malay Archipelago.[15] The continental part of the country bore the name Federation of Malaya until 1963, when it federated with the territories of Sabah,Sarawak, and Singapore.[16][17] Politicians in thePhilippines once contemplated naming their state "Malaysia", but in 1963 Malaysia adopted the name first.[18] At the time of the 1963 federation, other names were considered: among them wasLangkasuka, after the historic kingdom located at the upper section of the Malay Peninsula in the first millennium of the common era.

The word Melayu derives from the Sanskrit term Malaiur or Malayadvipa which can be translated as "land of mountains", the word used by ancient Indian traders when referring to the Malay Peninsula.[20][21][22][23][24] The term was later used in reference to the Melayu Kingdom,[25] that existed between the 7th and the 13th on Sumatra.

In 1850 the English ethnologist George Samuel Windsor Earl, writing in the Journal of the Indian Archipelago and Eastern Asia, proposed naming the islands of Indonesia as Melayunesia or Indunesia. He favoured the former[26] for the colonial reference. Following his 1826 expedition in Oceania, the French Navigator Jules Dumont d'Urville invented the terms Malaisia, Micronesia andMelanesia, distinguishing these Pacific cultures and island groups from Polynesia. In 1831, he proposed these terms to The Société de Géographie. For the name Malaisia, Dumont d'Urville had in mind a region including present day Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. At that time, it was thought that the inhabitants of this region could be designated by the encompassing term "Malay" in line with that era's concept of aMalay race, which contrasts with contemporary definitions by which "Malay" refers to an ethnic group of similar culture who speak the Malay language and live on the east coast of Sumatra, the Riau Islands, the Malay Peninsula and the coastline of the island of Borneo. The related term "Malay world" is used to refer to this extended geographical area.
                      English Map of Southeast Asia, with the word "MALAYSIA" typeset horizontally so that the letters run across the northernmost corner of Borneo and pass just south of the Philippines.
Malaysia used to represent the Malay archipelago on a 1914 map from a United States atlas.


Evidence of human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years. The Malay Peninsula was known to ancient Indians as Suvarnadvipa or the "Golden Peninsula", and was shown on Ptolemy's map as the "Golden Khersonese". Traders and settlers from India and China arrived as early as the first century of the common era, establishing trading ports and towns in the area in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Both had a strong influence on the local culture. In the early centuries of the first millennium, the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted the Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism, as well as the use of the Sanskrit writing system. Between the 7th and the 13th century, much of Peninsular Malaysia was under the Srivijaya empire, which was centered in Palembang on the island of Sumatra. After the fall of Srivijaya, the Java-based Majapahit empire had influence over most of Indonesia, Peninsular Malaysia, and the coasts of Borneo island. In the early 15th century, Parameswara, a prince of the former Srivijayan empire, established a dynasty and founded what would become the Malacca Sultanate, commonly considered the first independent state in the peninsula. Parameswara became a Muslim, and Malacca's prominent position and economic power allowed this faith to spread to neighbouring states, leading is to become the dominant religion among Malays by the 16th century.
                  Stained ruin of a stone building, showing a central arch, flanked by two columns, with a stone relief above the arch, also flanked by two columns, and a second free-standing arch perched on the very top of the ruin.
A Famosa fortress in Malacca. It was built by the Portuguese in the 16th century.

The first colonial claim occurred in 1511, when Malacca was conquered by Portugal, who established a colony there. The British Empire set foot on the Malay Peninsula in 1786, with the lease of the island of Penang to the British East India Company by the sultan of Kedah.[32] Singapore was occupied slightly after this[33]. In 1824, the British took control of Malacca following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty of 1824 which divided the Malay archipelago between Britain and the Netherlands, with Malaya in the British zone. By 1826 the British controlled Penang, Malacca, Singapore and the island of Labuan, which they established as the crown colony of the Straits Settlements. By the turn of the 20th century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States, had British Residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers, whom the rulers were bound by treaty to defer to.[34] The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under rule from London, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the 20th century.Sabah was governed as the crown colony of British North Borneo. Sarawak was given to James Brooke by the Sultan of Brunei, who ruled as the white Rajahs in an independent Sultanate until 1946, when it was handed over to the British.
                       Japanese troops running along a rubble road in front of old colonial buildings.
                       Japanese troops in Kuala Lumpur

After WWII, following the Japanese invasion and subsequent occupation of Malaya, popular support for independence grew.[36] Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the Malayan Union foundered on strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the emasculation of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese.[37] The Malayan Union, established in 1946 and consisting of all the British possessions in the Malay peninsula with the exception of Singapore, was dissolved in 1948 and replaced by theFederation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection. During this time, rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency, as it was known, lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealthtroops in Malaya. In 1963, Malaya along with the then British crown colonies of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, federated to form Malaysia. The proposed date for the formation of Malaysia was 31 August 1963, to coincide with the independence day of Malaya and the British giving self-rule to Sarawak and Sabah. However, the date was delayed until September 16, 1963, due to opposition from the Indonesian government led by Sukarno and attempts by the Sarawak United People's Party to delay the formation of Malaysia.
                        An ornate fountain at left with steps leading up to a wall with some of Malaysia's state flags on it.
Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in Kuala Lumpur, where Malaysians celebrate Independence Day on 31 August each year

Independence, in its initial period, brought heightened tensions in the form of conflict with Indonesia(Konfrontasi) over the formation of Malaysia, Singapore's eventual exit in 1965,[38] and racial strife in the form of race riots in 1969.[39][40] After the 13 May race riots of 1969, the controversial New Economic Policy—intended to increase proportionally the share of the economic "pie" of thebumiputras ("indigenous people", which includes the majority Malays, but not always the indigenous population) as compared to other ethnic groups—was launched by Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak. Malaysia has since maintained a delicate ethno-political balance, with a system of government that has attempted to combine overall economic development with political and economic policies that promote equitable participation of all races.

Under the premiership of Mahathir bin Mohamad, Malaysia experienced economic growth from the 1980s, a 1985-86 property market depression,[42] and returned to growth through to the mid-1990s.[43] The period saw a shift from an agriculture-based economy to one based on manufacturing and industry in areas such as computers and consumer electronics. It was during this period, too, that the physical landscape of Malaysia changed with the emergence of numerous mega-projects. Notable amongst these projects were the construction of the Petronas Twin Towers (at the time the tallest building in the world, and, as of 2010, still the tallest twin building), KL International Airport (KLIA), the North-South Expressway, the Sepang International Circuit, the Multimedia Super Corridor (MSC), the Bakun hydroelectric dam and Putrajaya, the new federal administrative capital. In the late 1990s, Malaysia was shaken by the Asian financial crisis as well as political unrest caused by the sacking of the deputy prime minister Dato' Seri Anwar Ibrahim.[44]In November 2007, Malaysia was rocked by two anti-government rallies. They were precipitated by allegations of corruption and discrepancies in the Malaysian election system that heavily favoured the ruling political party, Barisan Nasional, which had been in power since Malaysia achieved its independence in 1957.

Foreign relations and military

                                 The Royal Malaysian Air Force's Sukhoi Su-30MKM Flankers and Aermacchi MB-339s military aircraft at the Langkawi Airport.
The RMAF state-of-art Sukhoi Su-30 MKM MRCA.

Malaysia's foreign policy is based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system, and to further develop relations with other countries in the region.[61] It attaches a high priority to the security and stability of Southeast Asia, and has tried to strengthen relations with other islamic states.

Malaysia is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.[63][64] The country participates in many international organisations such as the United Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Developing 8 Countries and the Non-Aligned Movement.[65][66][67][68] As a former British colony, it is also a member of the Commonwealth of Nations.[69] Kuala Lumpur was the site of the first East Asia Summit in 2005.[62] Malaysia has no diplomatic relations with the State of Israel.

The policy towards territorial disputes by the Malaysian government is one of pragmatism, solving disputes in a number of ways, including some resolved in the International Court of Justice.[71] The Spratly Islands are disputed by many states in the area, although tensions have eased since the 2002 "Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea". Brunei and Malaysia in 2008 announced an end to land claims, and to resolve issues related to their maritime borders. The Philippines has a dormant claim on Sabah. Singapore's land reclamation has caused tensions between the two countries, and maritime border disputes exist with Indonesia.

Malaysian defence requirements are assigned to the Malaysian Armed Forces (Angkatan Tentera Malaysia - ATM). The armed forces has three branches, the Royal Malaysian Navy (Tentera Laut Diraja Malaysia - TLDM), Malaysian Army (Tentera Darat Malaysia - TD), and the Royal Malaysian Air Force (Tentera Udara Diraja Malaysia - TUDM). Malaysia does not have conscription, and the required age for voluntary military service is 18. 1.9% of Malaysia's GDP is spent on the military, which hires 1.23% of Malaysia's manpower.

The Five Power Defence Arrangement between Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, is a regional security initiative which has been in place for almost 40 years. It involves joint military exercises held between the 5 countries.[74] Joint exercises and war games have been held with Indonesia for years.[75] Malaysia and the Philippines have agreed to host joint exercises between their security forces, in order to secure their maritime border and tackle issues such as illegal immigration.[76] There are fears that unrest in the Muslim areas of the southern Philippines[77] and southern Thailand[78] could spill over into Malaysia.


Malaysia is the 43rd most populated country and the 66th largest country by total land area in the world, with a population of about 28 million and a land area of over 320,000 km2 respectively. On land, Malaysia borders Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei[2] and it has maritime boundaries with its neighbours Singapore, Vietnam[84], and the Philippines[85]. The land borders are now well established and defined in large part by geological features such as the Perlis River, Golok River and the Pagalayan Canal, whilst some of the maritime boundaries have been the subject of ongoing contention. Tanjung Piai, located in the southern state of Johor, is the southernmost tip of continental Asia.[86][87] The Strait of Malacca, lying between Sumatra and Peninsular Malaysia, is arguably the most important shipping lane in the world.

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.[89] East Malaysia, like most of the island of Borneo, was traditionally covered with Borneo lowland rain forests although much has been cleared causing wildlife to retreat into the upland rain forests inland. Malaysia's rainforest's are made of a variety of types, although they are mainly dipterocarp forests. These forests contain the Rafflesia, the largest flower in the world.[90] Malaysia is a megadiverse country, with a high number of species and high levels of endemism.[13] Although the forests are in decline, some state governments have taken measures to halt this.

Peninsula Malaysia is divided between its east and west coasts by the Titiwangsa Mountains.[91] These mountains are heavily forested, and mainly composed of granite. The range is the origin of some of Peninsula Malaysia's river systems.[92] The state of Sabah is similarly divided by the Crocker Range,[93] which is the location of Mount Kinabalu. Mount Kinabalu, at 4,095.2 metres (13,436 ft), is the tallest mountain in Malaysia and is protected as Kinabalu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.[94] Malaysia contains numerous islands, and its waters extend into the Coral Triangle.[95] The local climate is equatorial and characterised by the annual southwest (April to October) and northeast (October to February) monsoons.

Kuala Lumpur is the official capital[96] and largest city of Malaysia.[97] Putrajaya is the federal administrative capital.[98] Although many executive and judicial branches of the federal government have moved there (to ease growing congestion within Kuala Lumpur), Kuala Lumpur is still recognised as the legislative capital of Malaysia since it houses the seat of the Parliament of Malaysia. It is also the main commercial and financial centre of the country.
                        Ariel view of Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah, an East Malaysian state.
Kota Kinabalu, capital of East Malaysian state of Sabah is located 1,600 kilometres (990 mi) east across the South China Sea from Kuala Lumpur.


Malaysia's population comprises many ethnic groups, with the Malays making up the majority at 50.4%; and other bumiputra at 11%[128] of the population. According to constitutional definition, Malays are Muslims who practice Malay customs (adat) and culture. Therefore, technically, a Muslim of any race who practices Malay customs and culture can be considered a Malay and allocated privilleged status in the form of the rights stipulated in the constitution for Malays, aboriginals and natives (commonly referred to as Bumiputra, although the constitution itself does not use this term).[129][130] Bumiputra status is also accorded to certain non-Malay indigenous peoples, including ethnic Thais, Khmers, Chams and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Non-Malay bumiputra make up more than half of Sarawak's population (of which 30% are Ibans), and close to 60% of Sabah's population (of which 18% are Kadazan-Dusuns, and 17% are Bajaus).[128] There also exist aboriginal groups in much smaller numbers on the peninsula, where they are collectively known as Orang Asli.

Various other minorities who lack Bumiputra status have established themselves in Malaysia, for a variety of reasons. 23.7% of the population are Malaysians of Chinese descent, while Malaysians of Indian descent comprise 7.1% of the population.[128] Indians began migrating to Malaysia in the early 19th century.[131] The majority of the Indian community are Tamils. Many Europeans and Middle Easterners assimilated through inter-marriage into the Christian and Muslim communities respectively. Most Eurasian Malaysians trace their ancestry to British, Dutch or Portuguese colonists.

Malaysian citizenship is usually granted by lex soli.[132] Citizenship in the states of Sabah and Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo are distinct from citizenship in Peninsular Malaysia for immigration purposes. Every citizen is issued a biometric smart chip identity card, known as MyKad, at the age of 12, and must carry the card at all times.[133]

The population distribution is highly uneven, with some 20 million residents concentrated on the Malay Peninsula, while East Malaysia has about 7 million people. Due to the rise in labour intensive industries, Malaysia has 10% to 20% foreign workers, the exact figure being uncertain due in part to the large number of illegal workers. There are a million legal foreign workers and perhaps another million unauthorised foreigners. The state of Sabah alone had nearly 25% of its 2.7 million population listed as illegal foreign workers in the last census. Sabah NGOs estimate that out of the 3 million population, 2 million are illegal immigrants.

Additionally, according to the World Refugee Survey 2008, published by the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, Malaysia hosts a population of refugees and asylum seekers numbering approximately 155,700. Of this population, approximately 70,500 refugees and asylum seekers are from the Philippines, 69,700 from Burma, and 21,800 from Indonesia.[135] The U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants named Malaysia as one of the Ten Worst Places for Refugees on account of the country's discriminatory practices toward refugees. Malaysian officials are reported to have turned deportees directly over to human smugglers in 2007, and Malaysia employs RELA, a volunteer militia, to enforce its immigration law.

Largest Cities of Malaysia
City                                        State                                   Population

Kuala Lumpur                        Federal Territory                 1,809,699
Subang Jaya                           Selangor                             1,321,672
Klang                                     Selangor                             1,055,207
Johor Bahru                           Johor                                     895 509
Ampang Jaya                         Selangor                                756,309
Ipoh                                       Perak                                    710,798
Kuching                                 Sarawak                                658,562
Shah Alam                             Selangor                                617,149
Kota Kinabalu                       Sabah                                    579,304
Kota Bharu                            Kelantan                                577,301
Petaling Jaya                          Selangor                                 543,415
Tebrau                                  Johor                                      525,351
Cheras, Selangor                   Selangor                                 515,961
Sandakan                              Sabah                                     479,121


                        The wooden Kampung Laut mosque with its minaret and an onion-shaped dome on its tiled roof.      
Kampung Laut Mosque in Tumpat is one of the oldest mosques in Malaysia, dating to early 18th century              

The Malaysian constitution guarantees religious freedom, although Islam is the largest and official religion of Malaysia. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures, approximately 60.4% of the population practiced Islam; 19.2% Buddhism; 9.1% Christianity; 6.3% Hinduism; and 2.6% practice Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions. The remainder was accounted for by other faiths, including animism, folk religion, and Sikhism while 0.9% either reported having no religion or did not provide any information.

All ethnic Malays are considered Muslim by Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia.[138] Statistics from the 2000 Census indicate that 75.9% of Malaysian Chinese identify as Buddhist, with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (10.6%) and Christianity (9.6%), along with small Hui-Muslim populations in areas like Penang.[137] The majority of Malaysian Indians follow Hinduism (84.5%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (7.7%), Muslims (3.8%), over 150,000 Sikhs, and 1,000 Jains. Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay Bumiputra community (50.1%) with an additional 36.3% identifying as Muslims and 7.3% follow folk religion.

Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts in matters concerning their religion. The Islamic judges are expected to follow the Shafi`i legal school of Islam, which is the main madh'hab of Malaysia.[139] The jurisdiction of Shariah courts is limited only to Muslims in matters such as marriage, inheritance, divorce, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offences are under the jurisdiction of the Shariah courts, which have a similar hierarchy to the Civil Courts. Despite being the supreme courts of the land, the Civil Courts (including the Federal Court) do not hear matters related to Islamic practices.


The official language of Malaysia is known as Bahasa Malaysia, a standardized form of the Malay language. English was, for a protracted period, the de facto, administrative language of Malaysia, though its status was later rescinded. English remains an active second language in many areas of Malaysian society and is compulsory, serving as the medium of instruction for Maths and Sciences in all public schools.[141][142] Malaysian English, also known as Malaysian Standard English (MySE), is a form of English derived from British English, although there is little official use of the term, except with relation to education. Malaysian English also sees wide use in business, along with Manglish, which is a colloquial form of English with heavy Malay, Chinese dialect and Tamil influences. Most Malaysians are conversant in English, although some are only fluent in the Manglish form. The Malaysian government officially discourages the use of Manglish.

Tamil is the most common language spoken among Indians in Malaysia.[144] Chinese Malaysians mostly speak Chinese dialects from the southern provinces of China. The more common dialects in Peninsular Malaysia are Hakka, Hokkien, Cantonese, Teochew, Hainanese, and Hokchiu.

The native tribes of East Malaysia have their own languages which are related to, but easily distinguishable from, Malay. The Iban is the main tribal language in Sarawak while Dusunic languages are spoken by the natives in Sabah.[146] A variant of the Malay language[specify] that is spoken in Brunei is also commonly spoken in both states.


                   Part of the Malay College Kuala Kangsar buildings with its football field in the foreground.

Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) is one of the earliest boarding schools established in British Malaya.

Education in Malaysia is monitored by the federal government Ministry of Education.[147] The education system of Malaysia features a non-compulsive kindergarten education, followed by six years of compulsory primary education[9] and five years of secondary education.

Schools in the primary education system is divided into two categories, the national primary school and the vernacular school.[148] The vernacular schools use either Chinese or Tamil as the medium of instruction, whereas national primary schools (Sekolah Kebangsaan) use Bahasa Malaysia as the medium of instruction for all subjects except English, Science and Mathematics. Before progressing to the secondary level of education, pupils in Year 6 are required to sit for the Primary School Achievement Test (Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah, UPSR).

Secondary education in Malaysia is conducted in secondary schools (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan) for five years. National secondary schools use Bahasa Malaysia as the main language of instruction. The only exceptions are Mathematics and Science and languages other than Bahasa Malaysia. At the end of Form Three, which is the third year, students are evaluated in the Lower Secondary Assessment (Penilaian Menengah Rendah, PMR). In the final year of secondary education (Form Five), students sit the Malaysian Certificate of Education (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, SPM) examination, which is equivalent to the former British Ordinary or 'O' Levels. The government has decided to abandon the use of English in teaching maths and science and revert to Bahasa Malaysia, starting in 2012.

Before the introduction of the matriculation system, students aiming to enter public universities had to complete an additional 18 months of secondary schooling in Form Six and sit the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, STPM); equivalent to the British Advanced or 'A' levels.[150] Since the introduction of the matriculation programme as an alternative to STPM in 1999, students who completed the 12-month programme in matriculation colleges (kolej matrikulasi in Malay) can enrol in local universities. However, in the matriculation system, only 10% of the places are open to non-Bumiputra students while the rest are reserved for Bumiputra students.


The Malaysian government places importance on the expansion and development of health care, putting 5% of the government social sector development budget into public health care. Over the last couple of years, the Malaysian Health Ministry has increased its efforts to overhaul the system and attract more foreign investment.The Government has also been trying to promote Malaysia as a health care destination, regionally and internationally.[152] The government implements a universal healthcare system, which co-exists with the private healthcare system.[153] Infant mortality rate – a standard in determining the overall efficiency of healthcare – in 2005 was 10, comparing favourably with the United States and western Europe. Life expectancy at birth in 2008 was 74 years.[154] The Malaysian health care system requires doctors to perform a compulsory three years service with public hospitals to ensure that the manpower in these hospitals is maintained.

A major problem with the health care sector is the lack of medical centres for rural areas, which the government is trying to counter through the development of and expansion of a system called "tele-primary care".[153] Another issue is the overperscription of drugs, though this has decreased in recent years.


                       A cook making Murtabak, a type of pancake, in an outdoor stall. He is pictured leaning over his custom-made flattened wok filled with pieces of murtabak.
A cook making murtabak, a type of pancake filled with eggs, small chunks of meat and onions, in Kuala Lumpur.

Malaysia is a multi—ethnic, multicultural and multilingual society. The Malays form the largest community and play a dominant role politically. Their language, Malay (Bahasa Malaysia), is the national language of the country.[156] Citizens of Minangkabau, Bugis or Javanese origins, who can be classified "Malay" under constitutional definitions may also speak their respective ancestral tongues. However, English is also widely spoken in major towns and cities across the country. Malays are defined by the constitution as Muslim, although Malay culture shows strong influences from Hinduism, Buddhism and animism. Since the Islamisation movement of the 1980s and 90s, these aspects are often neglected or banned altogether. Because any Malay-speaking Muslim is entitled to bumiputra privileges, many non-Malay Muslims have adopted the Malay language, customs and attire in the last few decades. This is particularly the case with Indian Muslims from the peninsula and the Kadayan of Borneo.

Malaysia has many other non—malay indigenous people, the largest of which is the Iban of Sarawak, who number over 600,000 and who still live in traditional longhouses which can hold up to 200 people.[157] The Bidayuhs, numbering around 170,000, are concentrated in the southwestern part of Sarawak. The largest indigenous tribe in Sabah is the Kadazan, most of whom are Christians[158] and rice farmers.[159] The 140,000 Orang Asli, or aboriginal peoples, comprise a number of different ethnic communities living in peninsular Malaysia. Many tribes, both on the peninsula and in Borneo, were traditionally nomadic or semi-nomadic hunter—gatherers, including the Punan, Penan and Senoi. However, their ancestral land and hunting grounds are commonly reclaimed by the state, shifting them to inferior land and sometimes pushing them out of their traditional way of life.

There is a large Chinese Malaysian population who have historically been dominant in the Malaysian business and commerce community and have a majority in Penang. There also exists a large mainly Tamil Indian population. They originally migrated from India as traders, teachers or other skilled workers, sometimes forced to by the British during colonial times to work in the plantation industry.[161][162] A Tamil Muslim community of 200,000 also thrives as an independent subcultural group. A small number of Malaysians have caucasian ancestry, and speak a variety of creole languages. Other minorities include Malaysian Siamese, Khmers, Chams, and Burmese.


                      A photo showing the Malaysian Parliament building along with 2 white arches in diagonal position front of the building. 
The Malaysian Houses of Parliament is the building where the Malaysian Parliament assembles.

Malaysia is a federal constitutional elective monarchy. The federal head of state of Malaysia is the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, commonly referred to as the King of Malaysia. The Yang di-Pertuan Agong is elected to a five-year term among the nine hereditary Sultans of the Malay states; the other four states, which have titular Governors, do not participate in the selection.[46] The system of government in Malaysia is closely modelled on that of the Westminster parliamentary system, a legacy of British colonial rule.

Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. The bicameral parliament consists of the lower house, the House of Representatives or Dewan Rakyat (literally the "Chamber of the People") and the upper house, the Senate or Dewan Negara (literally the "Chamber of the Nation").[47][48][48] The 222-member House of Representatives is elected for a maximum term of five years from single-member constituencies, which are defined based on population. All 70 Senators sit for three-year terms; 26 are elected by the 13 state assemblies, with the remaining 44 appointed by the king upon the Prime minsters recommendation.[9] The parliament follows a multi-party system and the governing body is elected through a first-past-the-post system. Since independence in 1957, Malaysia has been governed by a multi-party coalition known as the Barisan Nasional (formerly known as the Alliance Party).

Besides the Parliament at the federal level, each state has a unicameral state legislative chamber (Malay: Dewan Undangan Negeri) whose members are elected from single-member constituencies. State governments are led by Chief Ministers[9] (Menteri Besar in Malay states or Ketua Menteri in states without hereditary rulers), who are state assembly members from the majority party in the Dewan Undangan Negeri. In each of the states with a hereditary ruler, the Chief Minister is required to be a Malay-Muslim, although this rule is subject to the rulers' discretion. Parliamentary elections are held at least once every five years, with the last general election being in March 2008.[49] Registered voters of age 21 and above may vote for the members of the House of Representatives and, in most of the states, for the state legislative chamber. Voting is not mandatory.

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.[51] The cabinet is chosen from among members of both houses of Parliament and is responsible to that body.

The judiciary of Malaysia is independent of the executive and the legislature.[53] The highest body in the judicial system is the Federal Courts. Underneath these courts, there are two high courts, one for Peninsula Malaysia and one for East Malaysia.[54] Despite Malaysia being a federation, the court system is highly centralized.[55] Malaysia's legal system is based upon English Common Law.

Separate from the civil courts of Malaysia are Sharia courts, which decide on cases which involve Malaysian Muslims.[56] The sharia courts are run parallel to the normal court system, and are undergoing reforms that include the first ever appointment of female judges.[57] Debate exists in Malaysia over whether the country should be secular or islamic,[58] some states have passed Islamic laws, but they have not gone into effect due to opposition from the federal government.

Race plays a large role in Malaysian politics. The Government's New Economic Policy (NEP)[41] and the National Development Policy (NDP) which superseded it, were implemented to advance the standing of Bumiputera Malaysians. The policies provide preferential treatment to Malays over non-Malays in employment, education, scholarships, business, and access to cheaper housing and assisted savings. While improving in the economic position of Malays, it is a source of resentment  amongst non-Malays.
                    an official photo of current prime minister Najib Tun Razak.
Current Prime Minister of Malaysia, Najib Tun Razak.


Malaysia is divided into 13 states (Negeri) and 3 federal territories (Wilayah Persekutuan). 11 states and 2 federal territories are on Peninsula Malaysia, the other 2 states and 1 federal territory are in East Malaysia. As Malaysia is a federation, the governance of the states is divided between the federal and the state governments, while the Federal government has direct administration of the federal territories.

The 13 states are based on historical Malay Kingdoms, and each state is further divided into districts (daerah or jajahan in Kelantan), which are then divided into mukim. 9 of the 13 states, known as the Malay States, retain their royal families. The Federal King (titled Yang di-Pertuan Agong) is elected (de facto rotated) among the nine rulers to serve a 5-year term.[9] Each state has a unicameral legislature called Dewan Undangan Negeri. The states of East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) have separate immigration policies and controls and a unique residency status.[80] Visas are required for travel between these two states or between either state and peninsular Malaysia.[81] For some, the other areas of Malaysia are considered foreign countries under immigration laws.

The Parliament of Malaysia is permitted to legislate on issues of land, Islamic religion and local government in order to provide for a uniform law between different states, or on the request of the state assembly concerned. The law in question must also be passed by the state assembly as well, except in the case of certain land law-related subjects. Non-Islamic issues that fall under the purview of the state may also be legislated on at the federal level for the purpose of conforming with Malaysian treaty obligations.


Malaysia is a relatively open state-oriented and newly industrialised market economy.[100] The state plays a significant but declining role in guiding economic activity through macroeconomic plans. In 2007, the economy of Malaysia was the 3rd largest economy in South East Asia and 29th largest economy in the world by purchasing power parity with gross domestic product for 2008 of $222 billion [101] with a growth rate of 5% to 7% since 2007[102] In 2008, GDP per capita (PPP) of Malaysia stands at US$14,215, ranking it 48th in the world, and 3rd in Southeast Asia (after Singapore and Brunei). In 2009, the nominal GDP was US$383.6 billion, and the nominal per capital GDP was US$8,100.
           A 100 Ringgit Malaysian note
                           100 Ringgit note

In the 1970s, the predominantly mining and agricultural based Malaysian economy began a transition towards a more export-based manufacturing sector. Export growth and foreign investment helped gross domestic product grow at 7% or more with low inflation in the 1980s and the 1990s.[104] During the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis the ringgit was subject to speculative short-selling—falling from MYR 2.50 per USD to a low of MYR 4.80—and capital flowed out of the country. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's composite index dropped from 1,300 points to around 400 points within a few weeks. The central bank imposed capital controls and pegged the Malaysian ringgit to the US dollar, while the government refused economic aid packages from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank. The Malaysian economy subsequently recovered sooner than neighbouring countries, and has since recovered to the levels of the pre-crisis era with a GDP per capita of $14,800.

International trade, facilitated by the adjacent Strait of Malacca shipping route and manufacturing are both key sectors of the country's economy.  At one time, it was the largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil in the world. Manufacturing has a large influence in the country's economy. Malaysia has developed itself into a centre of Islamic banking, and is the country with the highest numbers of female workers in Islamic banking.  It is one of the region's leading education and healthcare providers.

Transportation and energy

                    A dual highway with greenery on either side                   
                The North-South Expressway

Malaysia's road network covers 98,721 km and includes 1,821 km of expressways.[2] The longest highway of the country, the North-South Expressway, extends over 800 km between the Thai border and Singapore. The road systems in Sabah and Sarawak are less developed and of lower quality in comparison to that of Peninsular Malaysia.[113] Malaysia has six international airports.[114] The official airline of Malaysia is Malaysia Airlines, providing international and domestic air service alongside two other carriers. The railway system is state-run, and covers a total of 1849 km.[2] Popular within the cities is Light Rail Transit.

Traditionally, energy production in Malaysia has been based around oil and natural gas.[115] Malaysia currently has 13GW of electrical generation capacity.[116] However, Malaysia only has 33 years of natural gas reserves, and 19 years of oil reserves, whilst the demand for energy is increasing. Due to this the Malaysian government is expanding into renewable energy sources.[115] Currently 16% of Malaysian electricity generation is hydroelectric, the remaining 84% being thermal.[116] The oil and gas industry in Malaysia is currently dominated by state owned Petronas,[117] and the energy sector as a whole is regulated by Suruhanjaya Tenaga, a statutory commission who governs the energy in the peninsula and Sabah, under the terms of the Electricity Commission Act of 2001.


           Shoreline of a beach in Pulau Tioman(Tioman Island) with large boulders at the water edge and a mangrove.  
             Beach scenery of Pulau Tioman

In an effort to diversify the economy and make Malaysia’s economy less dependent on exported goods, the government has pushed to increase tourism in Malaysia. As a result tourism has become Malaysia’s third largest source of income from foreign exchange.[119] The majority of Malaysia's tourists come from its bordering country, Singapore. In 1999, Malaysia launched a worldwide marketing campaign called “Malaysia, Truly Asia” which was largely successful in bringing in over 7.4 million tourists.[120] In recent years tourism has been threatened by the negative effects of the growing industrial economy, with large amounts of air and water pollution along with deforestation affecting tourism.

The Ministry of Culture, Arts and Tourism (MOCAT) was established in 1987 under which the TDC was incorporated. TDC existed from 1972 to 1992, when it became the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board (MTPB), through the Malaysia Tourism Promotion Board Act, 1992.[122] Tourism Malaysia aims to market Malaysia as a premier destination of excellence in the region.

Natural resources

            Picture depicting a few palm oil trees in a plantation.
                  Palm oil estate in Malaysia.

Malaysia is well endowed with natural resources in areas such as agriculture, forestry and minerals. In terms of agriculture, Malaysia is one of the top exporters of natural rubber and palm oil, which, together with sawn logs and sawn timber, cocoa, pepper, pineapples and tobacco, dominate the growth of the sector.[citation needed] Palm oil is also a major generator of foreign exchange.

Logging only began to make a substantial contribution to the economy during the 19th century. Today, an estimated 59% of Malaysia remains forested. Substantial areas are being silviculturally treated and reforestation of degraded forestland is being carried out. The Malaysian government provides plans for the enrichment of some 312.30 square kilometres (120.5 sq mi) of land with rattan under natural forest conditions and in rubber plantations as an inter crop.[citation needed] Rubber, once the mainstay of the Malaysian economy, has been largely replaced by oil palm as Malaysia's leading agricultural export.

Tin and petroleum are the two main mineral resources of major significance to the Malaysian economy. Malaysia was, at one time, the world's largest producer of tin prior to the collapse of the tin market in the early 1980s. In 1972 petroleum and natural gas took over from tin as the mainstay of the mineral extraction sector.[citation needed] In 2004, Malaysia is ranked 24th in terms of world oil reserves and 13th for gas.[citation needed] Malaysia's broad and shallow continental shelf consists of several deep water prospective areas. Malaysia has 500,000 km2 available for oil and gas exploration. 51 of the 70 producing fields in Malaysia are oil fields. As of January 2009, Malaysia has proven oil reserves of up to 4 billion barrels.[123] Other minerals of some importance or significance include copper, bauxite, iron-ore and coal together with industrial minerals like clay, kaolin, silica, limestone, barite, phosphates and dimension stones such as granite as well as marble blocks and slabs. Small quantities of gold are produced.

Science and technology

                    Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor responding to a query form the media in a pre-flight press conference.                     Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, the first Malaysian in space      

 Science Policy in Malaysia is regulated by the Ministry of Science, Technology, and Environment. Other ministries, such as the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Health also have science departments. Training in scientific areas was promoted during the 1970's and 1980's. From 1987-1997 research and development used 0.24% of GNP, and in 1998 high-tech exports made up 54% of Malaysia's manufactured exports.

In 2002 the Malaysian National Space Agency (Angkasa) was formed to deal with all of Malaysia's activities in space, and to promote space education and space experiments. It is focused on developing the "RazakSAT" satellite, which is a remote sensing satellite with CCD cameras.[125] In early 2006, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor and three other finalists were selected for the Angkasawan spaceflight programme. This programme came about when Russia agreed to transport one Malaysian to the International Space Station as part of a multi-billion dollar purchase of 18 Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKM fighter jets by the Royal Malaysian Air Force.

In an effort to create a self-reliant defensive ability and support national development Malaysia privatized some of its military facilities in the 1970s. This has created a defence industry, which in 1999 was brought under the Malaysia Defence Industry Council. The government continues to try and promote this sector and its competitiveness, actively marketing the defence industry. One way it does this is through the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition, one of the largest defence and civil showcases in the Asia Pacific, regularly attended by over 500 companies.[127] The Malaysian Armed Forces relies heavily on local military technology and high-tech weapons systems designed and manufactured by foreign countries.

Malaysia has an advanced infrastructure of medical and pharmaceutical research and bioengineering capabilities. Biotechnology, biomedical, and clinical research account for over half of the country's scientific publications,[citation needed] and the industrial sector has used this extensive knowledge to develop pharmaceuticals, medical equipment and treatment therapies.


Holidays and festivals

              4 Malay dishes on a table.
Typical festive fare during Hari Raya Puasa or Hari Raya Haji (clockwise from bottom left): beef soup, ketupat (compressed rice cubes), beef rendang and sayur lodeh.

Malaysians observe a number of holidays and festivities throughout the year. Some holidays are federally gazetted public holidays and some are public holidays observed by individual states.[164] Other festivals are observed by particular ethnic or religion groups, but are not public holidays. The most celebrated holiday is the "Hari Kebangsaan" (Independence Day), otherwise known as "Merdeka" (Freedom), on 31 August commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya in 1957, while Malaysia Day is celebrated on 16 September to commemorate the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Other notable national holidays are Hari Merdeka, Labour Day (1 May), and the King's birthday (first Saturday of June).

Muslim holidays are prominent in Malaysia, the most celebrated being Hari Raya Puasa (also called Hari Raya Aidilfitri),[165] which is Malay for Eid al-Fitr. Hari Raya Haji (also called Hari Raya Aidiladha, the translation of Eid ul-Adha), Awal Muharram (Islamic New Year) and Maulidur Rasul (Birthday of the Prophet) is also celebrated. Malaysian Chinese typically celebrate the same festivals observed by Chinese around the world. Chinese New Year is the most celebrated among the festivals. The Vietnamese new year, or Tết, falls on the same day. Other festivals celebrated by Chinese are the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. Malaysian Buddhists celebrate Vesak or Wesak, the day of Buddha's birth. Hindus in Malaysia celebrate Diwali/Deepavali, the festival of light, while Thaipusam is a celebration in which pilgrims from all over the country celebrate at the Batu Caves.[166] Sikhs celebrate the Sikh new year or Baisakhi, more commonly known as the Vaisakhi festival. Other Indian and Indochinese communities observe their new year celebrations at around the same time, such as Pohela Boishakh of the Bengalis and Songkran (water festival) of the Thais. People in the northern states also celebrate the thai festival of Loy Kratong.[167] Malaysia's Christian community celebrates most of the holidays observed by Christians elsewhere, most notably Christmas and Easter. East Malaysians also celebrate the harvest festivals of Gawai in Sarawak and Kaamatan in Sabah.

Despite most of the festivals being identified with a particular ethnic or religious group, joint festivals are promoted to increase unity in Malaysia. Examples of this are the celebration of Kongsi Raya which is used when Hari Raya Puasa and Chinese New Year coincide. Similarly, the portmanteau Deepa Raya was coined when Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali coincide.


                           Logo of the 1998 Commonwealth Games held in Kuala Lumpur
              XVI Commonwealth Games logo

Popular sports in Malaysia include badminton, bowling, football, squash and field hockey.[169] Badminton matches in Malaysia attract thousands of spectators, and Malaysia, along with Indonesia and China, has consistently held the Thomas Cup since 1949.[170] The Malaysian Lawn Bowl's Federation (PLBM) was registered in 1997,[171] and the sport is gaining popularity in Malaysia.[172] Squash was brought to Malaysia by members of the British army, with the first competition being held in 1939. The Squash Racquets Association of Malaysia (SRAM) was created on 25 June 1972, and has had great success in Asian Squash.[173] Malaysia has proposed a Southeast Asian football league.[174] Hockey is famous in Malaysia, with the Malaysian team ranked 14th in the world as of 2010.[175] Malaysia hosted the 3rd Hockey World Cup at the Merdeka Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, before also hosting the 10th cup.[176] The country also has its own Formula One track, the Sepang International Circuit. It runs for 310.408 km, and held its first Grand Prix in 2000.

The Federation of Malaya Olympic Council was formed in 1953, and received recognition by the IOC in 1954. It first participated in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The council was renamed the Olympic Council of Malaysia in 1964, and has participated in all but one Olympic games since its inception. The largest number of athletes ever sent to the Olympics was 57 to the 1972 Munich Olympic Games.[178] Malaysian athletes have won a total of four Olympic medals, all of which are in badminton.[179] Malaysia has competed at the Commonwealth Games since 1950 as Malaya, and 1966 as Malaysia. It has been dominant in Badminton, and the games were hosted in Kuala Lumpur in 1998.[180] The 1998 Commonwealth Games were the first time the torch relay went through more nations than just England and the host


Malaysia shares some forms of art with neighbouring Indonesia, including wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), silat (a stylised martial art), craft techniques such as weaving and metallurgy. Traditional Malay music and performing arts appear to have originated in the Kelantan—Pattani region with influences from India, China, Thailand and Indonesia. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes other percussion instruments (some made of shells): the rebab (a bowed string instrument), the serunai (a double-reed oboe-like instrument), the seruling (flute), and trumpets. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas. Most of the older Malayan—Thai performing arts have declined in popularity due to their Hindu—Buddhist origin. Since the Islamisation period, the arts and tourism ministry have focused on newer dances of Portuguese, Middle Eastern, or Mughal origin. In recent years, dikir barat has grown in popularity and the government has begun to promote it as a national cultural icon.From:

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