The Tropical Story

Understanding Malaysia

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy and is situated in the South East Asia. Singapore was a part of Malaysia until 1965. It consists of 13 states and 3 federal territories  and has a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometres (127,350 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two regions, the Peninsular Malaysia and the Malaysian Borneo which consist of Sabah and Sarawak. Land borders are shared with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei, and maritime borders exist with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. In 2010 the population was 28.33 million, with 22.6 million living on the Peninsula.

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Malaysia contains the southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai. Located in the tropics, it is a megadiverse country, with large numbers of endemic animals, fungi and plants. It is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the East Asia Summit and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement.

In the 18th century, Malaysia became subject to the British Empire. The first British territories were known as the Straits Settlements, whose establishment was followed by the Malay kingdoms becoming British protectorates. The territories on Peninsular Malaysia were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Malaya was restructured as the Federation of Malaya in 1948, and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Malaya united with Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore on 16 September 1963, with the name Malaysia. Less than two years later in 1965, Singapore became an independent country. Since independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fuelled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism.

As a former British colony, Malaysia remains uniquely as one of a kind with many races living together harmoniously in a melting pot society. Malaysia is a harmony of many races with the majority in the following orders being the Malays (Melayu), Chinese (Cina), Indian (India), Eurasian and many other aborigines / tribes. This makes Malaysia a colourful country with so much more to discover and enjoy! There are still traces of the British influence and English is one of the majorly spoken language apart from Malay National Language, Bahasa Malaysia and other dialects from the various races and ethnic groups in Malaysia.

The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The government system is closely modelled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on English Common Law. The head of state is the King, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

In fact, the education in Malaysia is modelled after the one in England, particularly the years leading up to the 80s and influences the curriculum model for national schools until today. The common law in the legal system in Malaysia adopts the English Legal System. Common law developed in England, influenced by Anglo-Saxon law and to a much lesser extent by the Norman law which had its origins in Salic law. Common law was later inherited by the Commonwealth Nations where almost every former colony of the British Empire has adopted it.  The doctrine of stare decisis or precedent by courts is the major difference to codified civil law systems. Nevertheless, the law in Malaysia has evolved to incorporate local and relevant legislations. Muslims are subject to the Sharia Court jurisdiction over Muslim matters such as marriage, inheritance and divorce and non-Muslims are not governed by the same.

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