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                                  HISTORY OF MALAYSIA

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Strategically situated at a trading junction; the result of alternating seasonal northeast and southwest monsoons, Malaysia was the ideal central location for early East-West trade.
The country’s strategic sea-lane position brought trade and foreign influences, including Hindu and Buddhist cultures, which fundamentally influenced its early history with beliefs that are in evidence today in the Malay language, literature and various customs.
The influence of these cultures reached their peak in the Sumatran-based Srivijaya civilization whose influence extended through Sumatra, Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo from the seventh to the 14th centuries.
Here are some of the key periods in Malaysia’s history:

Ancient kingdoms

The earliest evidence of human life in what is now known as Malaysia was provided by the discovery of a skull found in the Niah Caves in Sarawak that dates back 40,000 years.
Records suggest that the aboriginal Malays, the Orang Asli, began moving down the peninsula from a probable starting point in southwestern China around 10,000 years ago.
Evidence implies that the first Malays migrated to Malaya and throughout the entire Indonesian archipelago, including Sumatra and Borneo. They brought with them knowledge of agriculture and metalwork, as well as beliefs in a spirit world – attitudes that are still practiced by many groups in contemporary times.
Records also suggest the Malay people were ethnically similar to the people of Sumatra, Java and even the Philippines, and from time to time, various South East Asian empires exerted control over all parts of Peninsular Malaysia.
In the early centuries of the first millennium, the people of Peninsular Malaysia adopted the Indian religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Records suggest the Sanskrit writing system was used as early as the fourth century.
Early Melaka
In 1405 the Chinese admiral Cheng Ho arrived in Melaka (Malacca) with greetings from the “Son of Heaven” (Emperor) and more importantly, the promise of protection from the encroaching Siamese from the north. With this support from China, the power of Melaka extended to include most of Peninsular Malaysia.
Introduction of Islam
The Malay Annals relate the story of Parameswara, also known as Iskander Shah, the ruler of Temasek (formerly Singapore) who was forced to flee to Melaka, formerly known as Malacca. He set up a trading port in Melaka in 1402 which grew in population and prosperity, attracting Arab, Chinese and Indian traders.
With Arabs and Muslim Indians came the religion of Islam and Iskander Shah’s son, who assumed the leadership of Melaka after his father’s death, is credited as the first Malay to convert to the new religion. The rule of Melaka was transformed into a sultanate, and the word of Islam won converts not only in Malaya, but throughout Borneo and the Indonesian archipelago.
European Influence
Melaka’s wealth and prosperity soon attracted European interest and it was the Portuguese who first took over in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1641. The early Portuguese forces conquered the city in less than 30 days and they chased the sultanate south to Johor and built a fortress to ensure internal security and set up Christian missions. The Portuguese influence continued until 1641, when the Dutch arrived with the aim of expanding their mercantile power in the region.

The British role on the peninsula began in 1786 when Francis Light of the British East India Company, searching for a site for trade and a naval base, obtained the island of Penang from the Sultan of Kedah. For years, the British were only interested in Malaya for its seaports and to protect their trade routes, but the discovery of tin prompted them to move inland and eventually govern the entire peninsula.
In 1791, the British agreed to make annual payments to the Sultan, and the Sultan ceded Province Wellesley on the mainland.

The 1824 Anglo-Dutch Treaty defined the boundaries between British Malaya and the Netherlands East Indies (which eventually became Indonesia). A fourth phase of foreign influence was the immigration of Chinese and Indian workers to meet the needs of the colonial economy created by the British on Peninsular Malaysia and Borneo.
Dutch-ruled Melaka was then swapped for British-ruled Bencoolen in Sumatra. In 1826, the British East India Company formed the Straits Settlements, uniting Penang, Malacca (Melaka), and Singapore under Penang’s control. In 1867, power over the Straits Settlements shifted from the British East India Company to British colonial rule in London.
The previous 1824 Anglo-Dutch treaty never provided for the island of Borneo. The Dutch unofficially took over Kalimantan, but the areas to the northwest were generally held under the rule of the Sultan of Brunei.

Englishman James Brooke, known in history as the “White Raja” and the North Borneo Company gradually made British inroads into Sarawak and Sabah respectively. Brooke had arrived in Kuching in August 1839 to find the settlement facing an Iban and Bidayuh uprising against the Sultan of Brunei.
Offering his aid to the Sultan, Brooke and his crew helped bring about a peaceful settlement. Then having threatened the Sultan with military force, Brooke was granted the title of Rajah of Sarawak on 24 September 1841, although the official declaration was not made until 18 August 1842.

Back on the peninsula, Kuala Lumpur became a settlement in 1857 because of its strategic position on the crook of the Klang and Gombak rivers. Tin miners from India, China, and other parts of Malaya came inland to prospect and set up a trading post, which flourished and in 1896 it became the capital of the British Malayan territory.
In 1896, Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan were grouped to form The Federated Malay States, under a resident British general. Johor signed a treaty of alliance with Britain in 1885 and accepted a British adviser in 1914. British control of the four remaining Malayan states had been acquired in 1909 when Siam relinquished its claims to sovereignty over Kedah, Kelantan, Perlis and Terengganu.
Second World War

By the start of the Second World War, Malaya’s economy was flourishing with the output of tin and rubber, giving it great strategic importance. Malaya fell under the threat of a Japanese invasion when the US and British governments froze essential raw materials and oil supplies to Japan.

Japan was then forced to look to South East Asia for shipments. While Britain was preoccupied with defending itself against the threat of German invasion at home, the Japanese wasted no time in pursuing their occupation of Malaya, commencing with the bombing of the beaches of Kota Bharu in Kelantan and Singapore on 8 December 1941.
The takeover continued almost without opposition as Commonwealth troops defending Malaya were expecting an invasion by sea and not by land. They were inadequately trained in jungle warfare and lacked ammunition, and fell easily to the Japanese invaders. Malaya was occupied for the next three and-a-half-years by the Japanese. 

The occupation ended only with the United States’ bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 and the end of the war. British forces then landed in Malaya and re-established their authority.
The Malayan Emergency
After the defeat of the Japanese in the Second World War, a new problem emerged for Malaya’s colonial rulers. After the Allied victory and when the British sought to reclaim their colonial sovereignty over Malaya, they found resentment to foreign rule.
Chinese guerrilla fighters, who had been armed and air supplied by the British during the war, emerged from the jungle and under Chin Peng began their terror campaign to take over the country by force. Thus an intense jungle war began between the Malayan Communist Party and British, British Commonwealth and Malay forces.
The security forces coordinated emergency operations, and created 500 new villages for Malayan citizens who had lived in remote areas beyond government protection. These citizens previously lived in constant fear that the Communists would appear and force them to supply food and money.

By depriving the insurgents of their critical sources of supplies and information, the Communists began to attack the new settlements. However, the security forces were fighting on their own ground, and proved too strong for the insurgents. These forces were able to concentrate on jungle operations, thereby destroying the Communists and their camps.
This was to be the only war the West had won against Communism, lasting for twelve years, from 1948 until 1960.
In August 1957, Malaya was granted (merderka) independence from British colonial rule and with independence, the country became a centralised federation with a constitutional monarchy, with Kuala Lumpur named as the capital. Each state had its own fully elected state assembly and its government was chosen from the party which had a majority of elected members in the assembly. However, there followed a period of instability due to the internal Communist uprising and an external confrontation with Indonesia. In 1963, the north Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak, together with Singapore, joined Malaya to create Malaysia.
Indonesian Confrontation
The Federation of Malaysia (Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo and Sarawak) came into existence on 16 September 1963, but Indonesia had voiced its strong opposition to the Malaysia Plan and immediately severed all diplomatic ties with Kuala Lumpur and announced that it would “crush” Malaysia.
The confrontation took the form of armed Indonesian incursions across the borders of Sarawak and North Borneo from Indonesian Kalimantan. British and Commonwealth forces came to assist and defend the newly established Malaysia.
In 1966, President Sukarno was ousted from power and the new Indonesian government was not keen on continuing the confrontation and a signed peace agreement between Indonesia and Malaysia ended the conflict.
Meanwhile, political differences had surfaced between Malaysia and Singapore and on 9 August 1965, Singapore left the federation and became an independent nation.


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