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|Kuala Lumpur||Federal Territory||1,468,984|
Malaysia is a multi-religious society and Islam is the official religion. According to the Population and Housing Census 2000 figures, approximately 60.4 percent of the population practiced Islam; 19.2 percent Buddhism; 9.1 percent Christianity; 6.3 percent Hinduism; and 2.6 percent traditional Chinese religions. The remaining was accounted for by other faiths, including Animism, Folk religion, Sikhism and other faiths while 1.1% either reported as having no religion or did not provide any information.
All ethnic Malays are considered Muslim (100%) as defined by Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia. Additional statistics from the 2000 Census indicate that ethnic Chinese are predominantly Buddhist (75.9%), with significant numbers of adherents following Taoism (10.6%) and Christianity (9.6%). The majority of ethnic Indians follow Hinduism (84.5%), with a significant minority identifying as Christians (7.7%) and Muslims (3.8%). Christianity is the predominant religion of the non-Malay bumiputra community (50.1%) with an additional 36.3% identifying as Muslims and 7.3% identifying as adherents to what is officially classified as folk religion.
Although the Malaysian constitution theoretically guarantees religious freedom, in practice the situation is restricted. Additionally, all non-Muslims who marry a Muslim must renounce their religion and convert to Islam. Meanwhile, non-Muslims experience restrictions in activities such as construction of religious buildings and the celebration of certain religious events in some states. Muslims are obliged to follow the decisions of Syariah courts when it comes to matters concerning their religion. The jurisdiction of Syariah court is limited only to Muslims over matters of Faith and Obligations as a Muslim, which includes marriage, inheritance, apostasy, religious conversion, and custody among others. No other criminal or civil offenses are under the jurisdiction of the Syariah 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, the highest court in Malaysia) in principle cannot overrule any decision made by the Syariah Courts; and presently are reluctant to preside over cases involving Islam in any nature or question or challenge the authority of the Syariah courts. This has caused notable problems, particularly involving civil cases between Muslims and non-Muslims, in which civil courts have ordered non-Muslims to seek recourse from the Syariah Courts.
Education in Malaysia is monitored by the federal government Ministry of Education.
Most Malaysian children start schooling between the ages of three to six, in kindergarten. Most kindergartens are run privately, but there are a few government-run kindergartens.
Children begin primary schooling at the age of seven for a period of six years. There are two major types of government-operated or government-assisted primary schools. The vernacular schools (Sekolah Jenis Kebangsaan) use either Chinese or Tamil as the medium of teaching. 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). A programme called First Level Assessment (Penilaian Tahap Satu, PTS) was used to measure the ability of bright pupils, and to allow them to move from Year 3 to 5, skipping Year 4. However, this programme was abolished in 2001.
Secondary education in Malaysia is conducted in secondary schools (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan) for five years. National secondary schools use Malay as the main medium of instruction. The only exceptions are the Mathematics and Science subjects as well as languages other than Malay, however this was only implemented in the year 2003, and before that all non-language subjects were taught in Malay. 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 for the Malaysian Certificate of Education (Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia, SPM) examination, which is equivalent to the former British Ordinary or 'O' Levels. The oldest school in Malaysia is Penang Free School, also the oldest school in South East Asia.
Malaysian national secondary schools are sub-divided into several types, namely National Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Kebangsaan), Religious Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Agama), National-Type Secondary School (Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan) which is also referred as Mission Schools, Technical Schools (Sekolah Menengah Teknik), Residential Schools and MARA Junior Science College (Maktab Rendah Sains MARA).
There are also 60 Chinese Independent High Schools in Malaysia, where most subjects are taught in Chinese. Chinese Independent High Schools are monitored and standardised by the United Chinese School Committees' Association of Malaysia (UCSCAM, more commonly referred to by its Chinese name, Dong Zong 董�?, however, unlike government schools, every independent school is free to make its own decisions. Studying in independent schools takes 6 years to complete, divided into Junior Level (3 years) and Senior Level (3 years). Students will sit for a standardised test conducted by UCSCAM, which is known as the Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) in Junior Middle 3 (equivalent to PMR) and Senior Middle 3 (equivalent to A level). A number of independent schools conduct classes in Malay and English in addition to Chinese, enabling the students to sit for the PMR and SPM as well.
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 for the Malaysian Higher School Certificate (Sijil Tinggi Persekolahan Malaysia, STPM); equivalent to the British Advanced or 'A' levels. Since the introduction of the matriculation programme as an alternative to STPM in 1999, students complete a 12-month programme in matriculation colleges (kolej matrikulasi in Malay). However, in the matriculation system, only 10% of the places are open to non-Bumiputra students while the rest are reserved for Bumiputra students.
There are public universities such as University of Malaya, Universiti Sains Malaysia, Universiti Putra Malaysia Universiti Teknologi Malaysia, Universiti Teknologi Mara, and Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. Private universities are also gaining enough reputation for international quality education and many students from all over the world are attracted to these universities. Such as Multimedia University, Universiti Teknologi Petronas etc. In addition, four international reputable universities have set up their branch campuses in Malaysia since 1998. A branch campus can be seen as an ‘offshore campus�?of the foreign university, which offers the same courses and awards as the main campus. Both local and international students can acquire these identical foreign qualifications in Malaysia at a lower fee. The foreign university branch campuses in Malaysia are: Monash University Malaysia Campus, Curtin University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus and University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus.
Students also have the option of enrolling in private tertiary institutions after secondary studies. Most institutions have educational links with overseas universities especially in the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, allowing students to spend a portion of their course duration abroad as well as getting overseas qualifications. One such example is SEGi College which partnered with University of Abertay Dundee. Malaysian students abroad study mostly in the UK, United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Singapore, Japan and Middle East countries such as Jordan and Egypt.
In addition to the Malaysian National Curriculum, Malaysia has many international schools. International schools offer students the opportunity to study the curriculum of another country. These schools mainly cater to the growing expatriate population in the country. International schools include: the Australian International School, Malaysia (Australian curriculum), The Alice Smith School (British Curriculum), elc International school (British Curriculum), The Garden International School (British Curriculum), Lodge International School (British Curriculum), The International School of Kuala Lumpur (International Baccalaureate and American Curriculum), The Japanese School of Kuala Lumpur (Japanese Curriculum), The Chinese Taipei School, Kuala Lumpur and The Chinese Taipei School, Penang (Taiwanese Curriculum), The International School of Penang (International Baccalaureate and British Curriculum), Lycée Français de Kuala Lumpur (French Curriculum) amongst others.
Malaysian society places importance on the expansion and development of health care, putting 5% of the government social sector development budget into public health care—an increase of more than 47% over the previous figure. This has meant an overall increase of more than RM 2 billion. With a rising and aging population, the Government wishes to improve in many areas including the refurbishment of existing hospitals, building and equipping new hospitals, expansion of the number of polyclinics, and improvements in training and expansion of telehealth. Over the last couple of years they have increased their efforts to overhaul the systems and attract more foreign investment.
The Malaysian health care system requires doctors to perform a compulsory three years service with public hospitals to ensure the manpower of these hospitals is maintained. Recently foreign doctors have also been encouraged to take up employment here. There is still, however, a compound shortage of medical workforce, especially that of highly trained specialists resulting in certain medical care and treatment only available in large cities. Recent efforts to bring many facilities to other towns have been hampered by lack of expertise to run the available equipment made ready by investments.
The majority of private hospitals are in urban areas and, unlike many of the public hospitals, are equipped with the latest diagnostic and imaging facilities. Private hospitals have not generally been seen as an ideal investment—it has often taken up to ten years before companies have seen any profits. However, the situation has now changed and companies are now looking into this area again, particularly in view of the increasing interest by foreigners in coming to Malaysia for medical care and the recent government focus to develop the health tourism industry.
Most Malaysians are granted citizenship by lex soli. Citizenship in the states of Sabah and Sarawak and the federal territory of Labuan in East Malaysia 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.
The Malay Peninsula and indeed Southeast Asia has been a centre of trade for centuries. Various items such as porcelain and spices were actively traded even before Malacca and Singapore rose to prominence.
In the 17th century, they were found in several Malay states. Later, as the British started to take over as administrators of Malaya, rubber and palm oil trees were introduced for commercial purposes. Over time, Malaya became the world's largest major producer of tin, rubber, and palm oil. These three commodities, along with other raw materials, firmly set Malaysia's economic tempo well into the mid-20th century.
Instead of relying on the local Malays as a source of labour, the British brought in Chinese and Indians to work in on the mines, plantations and fill up the void in professional expertise . Although many of them returned to their respective home countries after their agreed tenure ended, some remained in Malaysia and settled permanently.
As Malaya moved towards independence, the government began implementing economic five-year plans, beginning with the First Malayan Five Year Plan in 1955. Upon the establishment of Malaysia, the plans were re-titled and renumbered, beginning with the First Malaysia Plan in 1965.
In the 1970s, Malaysia began to imitate the four Asian Tiger economies (Taiwan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Singapore) and committed itself to a transition from being reliant on mining and agriculture to an economy that depends more on manufacturing. With Japanese investment, heavy industries flourished and in a matter of years, Malaysian exports became the country's primary growth engine. Malaysia consistently achieved more than 7% GDP growth along with low inflation in the 1980s and the 1990s.
During the same period, the government tried to eradicate poverty with the controversial New Economic Policy (NEP), after the May 13 Incident of racial rioting in 1969. Its main objective was the elimination of the association of race with economic function, and the first five-year plan to begin implementing the NEP was the Second Malaysia Plan. The success or failure of the NEP is the subject of much debate, although it was officially retired in 1990 and replaced by the National Development Policy (NDP). Recently much debate has surfaced once again with regards to the results and relevance of the NEP. Some have argued that the NEP has indeed successfully created a Middle/Upper Class of Malay businessmen and professionals. Despite some improvement in the economic power of Malays in general, the Malaysian government maintains a policy of discrimination that favours ethnic Malays over other races—including preferential treatment in employment, education, scholarships, business, access to cheaper housing and assisted savings. This special treatment has sparked envy and resentment between non-Malays and Malays.
The Chinese control of the locally-owned sector of the country's economy, meanwhile, has been ceded largely in favour of the Bumiputras/Malays in many essential or strategic industries such as petroleum retailing, transportation, agriculture and etc. Majority of professionals per capita are still dominated by the Indians in the country nevertheless. The rapid economic boom led to a variety of supply problems, however. Labour shortages soon resulted in an influx of millions of foreign workers, many illegal. Cash-rich PLCs and consortia of banks eager to benefit from increased and rapid development began large infrastructure projects. This all ended when the Asian Financial Crisis hit in the fall of 1997, delivering a massive shock to Malaysia's economy.
As with other countries affected by the crisis, there was speculative short-selling of the Malaysian currency, the ringgit. Foreign direct investment fell at an alarming rate and, as capital flowed out of the country, the value of the ringgit dropped from MYR 2.50 per USD to, at one point, MYR 4.80 per USD. The Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange's composite index plummeted from approximately 1300 points to around 400 points in a matter of weeks. After the controversial sacking of finance minister Anwar Ibrahim, a National Economic Action Council was formed to deal with the monetary crisis. Bank Negara imposed capital controls and pegged the Malaysian ringgit at 3.80 to the US dollar. Malaysia refused economic aid packages from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, however, surprising many analysts.
In March, 2005, the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) published a paper on the sources and pace of Malaysia's recovery, written by Jomo K.S. of the applied economics department, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur. The paper concluded that the controls imposed by Malaysia's government neither hurt nor helped recovery. The chief factor was an increase in electronics components exports, which was caused by a large increase in the demand for components in the United States, which was caused, in turn, by a fear of the effects of the arrival of the year 2000 (Y2K) upon older computers and other digital devices.
However, the post Y2K slump of 2001 did not affect Malaysia as much as other countries. This may have been clearer evidence that there are other causes and effects that can be more properly attributable for recovery. One possibility is that the currency speculators had run out of finance after failing in their attack on the Hong Kong dollar in August, 1998 and after the Russian ruble collapsed. (See George Soros)
Regardless of cause/effect claims, rejuvenation of the economy also coincided with massive government spending and budget deficits in the years that followed the crisis. Later, Malaysia enjoyed faster economic recovery compared to its neighbours. In many ways, however, the country has yet to recover to the levels of the pre-crisis era.
While the pace of development today is not as rapid, it is seen to be more sustainable. Although the controls and economic housekeeping may not have been the principal reason for recovery, there is no doubt that the banking sector has become more resilient to external shocks. The current account has also settled into a structural surplus, providing a cushion to capital flight. Asset prices are now a fraction of their pre-crisis heights.
The fixed exchange rate was abandoned in July 2005 in favour of a managed floating system within an hour of China's announcing of the same move. In the same week, the ringgit strengthened a percent against various major currencies and was expected to appreciate further. As of December 2005, however, expectations of further appreciation were muted as capital flight exceeded USD 10 billion.
In September, 2005, Sir Howard J. Davies, director of the London School of Economics, at a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, cautioned Malaysian officials that if they want a flexible capital market, they will have to lift the ban on short-selling put into effect during the crisis. In March 2006, Malaysia removed the ban on short selling. Currently, Malaysia is considered a newly industrialised country.
Malaysia has extensive roads that connect all major cities and towns on the western coast of peninsular Malaysia. As of 2006, the total length of the Malaysian expressway network is 1471.6 kilometres (914.4 miles). The network connects all major cities and conurbations such as Klang Valley, Johor Bahru and Penang to each other. The major motorway, the North-South Expressway spans from the northern and the southern tips of peninsular Malaysia at Bukit Kayu Hitam and Johor Bahru respectively. It is a part of the Asian Highway Network, which also connects into Thailand and Singapore.
Roads in the East Malaysia and the eastern coast of peninsular Malaysia are still relatively undeveloped. Those are highly curved roads passing through mountainous regions and many are still unsealed, gravel roads. This has resulted in the continued use of rivers and the necessary use of airplanes as the main or alternative mode of transportation for the interior residents.
Train service in West Malaysia is operated by the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (Malayan Railways) and has extensive railways that connect all major cities and towns on the peninsular, including Singapore. There is also a short railway in Sabah operated by Sabah State Railway that mainly carries freight.
There are seaports throughout the country. The major ports are Port Klang and Port of Tanjung Pelepas in Johor. Other important ports can be found in Tanjung Kidurong, Kota Kinabalu, Kuching, Kuantan, Pasir Gudang, Penang, Miri, Sandakan and Tawau.
Airports are also found throughout the country. Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) is the main airport of the country. Other important airports include Kota Kinabalu International Airport, Penang International Airport, Kuching International Airport, Langkawi International Airport, and Senai International Airport. There are also airports in smaller towns, as well as small domestic airstrips in rural Sabah and Sarawak. There are daily flight services between West and East Malaysia, which is the only convenient option for passengers travelling between the two parts of the country. Malaysia is the home of the first low-cost carrier in the region, AirAsia. It has Kuala Lumpur as its hub and maintains flights to Southeast Asia and China as well. In Kuala Lumpur it operates out of the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in KLIA.
The intercity telecommunication service is provided on peninsular Malaysia mainly by microwave radio relay. International telecommunications are provided through submarine cables and satellite. One of the largest and most significant telecommunication companies in Malaysia is Telekom Malaysia (TM), providing products and services from fixed line, mobile as well as dial-up and broadband Internet access service. It has the near-monopoly of fixed line phone service in the country.
In December, 2004, Energy, Water and Communications Minister Datuk Seri Dr Lim Keng Yaik reported that only 0.85% or 218,004 people in Malaysia used broadband services. However these values are based on subscriber number, whilst household percentage can reflect the situation more accurately. This represented an increase from 0.45% in three quarters. He also stated that the government targeted usage of 5% by 2006 and doubling to 10% by 2008. Lim Keng Yaik had urged local telecommunication companies and service provider to open up the last mile and lower prices to benefit the users.
Malaysia is a multi-ethnic, multi-cultural and multilingual society. The population as of February 2007 is 26.6 million consisting of 62% Bumiputeras (including Malays), 24% Chinese, 8% Indians, with other minorities and indigenous peoples (Dept of Stats. Malaysia). Ethnic tensions have been rising in recent months.
The Malays, who form the largest community, are defined as Muslims in the Constitution of Malaysia. The Malays play a dominant role politically and are included in a grouping identified as bumiputra. Their native language is Malay (Bahasa Melayu). Malay is the national language of the country.
In the past, Malays wrote in Sanskrit or using Sanskrit-based alphabets. After the 15th century, Jawi (a script based on Arabic) became popular. Over time, romanised script overtook Sanskrit and Jawi as the dominant script. This was largely due to the influence of the colonial education system, which taught children in romanised writing rather than in Arabic script.
The largest non-Malay indigenous tribe is the Iban of Sarawak, who number over 600,000. Some Iban still live in traditional jungle villages in long houses along the Rajang and Lupar rivers and their tributaries, although many have moved to the cities. The Bidayuhs, numbering around 170,000, are concentrated in the southwestern part of Sarawak. The largest indigenous tribe in Sabah is the Kadazan. They are largely Christian subsistence farmers. The 140,000 Orang Asli, or aboriginal peoples, comprise a number of different ethnic communities living in peninsular Malaysia. Traditionally nomadic hunter/gatherers and agriculturalists, many have been sedentarised and partially absorbed into modern Malaysia.
The Chinese population in Malaysia is mostly Buddhist (of Mahayana sect) or Taoist. Chinese in Malaysia speak a variety of Chinese dialects including Mandarin Chinese, Hokkien, Cantonese, Hakka, and Teochew. A large majority of Chinese in Malaysia, especially those from larger cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Petaling Jaya and Penang speak English as well. There has also been an increasing number of the present generation Chinese who consider English as their first language. Chinese have historically been dominant in the Malaysian business community.
The Indians in Malaysia are mainly Hindu Tamils from southern India whose native language is Tamil, there are also other Indian communities which is Telugu, Malayalam and Hindi-speaking, living mainly in the larger towns on the west coast of the peninsula. Many middle to upper-middle class Indians in Malaysia also speak English as a first language. A vigorous 200,000-strong Tamil Muslim community also thrives as an independent subcultural group. There are also prevalent Tamil Christian communities in major cities and towns. There is also a sizable Sikh community in Malaysia of over 83,000. Most Indians originally migrated from India as traders, teachers or other skilled workers. A larger number were also part of the forced migrations from India by the British during colonial times to work in the plantation industry.
Eurasians, Cambodians, Vietnamese, Thais, Bugis, Javanese and indigenous tribes make up the remaining population. A small number of Eurasians, of mixed Portuguese and Malay descent, speak a Portuguese-based creole, called Papiá Kristang. There are also Eurasians of mixed Filipino and Spanish descent, mostly in Sabah. Descended from immigrants from the Philippines, some speak Chavacano, the only Spanish-based creole language in Asia. Cambodians and Vietnamese are mostly Buddhists (Cambodians of Theravada sect and Vietnamese, Mahayana sect). Thai Malaysians have been populating a big part of the northern peninsular states of Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Kelantan and Terengganu. Besides speaking Thai, most of them are Buddhists, celebrates Songkran (Water festival) and can speak Hokkien but some of them are Muslims and speaks Kelantanese Malay Dialect. Bugis and Javanese makes up a part of the population in Johore. Also, there have been many foreigners and expatriates who have made Malaysia their second home, also contributing to Malaysia's population.
Malaysian traditional music is heavily influenced by Chinese and Islamic forms. 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; flutes, and trumpets. The country has a strong tradition of dance and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian and Portuguese origin. In recent years, dikir barat has grown in popularity, and the government has begun to promote it as a national cultural icon. Other artistic forms were also shared with and influenced by neighbouring Indonesia, include wayang kulit (shadow puppet theatre), silat (a stylised martial art) and crafts such as batik, weaving, including the ceremonial cloth pua kumbu, and silver and brasswork.
Malaysians observe a number of holidays and festivities throughout the year. Some holidays are federal gazetted public holidays and some are public holidays observed by individual states. 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) on 31 August commemorating the independence of the Federation of Malaya in 1957, while Malaysia Day is only celebrated in the state of Sabah on 16 September to commemorate the formation of Malaysia in 1963. Hari Merdeka, as well as Labour Day (1 May), the King's birthday (first Saturday of June) and some other festivals are federal gazetted public holidays.
Muslims in Malaysia celebrate Muslim holidays. The most celebrated festival, Hari Raya Puasa (also called Hari Raya Aidilfitri) is the Malay translation of Eid al-Fitr. It is generally a festival honoured by the Muslims worldwide marking the end of Ramadan, the fasting month. The end of Ramadan is determined by the sight of the new moon. This determines the new month, therefore the end of the fasting month. In addition to Hari Raya Puasa, they also celebrate 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).
Chinese in Malaysia typically celebrate festivals that are observed by Chinese around the world. Chinese New Year is the most celebrated among the festivals which lasts for fifteen days and ends with Chap Goh Mei. Other festivals celebrated by Chinese are the Qingming Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival. In addition to traditional Chinese festivals, Buddhists Chinese also celebrate Vesak.
The majority of Indians in Malaysia are Hindus and they celebrate Deepavali, the festival of light, while Thaipusam is a celebration which pilgrims from all over the country flock to Batu Caves. Apart from the Hindus, Sikhs celebrate the Vaisakhi, the Sikh New Year.
Other festivals such as Good Friday (East Malaysia only), Christmas, Hari Gawai of the Ibans (Dayaks), Pesta Menuai (Pesta Kaamatan) of the Kadazan-Dusuns are also celebrated in Malaysia.
Despite most of the festivals being identified with a particular ethnic or religious group, all Malaysians celebrate the festivities together, regardless of their background. For years when the Hari Raya Puasa and Chinese New Year coincided, a portmanteau Kongsi Raya was coined, which is a combination of Gong Xi Fa Cai (a greeting used on the Chinese New Year) and Hari Raya (which could also mean 'celebrating together' in Malay. Similarly, the portmanteau Deepa Raya was coined when Hari Raya Puasa and Deepavali coincided.
Malaysia consists of the southern part of the Malay Peninsula, with Thailand to its north, plus Sarawak and Sabah in northern Borneo. Like Singapore, which lies at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, it has had an impressive record of economic growth in recent times.
In the fifteenth century a part of Malaysia was famous as the Kingdom of Malacca (now Melaka), a state that became powerful through its control of local sea routes and shipping. In 1414 the ruler of Malacca adopted Islam, which is the religion of Malaysia today. Seized by the Portuguese as a base for the spice trade in 1511, and held by the Dutch from 1641, Malacca was captured by the British in 1795. The British took control of Singapore in 1819 and in 1867 they established the Straits Settlements, which consisted of Penang Island (Pinang) in the northeast, Malacca, and Singapore, as a crown colony. During the Second World War Malaysia was occupied by the Japanese. In 1948 it received its independence from the British. A guerrilla war then broke out, led by communists who were sympathetic to the Chinese Revolution. Following the defeat of this insurgency, after a four-year military campaign, the country evolved into the modern state it is today. Ethnic tensions exist, principally between the Malays, who are the most numerous, and the Chinese, who are considerably more prosperous. There were riots between the Malays and Chinese in 1969 with heavy loss of life. The many 'affirmative action' provisions that are now in place to help Malays at the expense of Chinese and Indians are strongly resented by the latter groups. There are also a number of unresolved territorial disputes with neighboring states-Sabah in Borneo, for example, being claimed by the Philippines.
Fold mountains aligned on a north-south axis dominate the Malay Peninsula. There are seven or eight distinct chains of mountains, often with exposed granite cores. Climbing to 2,189 m (7,181 ft) at Gunung Tahan, the main range divides the narrow eastern coastal belt from the fertile alluvial plains in the west. To the south lies poorly drained lowland, marked by isolated hills, some of which rise to over 1,060 m 0,500 ft). Several smaller rivers have also contributed to the margin of lowland around the peninsular coasts.
About 2,000 km 0,250 miles) east of the Malay Peninsula, northern Borneo has a mangrove fringed coastal plain about 65 km (40 miles) wide, rising behind to hill country averaging 300 m 0,000 ft) in height. This ascends through various secondary ranges to the mountainous main interior range. The granite peak of Gunung Kinabalu, the highest mountain in Southeast Asia, rises from the northern end of this range in Sabah, towering above Kinabalu National Park. Dense rainforest in Sarawak and Sabah support a great diversity of plants and animals.
With a mixture of private enterprise and public management, the Malaysian economy averaged 9 percent annual growth from 1988 to 1995. Poverty is being substantially reduced and real wages are rising. New light industries including electronics are playing an important role in this development: Malaysia is the world's biggest producer of disk drives. Heavy industry has also grown: Malaysia's 'national car', the Proton, is now being exported. The traditional mainstays of the economy, however, remain rice, rubber, palm oil, and tin-Malaysia being the world's biggest producer of palm oil and tin. Rice is a problem. Subsistence farming has regularly failed to ensure self-sufficiency in food, and rice production does not meet demand. The main industries on the peninsula are rubber and palm oil processing and manufacturing, light industry, electronics, tin mining, smelting, logging, and timber processing. The main activities on Sabah and Sarawak are logging, petroleum production, and the processing of agricultural products. Malaysia exports more tropical timber than any other country, and the tribal people of Sarawak have been campaigning against the scale of logging on their land. The Asian economic downturn in 1998 saw a depreciation of the Malaysian currency and a marked slowing of the economy.
OFFICIAL NAME Malaysia
FORM OF GOVERNMENT Federal constitutional monarchy with two legislative bodies (Senate and House of Representatives)
CAPITAL Kuala Lumpur
AREA 329,7S0 sq km (127,316 sq miles)
TIME ZONE GMT + 8 hours
PROJECTED POPULATION 2005 24,086,817
POPULATION DENSITY 64.8 per sq km (167.8 per sq mile)
LIFE EXPECTANCY 70.7
INFANT MORTALITY (PER 1,000) 21.7
OFFICIAL LANGUAGE Malay (Bahasa Malaysia)
OTHER LANGUAGES English, Chinese languages, Tamil
LITERACY RATE 83%
RELIGIONS Muslim 53%, Buddhist 17.5%, Confucian and Taoist 11.5%, Christian 8.5%, Hindu 7%, other 2.5%
ETHNIC GROUPS Malay 59%, Chinese 32%, Indian 9%
CURRENCY Ringgit (Malaysian dollar)
ECONOMY Agriculture 42%, services 39%, industry 19%
GNP PER CAPITA US$3,890
CLIMATE Tropical, with northeast monsoon October to February and southwest monsoon May to September
HIGHEST POINT Gunung Kinabalu 4,101 m (13,453 ft)
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This webpage was updated September 06, 2014