Malaysia is a federal country in South-east Asia. It has a total land area of 3,29,847 sq km separated by the South China Sea and bordered by Indonesia, Thailand, and Brunei, while maritime borders exist with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines.
Malaysia has its origins in the Malay kingdoms which, from the 18th century, became subject to the British empire. The territories on Peninsular Malaysia were first unified as the Malayan Union in 1946. Thereafter Malay was reconstructed as the Federation of Malay in 1948 and achieved independence on 31 August 1957. Later, in 1965, Singapore was excluded from the Federation. Kuala Lumpur is the capital city of present Malaysia. Malaysia is a federal constitutional elective monarchy. The system of government is closely modelled on that of the Westminster Parliamentary system, a legacy of British colonial rule. It consists of 13 States and 3 Federal Territories. Legislative power is divided between federal and state legislatures. The bicameral federal parliament consists of the Lower House (the House of Representatives), and the Upper House (the Senate). Each state has a unicameral State Legislative Assembly whose members are elected from the single-member constituencies. State governments are led by Chief Ministers, who are State Assembly members from the majority party in the Assembly.
Government and Politics
Malaysia’s legal system is based on English common law. Although the judiciary is theoretically independent, the appointment of judges is sometimes questioned for accountability and transparency. Malaysia’s foreign policy is officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system. The government attaches a high priority to the security and stability of South-East Asia. However, the government has tried to heighten Malaysia as a progressive Islamic nation while strengthening relations with the other Islamic States. And for that, Malaysia has never recognised Israel and has no diplomatic ties with it. It has remained a strong supporter of Palestine. Malaysian peacekeeping forces are present in Lebanon and have contributed to many other UN peace-keeping missions.
Economy and Infrastructure Structure
Malaysia holds a relatively open state-oriented and newly industrialised market economy. It has one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average of 6.5% annually. Traditionally, its energy production is based on oil and natural gas. The infrastructure of Malaysia is one of the most developed states in Asia. The country has seven international ports, the major one being the Port Klang. There are 200 industrial parks along with specialised parks such as Technology Park and Kulin Hi-Tech Park. The railway system is state-run and covers a total of 1,849 km. The Asian Rail Express is a railway service that connects Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok and is intended to eventually stretch from Singapore to China. The country’s official airline is Malaysia Airlines, providing domestic and international air services.
Population and Religion
As of 2010 national census, the population of Malaysia was 2, 83,34,135 consisting of many ethnic groups. The Malaysian Constitution has made Islam the state religion, while it guarantees freedom of all religions. Approximately 61.3% of the population practise Islam, 19.8% practise Buddhism, 9.2% Christianity, 6.3 Hinduism and 1.3% practise Confucianism, Taoism and other traditional Chinese religions.
The official language of Malaysia is Malaysian, a standardised form of the Malay language. However, English remains an active second language in all public schools. It also serves as the medium of instruction for maths and sciences.
Education and Healthcare
The education system stands on a non-compulsory kindergarten education followed by six years of compulsory primary education, and five years of optional secondary education. With the aim of developing Malaysia into a medical tourism destination, 5% of the government social sector budget is spent on health care.
Malaysia has a multi-ethnic and multicultural heritage. The original culture of the country stemmed from the indigenous tribes, while substantial influence comes from Chinese and Indian culture, dating back to when foreign trade began. Other cultural influences include Persian, Arabic, and British cultures.
Popular sports in Malaysia include football, badminton, hockey, tennis, horse riding, sailing and skateboarding, and among them football is the most popular sport.
There is very little freedom of the press in Malaysia. Laws such as the Printing Press and Publications Act have also been made as to curtail freedom of expression.