Wednesday, August 30, 2006



Malaysia as we know it today is a thriving developing country, often considered a “role model” by its Southeast Asian neighbours for its economic and political stability, multicultural harmony and steady progress. 31st August 2006 marks the 49th year of this country's independence from British colonialism and the day the joyful, triumphant shouts of “Merdeka, Merdeka, Merdeka!” resonated throughout the nation as Malaya's first Prime Minister, Allahyarham Tunku Abdul Rahman stood on a podium at Merdeka Square doing the same.

The name Malaya was then changed to Malaysia when the country was officially made a federation of 13 states including Sabah and Sarawak. Article 1(1) of the Federal Constitution states that "The federation shall be known, in Malay and English, as Malaysia". Although Singapore broke away and became a nation of its own in 1965, the rest of the states have remained firmly together, combining to make Malaysia the harmonious melting pot of cultures it is today.

Fast Facts about Malaysia:
Capital City:Kuala Lumpur

Land Area:
329,750 sq km
127,316 sq miles

Population: over 24 million
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +8 ()

Main Languages: Malay (official) known as Bahasa Malaysia, English, Tamil, Chinese, indigenous languages

Religion: 52% Muslim, 17% Buddhist, 12% Taoist, 8% Christian, 8% Hindu, 2% tribal

Currency: Malaysian Ringgit (RM)

Country Dialing Code:60

National Flower: Hibiscus or “Bunga Raya”

Key National Symbols: The Malaysian Flag or “Jalur Gemilang”, the national anthem “Negaraku”

History Of Merdeka
The pathway to independence was slowly but surely built by Allahyarham Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the first Prime Minister of Malaysia. Tunku Abdul Rahman led a delegation of ministers and political leaders of Malaya in negotiations with the British for Merdeka, or independence. The entourage, known as the merdeka mission, traveled to London in 1956 following the petering out of Communist threats that had led to the Malayan Emergency.

Following this mission, an agreement on both sides was reached on February 8, 1956 for Malaya to gain independence from the British Empire. Further logistics and administrative issues had to be sorted out however, which led to the official independence day date being postponed to 31st August 1957.

The newly formed Federation of Malaysia, comprising states of Malaya, North Borneo (later renamed Sabah), Sarawak and Singapore was initially to be officially declared on the date August 31 1963, on the 6th anniversary of Malayan independence. This was also postponed, to September 16th 1963 due to Indonesia and the Philippines' opposition to the formation of Malaysia. Singapore's secession from the Federation in 1965 somewhat diluted the Merdeka celebrations that year, however Malaysia today has thrived despite the separation and both countries remain good neighbours and Malaysia celebrates its independence from Britisth rule on August 31st each year with much pomp and grandeur.

This year, Merdeka celebrations will be held in several states throughout Malaysia, with Kuching, Sarawak chosen as the venue for the annual Merdeka Parade.

Prime Minister of Malaysia

In 48 years, Malaysia has only had five Prime Ministers who have all served as exceptional heads of government and have each contributed to the growth and development of our beautiful country.

We look at the five great men who have made Malaysia what it is.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra - (1957 — 1970)

Affectionately known as ‘Bapa kemerdekaan’, the Father of Independence, Tunku Abdul Rahman was the first Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, governing from 1957 to 1963 and again when the country was called Malaysia in 1963 to 1970.

Born in Alor Setar in Kedah on February 8, 1903, the Tunku was the seventh prince of Sultan Abdul Hamid Shah, the 24th Sultan of Kedah and Che Manjalara. With an education that took the prince to Thailand, Penang and finally on to England where he studied at St. Catherine’s College, Cambridge University, receiving his Bachelor of Arts in law and history in 1925.

It was at Cambridge that he first experienced racial discrimination which was said to have further intensified his belief in equality and his desire to make Malaya an independent state and free from British rule.

His natural leadership was put into action where upon realizing that Malay students in the UK were not represented by any official governing body, he began the Kesatuan Melayu Great Britain (Malay Association of Great Britain) to help them and at the same time became its first secretary.

Further general elections saw him becoming the Minister of Rural Development as well as holding the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

The prince then returned to Malaysia where he joined the Kedah Civil Service in the Legal Advisor’s office before becoming a district officer in a number of Kedah districts. In 1938, the prince went back to England to complete his law studies. However, the onset of the Second World War soon put a stop to that. It was another 8 years before he could finally get his legal qualifications.

Tunku Abdul Rahman then became the chairman of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) before succeeding Dato’ Onn Jaafar as its president in 1951. His efforts in promoting unity throughout the country were justly rewarded with the emergence of the Alliance Party in 1955.

Under his guidance, the Alliance won Malaya’s first general election in 1955 where upon the Tunku was then made the first Chief Minister and Minister of Home Affairs. He was also the main force behind the mission to London for the meetings with the British government to discuss the independence of Malaya. This resulted in the signing of the Independence Treaty at Lancaster House in London on February 8, 1956 and thereafter the independence of Malaya on August 31, 1957 (Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!).

The Tunku was then elected as the country’s first Prime Minister with the Alliance party holding elections in 1959, 1964 and 1969.

Tun Abdul Razak bin Dato’ Hussein - (1970 — 1976)

The second Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, took over from Tunku Abdul Rahman in 1970 until 1976. He was born in Pahang in 1922 as the only child of Dato’ Hussein bin Mohd Taib and Hajah Teh Fatimah bt Daud. His early schooling was undertaken at the prestigious Malay College in Kuala Kangsar before joining the Malay Administrative Service in 1939. Like Tunku Abdul Rahman before him, the Second World War interrupted his further education.

Equipped with a scholarship from the Malayan Union, Tun Razak was then able to study law in London in 1947. By 1950 he had received his Degree of an Utter Barrister from Lincoln’ Inn. Tun Razak was also a member of the British Labor Party and an active student leader of the Kesatuan Melayu Great Britain (Malay Association of Great Britain). He was also the founder of the Malayan Forum, which was an organization for Malayan students to their country’s politics.

Returning back to Malaysia, Tun Razak then joined the Malayan Civil Service, but with his political leverage and knowledge it was not long before he became the youth chief for UMNO. In 1952, he became the Assistant State Secretary for Pahang. Then only 3 years later, he became Pahang’s Chief Minister at the age of 33.

He took part and won the country’s first general election in 1955 and was given the post of Education Minister. He was also part of the coalition that went with Tunku Abdul Rahman to London in 1956 to seek Malaya’s independence.

Further general elections saw him becoming the Minister of Rural Development as well as holding the positions of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

Tun Razak was particularly remembered for his development of the New Economic Policy (NEP) in 1971. As part of the ‘second generation’ of Malay politicians, he saw the need to solve the racial disharmony that was ignited because of social and economical gulfs within the communities. The NEP was set up to help remove poverty and to reduce and get rid of economic problems identified with race.

On January 1, 1973, the prime minister replaced the ruling Alliance Party with the establishment of the National Front. By increasing the membership of the parties, it was hoped that a "Ketahanan Nasional" (National Strength) would occur through the country’s political stability.

Tun Abdul Razak is also known as the Father of Development because of his commitment towards national and rural development.

Tun Hussein Onn - (1976 — 1981)

The Father of Unity for Malaysians was born in February 1922 in Johor Bharu. He was to lead the country as Malaysia’s third prime minister from 1976 to 1981. Born to parents, Dato Onn Jaafar and Datin Halimah Hussein, he would spend most of his early education in the south, firstly in Singapore and then at the English College in Johor Bharu.

His was lead into the military as a cadet in 1940 and received his training at the Indian Military Academy in Dehra Dun, India. He later joined the Indian Army and did his combat service in the Middle East during the Second World War. The British then requested for his services as an instructor for the Malayan Police Recruiting and Training Center in India.

A number of years later, Tun Hussein returned to Malaysia where he was appointed as Commandant of the Johor Bahru Police Depot. A year later in 1946, he moved on to the Malaya Civil Service as an assistant administrative officer in Johor. A further posting would see him leaving the south and heading for Selangor, where he became the Kelang and Kuala Selangor district officer.

With a lineage that boasts of such strong political and nationalistic history, it was inventible that Tun Hussein would go into politics. By 1949, he had become the first youth chief for UMNO which his father had originally set up. A year later, he became UMNO’s secretary general before leaving in 1951 to join his father in the Independence of Malaya Party (IMP).

However, Tun Hussein decided to take a short break out of politics, during which time he returned to the UK to study law and qualify before coming back to KL to practice.

It was only when the then Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, asked him to return to politics did Tun Hussein come back to the fold of UMNO. After winning the general elections in 1969 he became the Education Minister. A few years later, Tun Hussein Onn became the Deputy Prime Minister before becoming the 3rd Prime Minister of Malaysia after the demise of Tun Abdul Razak.

Tun Hussein Onn was particularly remembered for his desire to unify the country and create policies that would correct any economic disharmony between the people.

He retired from politics in 1981 after a coronary bypass and passed away in 1990 at the age of 68.

Tun Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad - (1981 — 2003)

One of Asia’s longest serving heads of government, Dr. Mahathir began his tenure as the fourth prime minister in 1981. He was born in Kedah in 1925 where he also spent most of his early schooling. By 1947, he began his medical studies at the King Edward VII College of Medicine in Singapore.

For a time after graduation, Dr. Mahathir went into the Malaysian governmental service as a Medical Officer; this was until 1957 when he began his own practice in Alor Setar, Kedah.

Even though medicine was his profession, this did not stop Dr. Mahathir from pursuing his interest in politics. He even was a member of UMNO right from its establishment in 1946. His step further into politics occurred when he became a member of parliament in 1964, his seat was however lost in the 1969 general election.

Not deterred, Dr. Mahathir, with his interest in education, was soon appointed as Chairman of the first Higher Education Council, member of the Higher Education Advisory Council, member of the University Court and University of Malaya Council as well as becoming Chairman of the National University Council.

Five years after losing his seat in parliament, Dr. Mahathir returned to contest in the 1974 general elections, of which he won unopposed. He was appointed Minister of Education.

By 1976, Dr. Mahathir was made Deputy Prime Minister as well as keeping his education position. In 1978, he took over the position of Minister of Trade and Industry, leading numerous investment missions overseas.

As one of the three Vice Presidents of UMNO elected in 1975, Dr. Mahathir went on to take the Deputy President seat and then in 1981, the presidency of the party. Since then, under his guidance and leadership, the ruling party of Barisan Nasional has ruled over the country.

Besides being our beloved leader, Dr. Mahathir is a dedicated family man. He is married to Datin Seri Dr. Siti Hasmah bt Mohd Ali and they have 7 children and numerous grandchildren. Dr. Mahathir retired from his role as Head of Government in October 2003.

Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi - (2003)

Dato’ Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi became the 5th Prime Minister of Malaysia on October 31st 2003. Born on November 26th, 1939, in Kampung Perlis, Bayan Lepas in Penang, Dato’ Seri Abdullah than began his education at Sekolah Kebangsaan Pematang Bertam, before moving on to the Bukit Mertajam High School, the Penang Methodist Boys’ School as well as becoming a student at a religious school founded by his family.

He then went on to further his education at the University of Malaya, taking a Bachelors (Hon) degree in Islamic studies in 1964.

After graduating, Dato’ Seri Abdullah joined the civil service working as a Assistant Secretary in the Public Services Department. By 1969, he had moved on to the National Operation Council (NOC) or Majlis Gerakan Negara (MEGERAN), which is responsible for exercising the ruling powers for the country after the racial riots in May 1969.

Dato’ Seri was then later promoted to the Ministry of Culture, Youth & Sports as Director General between 1971 and 1973 before becoming Deputy Secretary General in 1974.

Leaving government service in 1978, Dato’ Seri Abdullah than began his political career. As a loyal member of UMNO since 1965, he was then elected UMNO Supreme Council Member in 1981, rising to Vice President in 1984 and then UMNO Deputy President in 1999.

He won his first Parliamentary seat in the Kepala Batas constituency in 1978 and to this day, it remains his seat. 1978 also saw Dato’ Seri Abdullah being appointed to his first post as the Parliamentary Secretary to the Federal Territory Ministry. By 1980 he was promoted to Deputy Minister in the same Ministry.

Dato’ Seri Abdullah than took his place in the Prime Minister’s Department as a Minister from 1981 to 1984, before becoming Minister of Education from 1984 to 1986, then Minister of Defense from 1986 to 1987 and finally Minister of Foreign Affairs between 1991 and January 1999.

The beginning of 1999 saw Dato’ Seri Abdullah being appointed the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs.

Dato’ Seri Abdullah married Datin Seri Endon Bt. Dato’ Mahmood in 1965. The couple has two children, a son, Kamaluddin (married to Azrene), and a daughter, Nori (married to Khairy Jamaluddin).

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