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Malaysia

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Geography

Malaysia is situated right in the heart of South East Asia and is divided into two regions, known as East Malaysia and West Malaysia. West Malaysia, or also known as Peninsular Malaysia, consist of the southern portion of the Malay Peninsula and the nearby islands. East Malaysia occupies the northern section of Sabah and Sarawak. Malaysia is a federation of 13 states plus 3 federal territories (Johor, Kedah, Kelantan, Melaka, Negeri Sembilan, Pahang, Perak, Pulau Pinang, Perlis, Sabah, Sarawak, Selangor, Terengganu, Kuala Lumpur, Labuan, Putrajaya). Kuala Lumpur, the capital city, is the largest federal territory, there are two others, Labuan and Putrajaya.
 

Climate

Malaysia's climate is hot and humid all year round, with plenty of sunshine and rainfall all year round. Temperatures are usually between 20-30C (68-86F) with humidity of 90%. The East Coast of Peninsular Malaysia experiences more rain season than the other regions. The wettest season on the West Coast of the Peninsula is between September and December, on the East Coast and in Sabah and Sarawak, is between October and February. Rain often comes in short, strong bursts and is usually seasonal.

People

Malaysia has a combined population of over 19.9 million people. Because of its central location, Malaysia has traditionally been a meeting point for traders and travelers from both the East and West. As a result, Malaysia has a multicultural and multiracial population consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians and numerous indigenous and aboriginal peoples. The Orang Asli are the aboriginal people of Peninsular Malaysia, with an estimated population of over 60,000 and who, for the most part, still lead a simple yet fascinating lifestyle.

With such a varying ethnic composition, there is a great diversity of religions predominant throughout Malaysia. Although the official religion is Islam, freedom of worship is practiced. As a result, it is a common to see temples, mosques and churches within the same area.

Aboriginal Malays or better known as the (Orang Asli) began moving down the Malay Peninsula from South-Western China about 10,000 years ago. The peninsula came under the rule of the Cambodian-based Funan, the Sumatran-based Srivijaya and the Java-based Majapahit empires, before the Chinese arrived in Melaka in 1405. Islam arrived in Melaka at about the same time and spread rapidly. Melaka's wealth soon attracted European powers, and the Portuguese took control in 1511, followed by the Dutch in 1641. The British established a thriving port in Penang in 1786 and took over Melaka in 1795.

The British colonized the interior of the peninsula when tin was discovered. East Malaysia came into British hands via the adventurer James Brooke (who was made Rajah of Sarawak in 1841 after suppressing a revolt against the Sultan of Brunei) and the North Borneo Company (which administered Sabah from 1882). Britain took formal control of both Sabah and Sarawak after WW II. The indigenous labor supply was insufficient for the needs of the developing rubber and tin industries, so the British brought large numbers of Indians into the country, altering the peninsula's racial mix.

The Japanese overran Malaya in World War II. Communist guerrillas, who fought the Japanese throughout the occupation, began an armed struggle against British rule in 1948 and Malaya achieved independence in 1957. Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore combined with Malaya to establish Malaysia in 1963, but two years later Singapore withdrew from the confederation. The formation of Malaysia was opposed by both the Philippines and Indonesia, each having territorial claims on East Malaysia. Tension rose in 1963 during the `Confrontation' with Indonesia. Indonesian troops crossed Malaysia's borders but were repelled by Malaysian and Commonwealth forces. The United Malays National Organization (UMNO) has been in power since 1974. In September 1998, the country also hosted the Commonwealth Games.

Culture

With a population of about 18 million, one of the extraordinary facets of Malaysia is indeed its people. Malaysia has traditionally been a meeting point for traders and travelers from both the East and West because of its central location, between the Indian Ocean and the South China Sea. Therefore, Malaysia has a multicultural and multiracial population consisting of Malays, Chinese, Indians and numerous indigenous people. The country's racial, religious and cultural harmony is something you'll truly come to appreciate. Naturally, from this richly mixed populous spawns an endless list of festivals and celebrations, all year round.

Although Malaysia's ethnic mix is generally harmonious, the various communities remain largely separate. Malaysians have mostly integrated one and another cultures as well as joining in the celebrations of the festivities.

The multi ethnic mix also promotes variety and conglomeration of music and art. The Chinese and Malays, for example influence Malaysian music heavily. The music is based largely around the gendang (drum), but includes percussion instruments, flutes, trumpets, and gongs. The country has a profound tradition of dances and dance dramas, some of Thai, Indian, and Portuguese origin. Other artistic traditional forms include wayang kulit (shadow-puppets), silat (traditional martial art), and craftsmanship such as batik, weaving and silver-and brass-work.

Language

The national language of Malaysia is Malay that is also spoken by over 200 million people in other countries of the region such as in Brunei, Singapore and Indonesia. Other commonly spoken languages are various Chinese and Indian languages dialects. English is also widely spoken throughout the country and is used as a language for instruction in all private colleges.

Administration

Malaysia has a complex federal political system, with extensive local power in the hands of nine hereditary Sultans, who elect the Head of State (entitled HM the Yang di-Pertuan Agong) every five years. There are 13 states plus three 'Federal Territories' (Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and the island of Labuan), with Prime Minister ruling the federal Government. The Prime Minister, a person formally appointed by the head of state leads the largest party in the Dewan Rakyat. The Prime Minister governs with the assistance of an appointed ministerial cabinet.

The legislative power lies in the hands of the bicameral parliament, comprising Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives) and Dewan Negara, or Senate. Dewan Rakyat compromises of 192 members- directly elected for a five year term, while the Dewan Negara has 40 members whom are appointed by the Head of State and 30 members elected by the country's 13 regional assemblies.

Religion

The different types of religion in Malaysia reflect the variety of races living there. Islam is the official religion but Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and other religions are practiced freely. Islam is practiced predominantly by the Malays. Most of the Chinese believes in Buddhism and Taoism but others are Christians. The region's Indian population mostly practices Hinduism, and the Christians practice Christianity.
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