Courtesy Reuters

Malaysia: Key Area in Southeast Asia

If one studies the map of Southeast Asia it is clear at once that Malaysia is the natural focus of the whole region. It is the only country that is both part of mainland Asia and at the same time part of the vast archipelago stretching westward from the Philippines and New Guinea to Sumatra. Thus Malaysia is not only a bridge between continental and island Asia but also the gateway between the China Sea and the Indian Ocean. By virtue of this position Malaysia is of vital importance to both Southeast Asia and the world. Add to this the fact that although Malaysia is a small nation of only 10,000,000 people, its economic significance is out of all proportion to its size and population. It is the world's leading producer of both natural rubber and tin. For this reason, if none other, the peace and prosperity, security and stability of Malaysia are of key concern both regionally and internationally.

To understand the evolution of Malaysia as a free nation and the spirit of national unity that inspires and guides the ideals and outlook of this country of many races, creeds and cultures, we must glance briefly at postwar history. The peoples of Malaya, Singapore and Borneo endured in common privation and suffering during the Japanese Occupation. When the war ended the nine states of mainland Malaya and Sarawak were British Protectorates; the islands of Singapore and Penang and the Malacca area were Crown Colonies; and North Borneo (as Sabah was then known) was the domain of a chartered company. Constitutional changes were inevitable, especially in view of the rising wave of liberation which began to sweep across Asia. Within three years the nine Malay states together with Penang and Malacca merged into the Federation of Malaya but still under the British rule. This was the first time in the history of the Malay peninsula that all these states had achieved a common central government. In the meantime, both Sabah and Sarawak

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