Sunday, August 5, 2007

Celebrating 50 Years of Nationhood

Malaysia is situated seven degrees north of the equator in Southeast Asia. The country consists of 14 states; including three Federal Territories of Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya and Labuan. Politically, the three territories formed the 14th state of Malaysia eventhough geographically dispersed. The northern part of Peninsular Malaysia borders Thailand. To the east is the South China Sea, to the south is Singapore and to the west are the Straits of Melaka.

Sabah and Sarawak are on the northern coast of the island of Borneo. Malaysia has a warm and humid climate. The humidity is about 80% all year round and temperatures range from 21 to 32°C.

" About four-fifths of Malaysia is covered by tropical rainforest "

About four-fifths of Malaysia is covered by tropical rainforest, one of the most complex and rich ecosystems in the world. It is home to about 15,000 species of flowering plants and trees, 600 species of birds and 210 species of mammals. The Malaysian government has set aside more than 1.49 million hectares to protect them from development and has enacted legislation to save Malaysia's precious rainforest and its rare wildlife.

Malaysia is richly endowed with natural resources. It has the world's largest tin deposits and extensive reserves of oil and gas. Its forests contain valuable tropical hardwood trees.

Half of the population of Malaysia today are the Malays. The Malays originated from the Malayo-Polynesian group of races. They first reached the Peninsula around 2000bc from Yunnan, China.

Due to many influences from the neighbouring areas like Jawa, Sumatra, the Indian sub-continent, China, the Middle East and the West, the cultures of the peninsula Malays have been shaped and reshaped. This is probably due to the strategic position for trade, in consequence made its custom and social identities vary.

The unifying factors among the Malays then and now is the religion of Islam. Today in Malaysia, almost all Malays are Muslims.

Despite the Islamic dominancy in their daily lives, the animistic and Hindu influence still lingers on, leaving an imprint on their customs and rituals, traditional beliefs and a fusion of cultures which manifests in arts, festival and important ceremonies.

Bahasa Melayu (the Malay language) is the predominant language but English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Hokkien, Hakka, Tamil and Hindi are also widely spoken.

Malaysia has a per capita income of US4,300 approximately for the year 2006, making it one of the highest per capita income group in the region after Singapore.

The country has invested heavily in high end and modern infrastructures such as the Kuala Lumpur City Center (KLCC) which is currently the tallest building on earth.

Its Airports, ports and other transportation facilities has been upgraded, or has undergone complete revolution since the late 1990's with the aim at making the country accessible to larger numbers of tourists and businessmen as well as investors from abroad.

Malaysia is already among the top ten of the US's largest trading partners: Malaysia trade comes to US$44 billion, taking more US imports than much larger economies such as India and Indonesia.

Malaysia is an important country for the US in its bid to enter other Muslim markets.

Malaysia is arguably the most developed Muslim-majority country in terms of its manufacturing,infrastructure,standard of living and health- unmatched by any other Muslim-governed nation-state.By 2020, Malaysia may become the first fully developed Muslim nation on earth.

At a time when rage and intolerance are eating away at the Islamic world, Malaysia has stood out as a source of hope. Its Muslims have co-existed peacefully with the 40% non-Muslim population. There has been no major incident of violence committed in the name of Islam on Malaysian soil. It's no wonder Muslim and Western leaders hold Malaysia in high esteem.