31 AUGUST 1957 – MERDEKA
This is it, ground zero, where we began. Even though it was in 1948 that the Federation of Malaya was actually formed, it wasn’t until Tunku Abdul Rahman stood on the podium at Stadium Merdeka with his arm outstretched, proclaiming “Merdeka!” seven times that we were absolutely free from British rule. This is where we began as a nation and, in 60 short years, we have gone through five Prime Ministers and 11 development plans to ultimately become a selfsufficient industrialised nation by the year 2020.
04 SEPTEMBER 1957 – YANG DI-PERTUAN AGONG INSTALLED
We all know that Tunku Abdul Rahman was the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, but 1957 was also an important year for another Abdul Rahman – the Yang di-Pertuan Besar of Negeri Sembilan, Tuanku Abdul Rahman Ibni Almarhum Tuanku Muhammad, who became the first Yang di- Pertuan Agong following Merdeka. His Majesty’s pioneering role is reflected in his portrait being reproduced on all our Ringgit notes.
16 SEPTEMBER 1963 – MALAYSIA IS FORMED
The Federation of Malaya basically consisted of the 11 states in Peninsula Malaysia and it wasn’t until 1963 that Sabah (North Borneo at the time), Sarawak and Singapore joined Malaya to form Malaysia. Yet, the formation of Malaysia didn’t come without its own set of struggles. During the negotiations, the Philippines and Indonesia were both opposed to this initiative. The Filipinos’ dispute was purely territorial (claiming much of the eastern part of Sabah as theirs), while the Indonesians regarded Malaysia as having a neo-colonial status based on the fact that Britain would continue to have military bases in Malaya and Singapore.
09 AUGUST 1965 – SINGAPORE SECEDES
Just 23 months after the formation of Malaysia, Singapore seceded and became independent. The union of Singapore and Malaya was, by no means, smooth sailing but after arduous negotiation, they managed to find common ground. Then came the politics and communal tension that would lead, ultimately, to Lee Kuan Yew announcing Singapore’s independence with tears of sorrow.
12 JUNE 1967 – INTRODUCTION OF THE RINGGIT
This was the year the first Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Tuanku Abdul Rahman, first appeared on the Ringgit note, when the new central bank, Bank Negara Malaysia, introduced the currency to replace the Malaya and British Borneo dollars. During this time, we had Ringgit notes up to MYR500 and even MYR1,000, which were eventually discontinued in 1996. Coinage was also introduced in denominations of one, five, 10, 20 and 50 sen, and if you look closely on the reverse side of these coins, you’ll see the initials GC stamped on them, the initials of the designer, Geoffrey Colley.
13 MAY 1969 – MAY 13 TRAGEDY
The worst racial riot the country had ever seen. The catalyst was the 1969 general elections but sources indicate that tensions were already running high prior to this. Minor altercations between different racial groups snowballed into a full out riot that resulted in around 200 casualties. A state of national emergency was declared, followed by events that would change the country forever.
SEPTEMBER 1970 – SECOND PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA
The May 13 Tragedy also saw Tunku Abdul Rahman stepping down as Prime Minister. He was succeeded by Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who would go on to set up Barisan Nasional to replace the Alliance party and, in a bid to ensure the recent riots would not happen again, launch the New Economic Policy in 1971. He died in office in 1976 and was replaced by then Deputy Prime Minister Tun Hussein Onn.
1971 – MALAYSIAN NEW ECONOMIC POLICY
Malaysia’s New Economic Policy was introduced to ‘pursue economic growth objectives as a way of creating harmony and unity in a nation with many ethnic and religious groups’. To this end, specialised agencies were created to ensure Bumiputera participation in the economy, while special rules and arrangements were also implemented to see that Bumiputera are assisted and facilitated over a period. The result of this policy showed a definite restructuring of the economy along with a reduction in poverty.
1973 – BARISAN NASIONAL
The Barisan Nasional, which is still the ruling government until today, was created in 1973 and replaced the Alliance Party. The initial three parties of the Alliance (UMNO, MCA and MIC) were joined by regional parties from Sabah and Sarawak to form a grand coalition under the leadership of Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak. Today, there are 13 parties in Barisan Nasional.
16 JULY 1981 – TUN DATO’ SERI DR MAHATHIR SWORN IN
Tun Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad was sworn in in 1981, succeeding Tun Hussein Onn as the fourth Prime Minister of Malaysia. Tun Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir served from 1981 to 2003 and, through his many efforts to promote the economic development of the country, was granted the soubriquet of ‘Father of Modernisation’.
27 OCTOBER 1987 – OPERATION LALANG
Operation Lalang saw the detention of members of Parliament, politicians, unionists, NGO activists, religious leaders and educationists under the Internal Security Act (ISA). The Malaysian government argued that racial tension had once again reached a critical level and the operation was a crackdown on those who were stoking tensions.
01 MARCH 1996 – PETRONAS TWIN TOWERS COMPLETED
The world’s tallest buildings at the time, the Petronas Twin Towers, designed by Argentinean architect César Pelli, reflect a distinctive postmodern style that make it one of the icons of the Kuala Lumpur skyline. The Petronas Towers’ structural system is made of a tube-in-tube design, a common feature for extremely tall buildings of the time.
11 SEPTEMBER 1998 – MALAYSIA HOSTS THE COMMONWEALTH GAMES
The 16th Commonwealth Games held its Opening Ceremony in Kuala Lumpur, the first Asian city to host the games. Previously known as the British Empire Games and British Commonwealth Games, this international multi-sport event has been drawing athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations every four years since 1930. The games are managed by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF), which not only controls the sporting programme, but also the selection of the host cities – Malaysia was the eighth nation to host the games.
DECEMBER 2000 – SABAH AND SARAWAK MAKES IT ON UNESCO
Haven to both nature lovers and naturalists, Gunung Mulu National Park in Sarawak and Kinabalu Park in Sabah became UNESCO World Heritage Sites of nature. Gunung Mulu National Park is known for its high biodiversity and karst features, while Kinabalu Park hosts a wide range of habitats from lush tropical lowland and hill rainforest to tropical mountain forest and sub-alpine forest on the higher elevations. It’s known to be incredibly rich in species of flora from the Himalayas, China, Australia, Malaysia and pan-tropical flora.
08 SEPTEMBER 2001 – MALAYSIA HOSTS THE 21ST SEA GAMES
This year marked the fifth time Malaysia played host to the South-East Asian Games – also known as the SEA Games – having previously hosted the 1965, 1971, 1977 and 1989 games. The Games lasted from 8 to 17 September, and was opened by the Yang di-Pertuan Agong, Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah. The highly anticipated biennial multi-sport involves participants from the 11 South-East Asia countries. Initially known as the South- East Asian Peninsula (SEAP) Games, the first event took place in Bangkok in 1959.
31 OCTOBER 2003 – TUN ABDULLAH BADAWI BECOMES PRIME MINISTER
After 22 years in office, Tun Dato’ Seri Dr Mahathir Mohamad stepped down as Prime Minister, making way for his deputy, Tun Dato’ Sri Haji Abdullah Haji Ahmad Badawi. Referred to as the ‘Father of Human Capital Development’, he was also informally called ‘Pak Lah’.
10 OCTOBER – 2007 A SPACE ODYSSEY
Those who grew up with space operas like Star Wars and Star Trek turned green with envy as Malaysia’s first astronaut, Sheikh Muszaphar Shukor, was sent to space on a mission to the International Space Station aboard the Soyuz TMA-11 rocket with the Expedition 16 crew. After being selected alongside three other finalists in 2006 for the Malaysian Angkasawan spaceflight programme, he underwent an 18-month training programme in Russia before taking off.
30 JUNE 2012 – LENGGONG LISTED ON UNESCO
The Lenggong valley in Hulu Perak is one of Peninsular Malaysia’s most crucial areas for archaeology. While it stands as a rural area today, it’s also the site of the oldest known place of human activity in the peninsula – with excavations having revealed numerous traces of Malaysia’s prehistory. Almost like an open-air natural museum, one can find that it houses various legends, cave drawings, skeletons and precious items, including jewellery, pottery, stone tools, and weapons. Thanks to its rich archaeological characteristics, Lenggong Valley was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 2012.
12 JULY 2008 – NICOL ANN DAVID CONFERRED DATUKSHIP
Malaysia’s most celebrated squash player Nicol Ann David was one of the 497 people honoured in conjunction with the 70th birthday of the Penang State Governor, Tun Abdul Rahman Abbas. She was one of the 28 people who was given the Darjah Setia Pangkuan Negeri award (DSPN), which carries the ‘Datuk’ title, becoming the youngest person ever so honoured.
2014 – TRAGEDY IN THE AIR
Air tragedies took to the skies in 2014 when two aircrafts from national carrier Malaysia Airlines suffered two air tragedies. On 8 March, flight MH370 mysteriously disappeared while flying from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing Capital International Airport. The Boeing 777-200ER, carrying 227 passengers and 12 crewmembers, disappeared from air traffic controllers’ radar screens at 01:22MYT. Four months later, flight MH17 from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down on 17 July while flying over eastern Ukraine, killing all 283 passengers and 15 crewmembers onboard.
19 AUGUST 2016 – LEE CHONG WEI VS LIN DAN
Malaysia went into a nearmanic frenzy during the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, when Lee Chong Wei finally beat long-time rival Lin Dan of China in a highly charged semi-final to reach the badminton men’s singles final. Lee, however, had to settle for the silver medal after losing to Chen Long from China in the finals. Even though Malaysia didn’t win the gold that day, it was still a momentous occasion for all Malaysians.
28 MARCH 2017 – VIVE LA MALAISIE!
Malaysian actress Tan Sri Dato’ Michelle Yeoh was awarded the Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur in a private ceremony held at the Residence de France in Kuala Lumpur by then President François Hollande himself. The Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur is the highest civilian award that a foreigner is able to receive from the French government. A month later, the Princess of Selangor Tengku Zatashah Sultan Sharafuddin Idris Shah was conferred the Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur for her role in promoting the French culture and language in Malaysia as the President of Alliance Francaise de Kuala Lumpur for the past five years.
TEXT DANIEL GOH & JOANNA LEE
ILLUSTRATION MON KAI-SIONG