Some Background to Malaysia

  • Bob OlivierEmail author
Part of the Critical Studies of the Asia-Pacific book series (CSAP)


This chapter is aimed at readers who have little or no familiarity with Malaysia. It provides a very brief history, focusing particularly on those aspects that impacted on how and why the Islamic Revival unfolded. It explains the Malays’ feudal background, and their early relationship with immigrants, particularly the Chinese, who began arriving in small numbers hundreds of years ago. The colonisation of Malaya by the British was of huge significance, especially because they oversaw a massive immigration of Chinese and Indians into the country which dramatically changed its demography. At Independence the Malays asserted themselves and insisted that the Constitution contain provisions that privileged them over the other races, which continue to the present day, and contribute to the tension between the ethnic groups. The Race Riots of 1969 are covered, and the ensuing affirmative action programme, which also persists to the present day. It then describes how Malaysia was modernized, particularly under the premiership of Mahathir Mohamad, and became an industrial powerhouse, but how at the same time a culture of corruption was engendered which has poisoned the politics of the country. It highlights how the main Malay party, UMNO, managed to maintain a stranglehold on power, in great part due to the use of the funds obtained via corruption. However, following the removal of Anwar Ibrahim from the Deputy Premiership and his subsequent imprisonment, a credible Opposition developed and gained strength, finally toppling the UMNO-led government in the elections of May 2018.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The University of Western AustraliaCrawleyAustralia

Personalised recommendations