Wednesday, August 31, 2005

Query over origin of 'Malaysia' 

The article, A Sacred Mountain: Exploration of Mount Kinabalu was taken from the Singapore Free Press and published on page 125 of the British North Borneo Herald on July 1, 1929.

The first paragraph reads: "It is the highest peak (13,455 feet) in Malaysia and its flora and fauna are highly specialised."

The last paragraph states: "The recent work done on Kinabalu is of course all part of a comprehensive scheme for investigating the Malaysian fauna."

Sabah Archives Department director Datu Tigabelas Datu Zainal Abidin said the name "Malaysia" most likely referred to "Malay Asia" or the Malay archipelago.

"It is not used to name a country but a region. Based on our analysis, there is no other logical reason for using the word 'Malaysia' in the article.

"Malay Asia does not specifically refer to Malaya, Borneo, Indonesia or the Philippines. It refers to the region," he said.

"Malaysia" came into the public domain again in 1945 as the Japanese surrendered in Singapore. The headline of a front-page report in the Straits Times of Sept 13, 1945 reads: "Japanese in Malaysia Surrender At Singapore".

The first paragraph of the report went: "The surrender of half a million Japanese troops in Malaya and the Dutch East Indies was formally signed at Singapore yesterday, 1,374 days after the first Japanese bombs fell on this city and war broke out in the Far East."

Was the "Malaysia" referred to in the headline a combination of Malaya, the Dutch East Indies (Indonesia) and Singapore?

Tan Sri Dr Noordin Sopiee, in his book From Malayan Union to Singapore Separation 1945-65, said the first suggestion of bringing together all the territories in the Malaysia region, which included Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, Malaya and Singapore, could be traced back to 1887 when Lord Brassey said the whole area should be merged into one large colony.

Brassey was then the North Borneo Chartered Company director.

Quoting historian Professor K.G. Treggoning, Noordin said the matter was deliberated in the British Cabinet in 1888 and again in 1932.

"The political rationalisation which was undertaken immediately after the Second World War caused many to suspect a British intention to link up all the territories of the region into one governmental unit," he wrote.

Noordin said after the war, the British Governor-General Malcolm MacDonald was entrusted with the task of co-ordinating the major policies of the five territories. "The Singapore Progressive Party became, in fact, the first political party of the Malaysia region to advocate a region-wide unified system," he said.

He said Tun Ghazali Shafie and Tun Tan Cheng Lok had also advocated the "Malaysia" concept in the 1950s.

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