Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy located in Southeast Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 127,720 square miles (330,803 square kilometers) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and East Malaysia (Malaysian Borneo). Peninsular Malaysia shares a land and maritime border with Thailand and maritime borders with Singapore, Vietnam, and Indonesia. East Malaysia shares land and maritime borders with Brunei and Indonesia and a maritime border with the Philippines and Vietnam. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. With a population of over 30 million, Malaysia is the 44th most populous country. The southernmost point of continental Eurasia, Tanjung Piai, is in Malaysia. Located in the tropics, Malaysia is one of 17 megadiverse countries on earth, with large numbers of endemic species.
The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. About half the population is ethnically Malay, with large minorities of Malaysian Chinese, Malaysian Indians, and indigenous peoples. The constitution declares Islam the state religion while allowing freedom of religion for non-Muslims. The government system is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is the king, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the prime minister.
Since its independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with its GDP growing at an average of 6.5% per annum for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fueled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Today, Malaysia has a newly industrialized market economy, ranked third largest in Southeast Asia and 29th largest in the world. It is a founding member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the East Asia Summit and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, and a member of Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Commonwealth of Nations, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Evidence of modern human habitation in Malaysia dates back 40,000 years. In the Malay Peninsula, the first inhabitants are thought to be Negritos. Traders and settlers from India and China arrived as early as the first century AD, establishing trading ports and coastal towns in the second and third centuries. Their presence resulted in strong Indian and Chinese influences on the local cultures, and the people of the Malay Peninsula adopted the religions of Hinduism and Buddhism. Sanskrit inscriptions appear as early as the fourth or fifth century.
The Kingdom of Langkasuka arose around the second century in the northern area of the Malay Peninsula, lasting until about the fifteenth century. Between the seventh and thirteenth centuries, much of the southern Malay Peninsula was part of the maritime Srivijayan empire. By the thirteenth and the fourteenth century, the Majapahit empire had successfully wrested control over most of the peninsula and the Malay Archipelago from Srivijaya. Islam began to spread among Malays in the fourteenth century. In the early fifteenth century, Parameswara, a runaway king of the former Kingdom of Singapura linked to the old Srivijayan court, founded the Malacca Sultanate. Malacca was an important commercial center during this time, attracting trade from around the region.
In 1511, Malacca was conquered by Portugal, after which it was taken by the Dutch in 1641. In 1786, the British Empire established a presence in Malaya, when the Sultan of Kedah leased Penang Island to the British East India Company. The British obtained the town of Singapore in 1819, and in 1824 took control of Malacca following the Anglo-Dutch Treaty. By 1826, the British directly controlled Penang, Malacca, Singapore, and the island of Labuan, which they established as the crown colony of the Straits Settlements.
By the twentieth century, the states of Pahang, Selangor, Perak, and Negeri Sembilan, known together as the Federated Malay States, had British residents appointed to advise the Malay rulers, to whom the rulers were bound to defer to by treaty. The remaining five states in the peninsula, known as the Unfederated Malay States, while not directly under British rule, also accepted British advisers around the turn of the twentieth century. Development on the peninsula and Borneo were generally separate until the nineteenth century. Under British rule the immigration of Chinese and Indians to serve as laborers was encouraged. The area that is now Sabah came under British control as North Borneo when both the Sultan of Brunei and the Sultan of Sulu transferred their respective territorial rights of ownership, between 1877 and 1878. In 1842, Sarawak was ceded by the Sultan of Brunei to James Brooke, whose successors ruled as the White Rajahs over an independent kingdom until 1946, when it became a crown colony.
In the Second World War, the Japanese Army invaded and occupied Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore for over three years. During this time, ethnic tensions were raised and nationalism grew. Popular support for independence increased after Malaya was reconquered, by Allied forces. Post-war British plans to unite the administration of Malaya under a single crown colony called the “Malayan Union” met with strong opposition from the Malays, who opposed the weakening of the Malay rulers and the granting of citizenship to the ethnic Chinese.
The Malayan Union, established in 1946, and consisting of all the British possessions in the Malay Peninsula with the exception of Singapore, was quickly dissolved and replaced on February 1, 1948, by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the autonomy of the rulers of the Malay states under British protection. During this time, mostly Chinese rebels under the leadership of the Malayan Communist Party launched guerrilla operations designed to force the British out of Malaya. The Malayan Emergency lasted from 1948 to 1960, and involved a long anti-insurgency campaign by Commonwealth troops in Malaya.
On August 31, 1957, Malaya became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations. After this a plan was put in place to federate Malaya with the crown colonies of North Borneo (which joined as Sabah), Sarawak, and Singapore. The date of federation was planned to be August 31, 1963, so as to coincide with the anniversary of Malayan independence; however, federation was delayed until September 16, 1963, in order for a United Nations survey of support for federation in Sabah and Sarawak, called for by parties opposed to federation including Indonesia’s Sukarno and the Sarawak United Peoples’ Party, to be completed.
The first stamps inscribed Malaysia were issued on September 16, 1963, a set of three of three commemorating the formation of the Federation. During 1965, Malaysia issued its first definitive stamps. Each State had its own set, identical with the exception of the State name and Rulers portrait or State crest as applicable. The stamps featured orchids for the State low values and birds for the Malaysia high values. The eight high values were printed in portrait format and had MALAYSIA printed on them in place of State names. These were released on September 9, 1965 (Scott #20-27).
The thirteen states issuing stamps were:
- Negri Sembilan
Proofs were also produced for Singapore, but the stamps were never issued as Singapore withdrew from Malaysia, becoming an independent country.
The stamps were printed in landscape format by Harrison & Sons in England in two panes of 100, 10 x 10, with the cylinder numbers appearing on the right of the bottom margins, one for each color, the left pane being numbered 1A and the right pane numbered 1B. There were two types of gum in use, Gum Arabic and PVA, the differences are clear to see, Gum Arabic being glossy and PVA matte. The colors were not produced by the standard four-color lithography method, cyan, yellow, magenta and black, but had dedicated colors as required by each value printed in photogravure. The left of the bottom margin contained color check blocks, one for each color surrounded by a black box, this black being for the State customization black cylinder. The first issues were on paper watermarked ‘Multiple SPM’ upright and comb perforated 14½. A few values appeared later on with watermark sideways and then later again without watermark.
The States stamps were released on November 15, 1965, in denominations of 1 cent, 2 cents, 5 cents,6 cents,10 cents, 15 cents and 20 cents. From the outset, there were problems with printing this issue as there are a number of missing colors present, in some cases more than one color, indicating poor quality control. Some of the missing colors are now very difficult to find as in some cases only few stamps on a sheet were affected, generally 10 or less. Many of these varieties were the result of one of the printing color supplies being interrupted during the print run and restarting, causing a missing color on one or more columns.
The eight medium and high values featuring Malaysian birds were in denominations of 25 cents, 30 cents, 50 cents, 75 cents, $1, $2, $5 and $10 and were intended for use in any Malaysian State. As with the low values, they were printed in two panes of 100, 10 x 10 with cylinder numbers 1A and 1B for the left and right pane, watermarked ‘Multiple PTM upright’ perforated 14½. Various proofs exist showing the individual colors and combined up to full color proofs. In addition, each value was produced on Harrison proof cards in full color. As with the low values, missing colors can be found on a few values and inverted watermarks on the 25 cents, 30 cents, 50 cents, $1, $2 and $5 values.
Federation brought heightened tensions including a conflict with Indonesia as well continuous conflicts against the Communists in Borneo and the Malayan Peninsula which escalates to the Sarawak Communist Insurgency and Second Malayan Emergency together with several other issues such as the cross border attacks into North Borneo by Moro pirates from the southern islands of the Philippines, Singapore being expelled from the Federation in 1965, and racial strife. This strife culminated in the 13 May race riots in 1969. After the riots, the controversial New Economic Policy was launched by Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak, trying to increase the share of the economy held by the bumiputera. Under Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad there was a period of rapid economic growth and urbanization beginning in the 1980s. The economy shifted from being agriculturally based to one based on manufacturing and industry. Numerous mega-projects were completed, such as the Petronas Towers, the North-South Expressway, the Multimedia Super Corridor, and the new federal administrative capital of Putrajaya. However, in the late 1990s the Asian financial crisis almost caused the collapse of the currency and the stock and property markets.
Malaysia is a federation of 13 states and three federal territories. These are divided between two regions, with 11 states and two federal territories on Peninsular Malaysia and the other two states and one federal territory in East Malaysia. Each state is divided into districts, which are then divided into mukim. In Sabah and Sarawak districts are grouped into divisions.
Governance of the states is divided between the federal and the state governments, with different powers reserved for each, and the Federal government has direct administration of the federal territories. Lower-level administration is carried out by local authorities, which include city councils, district councils, and municipal councils, although autonomous statutory bodies can be created by the federal and state governments to deal with certain tasks. The federal constitution puts local authorities outside of the federal territories under the exclusive jurisdictions of the state government, although in practice the federal government has intervened in the affairs of state local governments. There are 144 local authorities, consisting of 11 city councils, 33 municipal councils, and 97 district councils.
The 13 states are based on historical Malay kingdoms, and 9 of the 11 Peninsular states, known as the Malay states, retain their royal families. The King is elected by and from the nine rulers to serve a five-year term. This King appoints governors serving a four-year term for the states without monarchies, after consultations with the chief minister of that state. Each state has a unicameral legislature known as the State Legislative Assembly, and its own written constitution. Sabah and Sarawak have considerably more autonomy than the other states, most notably having separate immigration policies and controls, and a unique residency status. Federal intervention in state affairs, lack of development, and disputes over oil royalties have occasionally led to statements about secession from leaders in several states such as Johor, Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak, although these have not been followed up and no serious independence movements exist.
During 1986, a new set of definitives featuring agricultural produce and fruit stamps were issued, seven low values for each State and eight medium and high values inscribed Malaysia for use in any State. This issue proved to be the most complex ever produced by Malaysia, lasting for over 14 years, the last printing in the original format taking place during 2000. The issue is notable for the perforation, gum and watermark varieties. The low values were identical for each State, except for the state name, state crest and ruler, or state crest only for those States without a ruler. The stamps were printed in five color lithography, cyan, yellow, magenta and black with grey for highlighting various areas and a browny-grey shade for the background panel. They were printed on phosphorized ‘Multiple SPM’ paper with a wavy pattern, in sheets of 100, 10 by 10 and had pink gum and were perforated 12 by 12 . The low and medium values were printed by Security Printers Malaysia in Petaling Jaya, near Kuala Lumpur. The four high values were printed by Harrison & Sons in the United Kingdom. The low values had plate numbers, one for each color used for printing, in the top left, top right, bottom left and bottom right of each sheet, in the format 1A, 1A 1A etc., with color dabs above or below each series of plate numbers.
Scott #329 was issued on June 5, 1989, printed by lithography. The 40-sen stamp features rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum), which is probably my favorite “new” fruit that I’ve enjoyed eating since moving to Thailand more than ten years ago. Rambutan refers to the a medium-sized tropical tree in the family Sapindaceae as well as the edible fruit produced by this tree. The rambutan is native to the Malay-Indonesian region and other regions of tropical Southeast Asia. It is closely related to several other edible tropical fruits including the lychee, longan, and mamoncill.
The name ‘rambutan’ is derived from the Malay-Indonesian languages word for rambut or “hair”, a reference to the numerous hairy protuberances of the fruit, together with the noun-building suffix -an. In Vietnam, it is called chôm chôm (meaning “messy hair”) due to the spines covering the fruit’s skin.
Native to tropical Southeast Asia, rambutan is commonly grown among various countries throughout the region. It has spread from there to various parts of Asia, Africa, Oceania and Central America. The widest variety of cultivars, wild and cultivated, are found in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Around the thirteenth to fifteenth centuries, Arab traders that played a major role in Indian Ocean trade introduced rambutan into Zanzibar and Pemba of East Africa. There are limited rambutan plantings in some parts of India. In the nineteenth century, the Dutch introduced rambutan from their colony in Southeast Asia and Suriname in South America. Subsequently, the plant spread to tropical Americas, planted in the coastal lowlands of Colombia, Ecuador, Honduras, Costa Rica, Trinidad and Cuba. In 1912, rambutan was introduced to the Philippines from Indonesia. Further introductions were made in 1920 (from Indonesia) and 1930 (from Malaya), but until the 1950s its distribution was limited.
There was an attempt to introduce rambutan to the southeastern United States, with seeds imported from Java in 1906, but the species proved to be unsuccessful, except in Puerto Rico.
Rambutan is an important fruit tree of humid tropical Southeast Asia, traditionally cultivated especially in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand. It is a popular garden fruit tree and propagated commercially in small orchards. It is one of the best-known fruits of Southeast Asia and is also widely cultivated elsewhere in the tropics including Africa, the Caribbean islands, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka. It is also produced in Ecuador where it is known as achotillo and on the island of Puerto Rico.
Thailand is the largest producer of rambutan, with 588,000 tons (55.5%), followed by Indonesia with 320,000 tons (30.2%) and Malaysia with 126,300 tons (11.9%) in 2005, the three countries collectively accounting for 97% of the world’s supply of rambutan. In Thailand, the major cultivation center is in Surat Thani Province. In Indonesia, the production center of rambutan is located in the western parts of Indonesia, which includes Java, Sumatra and Kalimantan. In Java, the orchards and pekarangan (habitation yards) in the villages of Greater Jakarta and West Java, has been known as rambutan production centers since colonial era, with trading center in Pasar Minggu, South Jakarta. Rambutan production is increasing in Australia and, in 1997, was one of the top three tropical fruits produced in Hawaii.
In Thailand, rambutan trees were first planted in Surat Thani in 1926 by the Chinese Malay K. Vong in Ban Na San. An annual rambutan fair is held during August harvest time.
The fruit are usually sold fresh, used in making jams and jellies, or canned. Evergreen rambutan trees with their abundant colored fruit make beautiful landscape specimens. Rambutans are not a climacteric fruit — that is, they ripen only on the tree and appear not to produce a ripening agent such as the plant hormone, ethylene, after being harvested.