Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Dusun Tindal Costume

This colourful and seldom-seen costume belongs to the Dusun Tindal in the Tempasuk area near Kota Belud. The first time this bridal outfit was shown outside its district was at the 1991 Cultural Pageant.Like most of Sabah's traditional costumes, it's basic black with splashes of colour here and there. This two-piece outfit consists of a long-sleeved blouse (sinipak ) and a knee-length sarong (gonob ).
The sleeves of the blouse have hand-embroidered panels on the upper arms. Just at the elbows, the sleeves are slashed, extended and several pieces of other coloured cloths are sewn in. Layers of black cloth with gold trimmings (sunduk do sunalatan ) are draped over the right arm.
Then, a pair of red-hued sashes cross over at the front of the blouse while around the shoulders a dastar cloth is transformed into a wide draping collar (selindang lolopot ).
The gonob or sarong is made from cloth woven by the Dusun Tindal themselves using yarn from processed pisang lanut (Musa textilis).
Adorning this costume are rows and rows of antique beads strung together to form a wide belt (kinokogis ) that stretches from the waist down to mid-thigh. On top of the kinokogis, four silver dollar coin belts (sinipogot ) are worn.
Other antique jewellery items worn with this costume are several pieces of hand-engraved silver bangles (saring pirok ) on each arm, silver earrings and hand-engraved silver pouches with chains (kiupu ) worn around the neck.
This Dusun Tindal bridal costume, along with the silver jewellery, weighs about eight kilograms and costs more than M$11,000. 

The Traditional Costume of the Bajau

The Bajau people are well known for the weaving and needlework skills. The Bajau women of Kota Belud make embroidered panels sewn into their long black wrap-skirt.  The Bajau and Iranun of Kota Belud weave the traditional headgear called kain dastar which is also worn by almost every indigenous group in Sabah. 

costume_bajau.jpg (16568 bytes)
Costume of Women

badu sipak    Brightly coloured satiny blouse, usually yellow. The flared sleeves show the cuffs of an underblouse in contrasting hue. The flared sleeves are two inches longer than the out-stretched arms and hands. Used for weddings. Betawi buttons in front, sometimes also on the sleeves.

badu sampit    Brightly coloured long-sleeved satiny blouse, used for formal occasions.

kain mogah    Long handwoven wrap-skirt, with horizontal stripes, usually red and black, with supplementary weft motifs. Worn at weddings.

olos berangkit    Full-length black wrap-skirt with a wide vertical panel of berangkit in front. The motifs are stylised: bunga kapas (cotton flower) and pucak rebung (bamboo shoot). This exclusive wedding garment has become very rare nowadays.

selendang         Scarf over the shoulders.


mandapun         Flat cloth-covered collar-ornament accentuating the neckline decorated with stylized leaves in silver, goldleaf or substitute.

sarempak         Two-piece head decoration in the shape of a ship made of gilded silver or modern substitute. Small ornaments dangling down from both ends are called garigai. The ornament is fitted around the hairbun on top of the head, three fingers away from the hairline.

galang             Silver bangles.

subang             old or silver ear pendants.

keku             Long tapered, gold, silver or brass fingercovers worn by the bride.

ingkot pangkat     Lat Silver coin belt with a wide buckle.

Costume of Men

badu             Brightly coloured satiny blouse, usually green, with flared sleeves showing cuffs of underblouse in contrasting hue. The flared sleeves are two inches longer than the out-stretched arms and hands. Used for weddings. Betawi buttons in front, sometimes also on the sleeves.

Suar             Trousers made of similar material in contrasting colour and red trimming. Black for weddings.

tanjak         Headdress of folded kain dastar (used for weddings). Podong, used by horseman.

ingkot pangkat    Silver coin belt with a wide buckle with an attachment called supu which is a round silver Bajau cigarette case.

selendang    Sash tied around the waist.

Notes: The name betawi may refer to Batavia, present Jakarta and the former capital of the Dutch Indies. Similar buttons were in fashion in the Netherlands and are still part of some Dutch traditional costumes.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Sarawak is home to 28 ethnic groups, each with their own distinct language, culture and lifestyle. The Ibans form the major ethnic group on this land with about 30.1% of the total population per the year 2000 census. The Chinese, who generally live in the cities, are the second largest group at 26.7%, followed by the Bidayuh, Melanau and other native tribes of Sarawak who are collectively known as Orang Ulu. The Malays constitute a large portion (23.0%) of the population as well, mainly concentrated along the coast.
Sarawakians practice a variety of religions, including Islam, Christianity, Chinese folk religion (a fusion of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and ancestor worship) and animism. Many converts to Christianity among the Dayak peoples also continue to practice traditional ceremonies, particularly with dual marriage rites and during the important harvest and ancestral festivals such as Gawai Dayak and Gawai Antu.
The Malays make up 21% of the population in Sarawak. Traditionally fishermen, these seafaring people chose to form settlements on the banks of the many rivers of Sarawak. Today, many Malays have migrated to the cities where they are heavily involved in the public and private sectors and taken up various professions. Malay villages (kampungs) - a cluster of wooden houses on stilts, many of which are still located by rivers on the outskirts of major towns and cities, play home to traditional cottage industries. The Malays are famed for their wood carvings, silver and brass craftings as well as traditional Malays textile weaving with silver and gold thread (kain songket). Malays are Muslim by religion, having brought the faith to Asia some 1000 years ago. Their religion is reflected in their culture and art and Islamic symbolism is evident in local architecture - from homes to government buildings.
The Melanaus have been thought to be amongst the original settlers of Sarawak. Originally from Mukah, the Melanaus traditionally lived in tall houses. Nowadays, they have adopted a Malay lifestyle, living in kampong-type settlements. Traditionally, Melanaus were fishermen and till today, they are reputed as some of the finest boat-builders and craftsmen. While the Melanaus are ethnically different from the Malays, their lifestyles and practices are quite similar especially in the larger towns and cities where most Melanau have adopted the Islamic faith. The Melanaus were believed to originally worship spirits in a practice brinking on paganism. Today many of them are Christian and Muslim, though they still celebrate traditional animist festivals such as the annual Kaul Festival.
The Chinese first came to Sarawak as traders and explorers in the 6th Century. Today, they make up 29% of the population of Sarawak and comprise of communities built from the economic migrants of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The first Chinese migrants worked as labourers in the gold mines at Bau or on plantations. Through their clan associations, business acumen and work ethic, the Chinese organised themselves economically and rapidly dominated commerce. Today, the Chinese are amongst Sarawak's most prosperous ethnic groups. The Sarawak Chinese belong to a wide range of dialect groups, the most significant being Hokkien, Foochow, Hakka, Teochew, Cantonese and Henghua. Hokkien and Mandarin are the most widely spoken dialects. The Chinese maintain their ethnic heritage and culture and celebrate all the major cultural festivals, most notably Chinese New Year and the Hungry Ghost Festival. The Sarawak Chinese are predominantly Buddhists and Christians.
The Ibans form the largest percentage of Sarawak's population, making up some 30%. Reputed to be the most formidable headhunters on the island of Borneo, the Ibans of today are a generous, hospitable and placid people. Because of their history as pirates and fishermen, they were conventionally referred to as the "Sea Dayaks". The early Iban settlers who migrated from Kalimantan (the Indonesian part of Borneo south of Sarawak) set up home in the river valleys of Batang Ai, the Skrang River, Saribas, and the Rajang River. The Ibans dwell in longhouses, a stilted structure comprising many rooms housing a whole community of families. The Ibans are renowned for their Pua Kumbu (traditional Iban weavings), silver craftings, wooden carvings and beadwork. Iban tattoos which were orignally symbols of bravery for the Iban warriors have become amongst the most distinctive in the world. The Ibans are also famous for their tuak, a sweet rice wine which is served during big celebrations and festive occasions. Today, the majority of Ibans are practice Christianity. However, like most other ethnic groups in Sarawak, they still hold strong to their many traditional rituals and beliefs. Sarawak is unique to colourful festivals such as the Gawai Dayak (harvest festival), Gawai Kenyalang (hornbill festival) and Gawai Antu (festival of the dead).
Originally from West Kalimantan, the Bidayuhs are now most numerous in the hill country of Bau and Serian, within an hour's drive from Kuching. Historically, as other tribes were migrating into Sarawak and forming settlements, the meek-natured Bidayuhs retreated further inland, hence earning them the name of "Land Dayaks". The traditional Bidayuh abode is the "baruk", a roundhouse that rises about 1.5 metres off the ground. Typical of the Sarawak indigenous groups, the Bidayuhs are well-known for their hospitality, and are reputed to be the best makers of tuak, or rice wine. The Bidayuhs speak a number of different but related dialects. While some of them still practice traditional religions, most modern-day Bidayuhs have adopted the Christian faith.
The phrase Orang Ulu means upriver people and is a term used to collectively describe the numerous tribes that live upriver in Sarawak's vast interior. Such groups include the major Kayan and Kenyah tribes, and the smaller neighbouring groups of the Kajang, Kejaman, Punan, Ukit, and Penan. Nowadays, the definition also includes the down-river tribes of the Lun Bawang, Lun Dayeh, Murut and Berawan as well as the plateau-dwelling Kelabits. The various Orang Ulu groups together make up roughly 5.5% of Sarawak's population. The Orang Ulu are artistic people with longhouses elaborately decorated with murals and woodcarvings. They are also well-known for their intricate beadwork detailed tattoos. The Orang Ulu tribe can also be identified by their unique music - distinctive sounds from their sape, a stringed instrument not unlike the mandolin. A vast majority of the Orang Ulu tribe are Christians but old traditional religions are still practiced in some areas.
Some of the major tribes making up the Orang Ulu group include :
There are approximately 15,000 Kayans in Sarawak. The Kayan tribe built their longhouses in the northern interiors of Sarawak midway on the Baram River, the upper Reiang River and the lower Tubau River, and were traditionally headhunters. They are well known for their boat making skills, which they carve from a single block of belian, the strongest of the tropical hardwoods. Although many Kayan have become Christians, some are still practise paganistic beliefs.
With a population of approximately 3000, the Kelabit are inhabitants of Bario - a remote plateau in the Sarawak Highlands, slightly over 1,200 meters above sea-level. The Kelabits form a tight-knit community and practise a generations-old form of agriculture. Famous for their rice-farming, they also cultivate a variety of other crops which are suited to the cooler climate of the Highlands of Bario. The Kelabit are predominantly Christian, the Bario Highlands having been visited by Christian missionaries many years ago.
There are few findings on the exact origin of the Kenyah tribe. Their heartland however, is Long San, along the Baram River. Their culture is very similar to that of the Kayan tribe with whom they live in close association. The typical Kenyah village consists of only one longhouse and the people are mainly farmers, planting rice in burnt jungle clearings.
The Penan are the only true nomadic people in Sarawak and amongst the last of the world's hunter-gatherers. The Penan make their home under the rainforest canopy, deep within the vast expanse of Sarawak's virgin jungle. Even today, the Penan continue to roam the rainforest hunting wild boar and deer with blowpipes. The Penan are skilled weavers and make high-quality rattan baskets and mats. The traditional Penan religion worships a supreme god called Bungan. However, the increasing number who have abandoned the nomadic lifestyle for settlement in longhouses have converted to Christians.
One of the most attractive features of the state of Sarawak and one which sets it aside from many of the other Malaysian states is its cultural diversity. With the 27 distinct indigenous ethnic groups that speak 45 different languages and dialects, Sarawak can be proud to boast racial harmony amongst a population of 2.1 million who adhere to a variety of traditions, practices and religions.
With such a melting pot of customs and cultures, Sarawakians enjoy a variety of colourful festivals throughout the calendar year. The cultural diversity also allows Sarawak to be one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.

Geography and Nature

From a geological point of view the island of Borneo is relatively young having formed approximately 12, 000 years ago. A buckling of the earth's crust about 15 million years ago caused layers of limestone, sandstone and mudstone to form a submerged seascape. Then movement of the Earth's tectonic plates about three million years ago, during the Pliocene epoch, forced a large part of the submerged seascape to rise up from the bottom of the ocean and form a large landmass known as Sundaland. Towards the end of the Great Ice Age, about 12, 000 years ago, ice in the equatorial regions started to melt and Sundaland, which also encompassed islands we today know as Java, Sumatra and the Malay peninsula, became largely submersed and Borneo was formed. However the island has an ancient core (Palaeozoic era or older) to which material was accreted during the Mesozoic and early Cenozoic eras.
Today Borneo is typified by extensive mountain ranges covered in primary and secondary jungle. Huge river systems flow from their sources to the sea via thousands of tributaries. Waterfalls, raging rapids, poring hot springs and wide calm rivers are found all over Borneo. None of the vast range of mountains in Borneo are volcanically active but instead are typified with dramatic limestone outcrops, the same limestone that has given rise to the numerous and famous cave systems, such as the Gomantong and Mulu caves. In Brunei and Kalimantan, the Indonesian state in Borneo, and the largest, coastal areas are typified with mangrove and mud or peat swamps, the same is true for the Malaysian state of Sarawak. It is only on the outer islands and in the state of Sabah, the second Malaysian state of Borneo, where miles of pristine white sand beaches can be found.
Whilst palm oil planting and logging activities inevitably occur the Malay Government is largely able to control them, unlike in the neighbouring Indonesian province of Kalimantan. Large areas of rainforest have been set aside as conservation areas and approximately 20% of Sabah and Sarawak is primary jungle, untouched since its formation thousands of years ago.

Fauna and Flora
Malaysian Borneo is blessed with some of the world's most breathtaking wildlife. With many areas of primary jungle unexplored and numerous coral reefs unvisited, new species are discovered every year. In fact in 2008 WWF published a report that showed at least 52 new species of animal and plant were discovered in Borneo during 2007. The outstanding species diversity and high number of endemic species can be attributed to Borneo's geographical location. During the ice ages of the Pleistocene Borneo's higher altitude and proximity to the equatorial belt allowed the island to avoid the mass extinctions of the more southern and northern latitudes. Since then the inaccessibility of Borneo's plentiful habitats has allowed many of them to exist in isolation.
Amongst the most exciting mammals to see in Borneo are the Borneo pygmy elephant, the smallest of all elephant species. The Clouded leopard and the Bay Cat are just a few of the elusive felines, they share the jungle habitat with Sun Bears and Banteng (wild ox), amongst many others. Although very rarely sighted it is still known the in the heart of the Danum rainforest the mysterious Borneo rhinoceros can be found, a species that until recently was considered extinct. Borneo also has 10 species of Primate, of course the most famous of which is the Orang utan. The Proboscis Monkey, named because of the size of the male's noise, is an endemic species. Two species of macaque, the long and short tail, can be seen all around Borneo. Less easy to find but often heard in the jungle are the gibbons. Smaller but just as acrobatic are tarsiers and slow lories, langurs and leaf monkeys.
There are more than 500 species of bird on Borneo. Some are extremely rare and are only seen, if at all, in their habitats. For example the Kinabalu magpie which can only be found in the higher regions of Mt Kinabalu and Trus Madi mountains. Other rarities include the Bulwer's pheasant and Argus pheasant, Giant pitta, and Bornean bristlehead. All the endemic birds of Borneo are represented in Sabah. The most famous of these, the hornbills, are particularly beautiful, they have a majestic quality about them that leaves you in awe after a sighting. There is also a large variety of raptors including the more common sea eagles and Brahminy kites. Beautiful birds which are rare elsewhere in the world can be found in abundance here, such as the four species of kingfisher, radiantly beautiful and fast flying these birds are often just seen as a flash of colour zipping past you. Herons and Egrets are very common here too. The water buffalos are almost always accompanied by the Cattle Egret who feeds from parasites it finds on the buffalo.
Borneo is home to countless reptiles. Numerous species of lizards, crocodiles, fresh and salt water turtles, tortoises, snakes and frogs to name but a few. Some of the more famous of the 160 species of snake include the reticulated python, arguably the largest snake in the world with individuals found up to 30ft long. Of the venomous snakes the King Cobra, the longest venomous snake in the world, his cousin the Common or Malay cobra and a large group of pit vipers are common around Borneo, although hard to find. The more frequent encounters with reptiles in Borneo occur in lesser populated areas, in the large, sparsely inhabited rivers salt water crocodiles can still be found, while in the peat-swamp forests a sighting of the false gharial, a medium sized crocodile with a bulb on the end of it nose, is always amazing.
Sabah's flora is really quite astonishing. Due to extensive mountain ranges in Sabah many of the species are endemic not just to Borneo but to Sabah as well. The most famous of these is the worlds largest flower the Rafflesia. There are only a few places where there is a good chance to see these plants bloom, the Poring Hot Springs area and the Rafflesia Conservation Area. Many species of Pitcher plant, the Nepenthes, are native to Borneo too. These carnivorous plants are largely found in the higher altitudes although some species can be found in shaded areas lower altitudes. The largest of these species can hold up to 4 liters of digestive liquid.
Whilst there are more than 100 species of commercially grown and hybridised orchids Sabah is home to the world's largest diversity of natural orchids, with over 1000 species growing in the wild. Some of the most sort after and rarest species can be found here, although listed under CITES removal of orchids from the wild is strictly controlled.
Many floral species provide a plethora of building and medicinal uses. Numerous herbs, roots leaves and bark are used by tribes to cure a variety of illnesses and as a source of food and water. Building materials include bamboo, Belian (iron wood) and teak as well as rattan, an incredibly strong vine which is stripped and used to tether virtually anything.
Apart from the jungle trekking the best place to visit and learn about the flora of Borneo is Sabah Agricultural Park. Located near Tenom, about 4 hours drive form Kota Kinabalu ,Sabah Agricultural Park offers a series of fascinating gardens, as well as other recreation such as boating, cycling and camping. Several gardens are dedicated to orchids and the use of economic crops, the park also has a Garden of Evolution.

Historical Info

Sabah and Sarawak, Malaysian Borneo, each being independent states within the Malaysian federation, have a separate and shared histories to each other and with Peninsular (West) Malaysia. Today Malaysia is a cohesive and unified nation, however geographically and historically one can divide Malaysia into two distinct parts: Peninsular Malaysia, the long finger of land extending down from Indochina, and East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak), which occupy the northern segment of the island of Borneo.
Peninsular Malaysia was known as Malaya, and in 1963 Sabah and Sarawak joined Malaya to create Malaysia. It is appropriate therefore to begin with an overview of the history of Malaysia before introducing Sabah and Sarawak separately.

Scientists have found archaeological evidence of human inhabitants in the Niah Caves in Sarawak from about 40,000 years ago. The earliest evidence of inhabitants on the Malay Peninsula that has been found is from about 10,000 years ago. Neolithic culture was well established by 2500-1500 BC. Most scholars believe the earliest settlers on the Malay Peninsula came overland from southern China in small groups over a period of thousands of years. These early inhabitants became the ancestors of the Orang Asli (original or aboriginal persons in Malay).
During the 1000's B.C., new groups of migrants who spoke a language related to Malay came to Malaysia. The ancestors of these people had traveled by sea from south China to Taiwan, and later from Taiwan to Borneo and the Philippines. These people became the ancestors of the Malays and the Orang Laut (sea people). The newcomers settled mainly in the coastal areas of the peninsula.
Small Malayan kingdoms existed in the 2nd or 3rd centuries AD, when adventurers from India arrived and initiated more than 1,000 years of Indian influence. About A.D. 1400, a group of Malay-speaking migrants came to the Malay Peninsula from Srivijaya, a trading kingdom on the island of Sumatra (now part of Indonesia). Led by a Sumatran prince called Paramesvara, these newly arrived immigrants established a commercial kingdom called Malacca and secured Chinese protection for the city-state.
Europeans arrived in what is now Malaysia during the 1500's. Malacca entered a golden age as a commercial and Islamic religious centre but in 1511 it was captured by the Portuguese. When the Dutch captured Malacca in 1641, the port was no longer an important trading center.

(1400-1511) We bring you back to the golden age of Melaka (also spelled Malacca). Melaka - a city steeped in history - was founded in 1400 by a fleeing Palembang prince named Parameswara. Its rise from a village of royal refugees to a wealthy kingdom and international center for the spice trade was swift. During the middle and late 1400's, Melaka gained control over much of the Malay Peninsula, Sumatra, and the key shipping route through the Strait of Malacca. It attracted traders from throughout the world. Perfectly located for trade, within 50 years it was the most influential port in Southeast Asia. At any one time, ships from a dozen kingdoms great and small could be seen in the harbor. In the mid-1400's, Melaka became a Muslim kingdom. The traders brought with them the Islamic religion, and Malacca's rulers now referred to themselves as "sultans." Islam spread throughout the Malay Peninsula and to other parts of Southeast Asia. Melaka's prosperity drew the attention of the Europeans, who wished to gain control of the valuable spice trade. At the height of its power, however, fate would ruin the city as quickly as it built it up. In 1511, the Portuguese seized the commercial kingdom of Melaka from the Malays but were unsuccessful in conquering other areas on the Malay Peninsula. Thus began a colonial legacy that would last well into the 20th century.

(1511-1957) In 1511, a Portuguese fleet led by Alfonso de Albuquerque - and lured by the spice trade - sailed into Malacca's harbor, opened fire with cannons, and captured the city from the Malays. Malacca's golden age had come to an end. The Malays soon moved their center to Johor at the southern end of the Malay Peninsula. Descendants of the ruling family of Melaka also founded other kingdoms on the peninsula. The Portuguese constructed a massive fort in Malacca - A Famosa (picture to the left) - which the Dutch captured in turn in 1641 and ruled there for the next 150 years. This would give the Dutch an almost exclusive lock on the spice trade. Minangkabau peoples from Sumatra migrated to Malaya during the late 17th century, bringing with them a matrilineal culture. In the 18th century the Buginese from the island of Celebes invaded Malaya and established the sultanates of Selangor and Johore.

In 1786, the British acquired Penang Island and established a settlement called George Town there. Gradually, Britain acquired control over more of the area to protect its shipping lanes between China and India. The Dutch traded Malacca with the British for Bencoolen, Sumatra. In 1824, the Dutch signed a treaty which surrendered to the British their possessions on the Malay Peninsula. Nevertheless, total British control was not established until the early 1900's. In 1819, Britain sent Sir William Raffles to establish a trading post on Singapore Island. In 1826, the British formed a colony called the Straits Settlements that included Melaka and the islands of Penang and Singapore. In 1840, James Brooke, a wealthy English adventurer, helped the sultan of Brunei quiet a local rebellion. In return, the sultan ceded the southern part of his territory, present-day Sarawak, to Brooke in 1841 and bestowed on Brooke the title rajah. Brooke and his descendants, called "white rajahs," ruled Sarawak as a self-governing state until the 1940's. In 1881, North Borneo (as Sabah was then called) came under the control of a private trading company called the British North Borneo Company. The British declared North Borneo and Sarawak to be British protectorates in 1888. During the late 19th century Chinese began to migrate to Malaya. In 1896 the Malay states accepted British advisors, and Perak, Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, and Pahang formed a federation. By 1914, Britain had either direct or indirect colonial control over all the lands that now make up Malaysia, which it called British Malaya. British rule took several forms. For example, Britain had direct colonial rule in the Straits Settlements, family control by the Brookes in Sarawak, and corporate control in North Borneo. In the kingdoms on the Malay Peninsula, the British governed indirectly, through local rulers. Britain placed a representative called a resident in each kingdom. The local sultan agreed to accept the resident's advice on political and economic matters.
To increase its revenues from British Malaya, the British expanded tin mining in the late 1800's. They also introduced rubber trees from Brazil and established rubber plantations in the late 1800's and early 1900's. To provide labor for these enterprises, the British imported Chinese workers for the tin mines and Indian laborers for the rubber plantations. To help feed the rapidly expanding work force, the British encouraged the Malays to farm for a living.
The British also encouraged ethnic divisions. For example, the British administered the two main ethnic communities in Kuala Lumpur separately through their Malay and Chinese leaders. By hardening the lines that divided the Malays, Chinese, and Indians, these policies helped keep the groups from uniting against the British.

From the 1890s the British invested heavily in what was then called Malaya, developing transportation and rubber plantations. Coupled with the power of the White Rajahs in Borneo, Britain ruled over Malaya until 1941 when the Japanese invaded Malaya and captured Singapore in early 1942. Japan occupied British Malaya and much of Asia until losing the war in 1945. World War II and its aftermath brought the end of British rule.
After World War II ended in 1945, the British tried unsuccessfully to organize Malaya into one state due to a mature independence movement organized as an alliance under YTM Tunku Abdul Rahman. This led to the birth of Malayan nationalism, which opposed a colonial status. In 1946 the United Malaya National Organization (UMNO) was established. Britain dissolved the Straits Settlements in 1946. In 1948, the kingdoms on the Malay Peninsula, plus Melaka and the island of Penang, united to form the Federation of Malaya, a partially independent territory under British protection. Singapore, North Borneo, and Sarawak became separate crown colonies. In the same year the Malayan Communist Party was formed and began a guerrilla uprising against the British that became known as the Emergency. With Malay help, the British finally subdued the Emergency in 1960, three years after independence. In 1955 the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) joined UMNO in an anticommunist, anticolonial coalition that won 51 of 52 parliamentary seats. The British relinquished their powers, and in 1957 the Federation of Malaya had gained complete independence from Britain. Singapore, which had a mostly Chinese population, remained outside the federation as a British crown colony. Peninsular Malaysia became an independent nation called Malaya in 1957. When the British flag was finally lowered in Kuala Lumpur's Dataran Merdeka in 1957, Tunku became the first prime minister of Malaya (picture).

The first prime minister of the new nation was Tunku Abdul Rahman. Earlier in the 1950's, he and other leaders had formed a political alliance of the three main ethnic parties: the United Malays National Organization, the Malayan Chinese Association, and the Malayan Indian Congress. This three-party partnership, known as the Alliance, was the forerunner of the National Front that is Malaysia's most powerful political organization today.
In 1961, the term "Malaysia" came into being after Tunku convinced Singapore, Sabah, and Sarawak to join Malaya in a federal union. In the 1960s membership in the federation shifted several times, finally settling into the present pattern in 1963, when Malaysia was established. The Malay majority hoped that including Sabah and Sarawak, which had ethnically diverse populations, would balance the large numbers of Chinese from Singapore. Economic and political disputes soon developed between the mostly Chinese state leaders of Singapore and the mostly Malay federal government of Malaysia. In 1965, Singapore withdrew from the federation peacefully and became independent.
In Malaysia, as in the former British Malaya, the ethnic groups followed different traditional occupations. Malaysia was a multi-racial country with a mix of people from many different races and cultures. The Malays controlled government and agriculture, while the Chinese dominated commerce and industry. The Chinese resented the political power of the Malays, and the Malays envied the economic success of the Chinese. The tensions eventually triggered racial violence. In 1969, bloody riots broke out after an election on Peninsular Malaysia. The government declared a state of emergency, suspending the Constitution and Parliament until 1971. It was a painful moment in the young nation's history that most Malaysians prefer to forget. Turbulence in the government went on into the early 1970s, when stability returned and the Malaysian economy began to prosper.
After the riots, Malaysia's political leaders tried to build national unity. They amended the Constitution to forbid discussion, even in Parliament, of certain "sensitive issues," including the special position of the Malays and of Borneo's ethnic groups, and the powers of the Malay sultans. The amendment also required all government bodies to use Bahasa Malaysia as their principal official language. Many non-Malays, however, resented the government's attempts to build national unity through increased emphasis on Malay culture.
Also after the riots, Malaysia's leaders determined to improve the economic conditions of the Malays. In 1971, they launched a 20-year plan called the New Economic Policy to achieve a better balance of wealth among racial groups. To minimize racial politics, the government created in 1974 a multiparty alliance called the National Front, uniting Malay, Chinese, and Islamic groups. Despite considerable regional and ethnic divisions, Malaysia has made significant gains in creating national unity. In the last two decades, Malaysia has undergone tremendous growth and prosperity, and has arguably made significant progress in race relations. Many attribute the country's success to the dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Doktor Mahathir bin Mohamad, who has led the country since 1981.

By the end of the 1990's, the New Economic Policy and its successor, the New Development Policy begun in 1991, had done much to eliminate racial tensions. Malaysia's economy had grown at a robust rate for two decades, and rapid economic growth had brought prosperity to all racial groups in the country. Government leaders announced a new goal called "Vision 2020," which aimed to make Malaysia a fully developed nation with a high standard of living by 2020. The goal suffered a setback, however, when an economic crisis spread throughout Southeast Asia. By 1998, the growth of Malaysia's economy had slowed somewhat, but Malaysia took measures to put its economy back on track. In 1999, some administrative offices began moving to a new city named Putrajaya, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) south of Kuala Lumpur. When completed, Putrajaya will serve as Malaysia's administrative capital. Parliament will remain in Kuala Lumpur.

Sabah's early history and the origination of her indigenous people, their languages and customs are shrouded in mystery, lost in the unwritten past. The earliest evidence of man's footprint in Sabah comes from archaeological excavations around the bed of and ancient lake at Tingkayu, in Eastern Sabah, showing the existence of human habitants as far back as 20,000 years, during the last ice age.
However, today's indigenous inhabitants can find their roots in the Austronesians of Taiwan (they in turn originate from continental Asia) and have no relation to Sabah's earliest inhabitants (what happened to them is also a mystery). These Austronesian speaking people would have migrated to Borneo's shores between 3000 and 1500 BC. This is in concordance with the large scale Austronesian expansion that creates a chain of commonality from its point of origin in Taiwan, through the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, New Zealand, Polynesia, and Hawaii.
By the 10th century AD, Chinese traders began voyages to Borneo exchanging large ceramic storage jars and other items for birds' nests, natural medicines from the jungle, resin, rattan and hornbill casques to the "golden jade" highly prized by China's emperors. According to historical records a Chinese trading settlement existed on the east coast of Sabah along the Kinabatangan River around the 14th Century.
Sabah was, by that time, under the nominal control of the Sultan of Brunei, who ruled over much of north Borneo until the 19th Century, when during a period of colonial expansion various Westerners turned their attention towards Sabah. An Austrian, Baron Von Overbeck, bought the rights to Sabah from the Sultan of Brunei, and just to be on the safe side, also paid the Sultan of Sulu, who exerted considerable influence over trade along the northeast coast. Von Overbeck, together with Englishman Alfred Dent, established the British North Borneo Chartered Company in 1882. This company, with the protection of the British Crown, was to administer Sabah (which they named British North Borneo) until the end of World War II.
In the aftermath of WWII a move towards independence swept through Southeast Asia, and resulted in the colony of North Borneo gaining its own independence in 1963, when it reverted to its original name of Sabah. Shortly afterwards, Sabah, along with neighbouring Sarawak, joined in the formation of the Federation of Malaysia. The colonial name of Jesselton, Sabah's capital, was changed in 1967 to Kota Kinabalu, literally "The City of Kinabalu".

The eastern seaboard of Borneo had been charted (though never settled) by the Portuguese in the early 16th century. The area of today's Sarawak was known to Portuguese cartographers as Cerava. Sarawak had been a loosely governed territory under the control of the Brunei Sultanate in the early 19th century, although in the early 17th century Sarawak had her own the first and the last Sultan, Sultan Tengah. During the reign of Pangeran Indera Mahkota in 19th century, Sarawak was in chaos. Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin II (1827-1852) the Sultan of Brunei, ordered Pangeran Muda Hashim in 1839 to restore order and it was during this time that James Brooke arrived in Sarawak. James Brooke, a British adventurer with an inheritance and an armed sloop, arrived to find the Brunei sultanate fending off rebellion from warlike inland tribes. Brooke put down the rebellion and in reward was granted power over part of Sarawak. Appointing himself 'Raja Brooke', he pacified the 'natives', suppressed head-hunting, eliminated the much-feared Borneo pireates and founded a dynasty that lasted until after WWII. The Brooke family of 'white Raja's' continued to bring tracts of Borneo into their control throughout their rule.
Japan invaded Sarawak and occupied the island of Borneo in 1941, occupying Miri on December 16 and Kuching on December 24, and held it for the duration of World War II until the area was secured by Australian forces in 1945. The Rajah formally ceded sovereignty to the British Crown on July 1, 1946, under pressure from his wife among others. In addition the British Government offered a healthy pension to sweeten the negotiations. His nephew Anthony continued to claim sovereignty as Rajah of Sarawak.
After the end of the Second World War, Anthony Brooke then opposed the cession of the Rajah's territory to the British Crown, and was associated with anti-secessionist groups in Sarawak. Anthony was banished from the country. He was allowed to return only seventeen years later, when Sarawak became part of the Federation of Malaysia.
Sarawak became a British colony (it was formerly an independent state under British protection) in July 1946, but Brooke's campaign continued. The Malays in particular resisted the cession to Britain, dramatically assassinating the first British governor. Sarawak was one of the main sites of the Indonesian Confrontation between 1962 and 1966. It became an autonomous state of the federation of Malaysia on September 16, 1963, despite initial opposition from parts of the population.
Today, Sarawak is an economically important part of Malaysia, accounting for major oil and timber exports. It is also an important producer of pepper, rubber, and palm oil. Tourism is well developed although it is probably one of the least visited of all Malaysia's states. This is a surprising fact as Sarawak has excellent national parks, Kuching is one of the most pleasant cities in Asia, and far up Sarawaks huge rainforest rivers is a fascinating diversity of Dayak tribes and untouched jungles.

Today's heritage highlights:
Monuments and Memorials
Borneo was subject to Japanese occupation during WWII leaving in its wake monuments and memorials dedicated to fallen soldiers.
The Australian Memorial & the Infamous Death March
Located in Sandakan, Sabah, this memorial is dedicated to some 2,700 Australian, British and local prisoners of war who died at the Sandakan POW camp and the death marches in Sabah during the war.
The Death Marches, 1942-1945 started from Sandakan bound for Ranau, a small village on the flanks of Mt Kinabalu, about 250 kilometers to the west of Sabah, through the rugged Borneo jungle interior. The march comprised of POW's (mainly Australian and British soldiers) whom were actually transported to Sandakan by the Japanese in 1942-43, following Singapore's fall to construct a military airfield. In late January 1945 the Japanese decided to move 455 of the fittest prisoners to Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) but had to stop the march at Ranau, due to Allied air activity on the west coast. At the end of May, there was a second march from Sandakan and in mid-June a third and last march, comprised of only 75 men. As both sea and air were under the complete control of the Allies, a track had been cut through the mountains, linking existing bridle-trails which had deliberately been routed away from any habitation, across the most inhospitable and difficult terrain possible. As there was no medical assistance and little food, any 'stragglers' were 'disposed of'. Despite this, about half the prisoners completed the march, only to die at Ranau from illness, malnutrition and ill-treatment by their captors. Two Australians managed to escape in the early stages of the second march with the help of villagers, and four more successfully escaped from Ranau into the jungle, where they were cared for by local people.

Labuan War Memorial & Peace Park
The War Memorial in Labuan is a beautifully landscaped cemetery dedicated to 3,900 Australian, New Zealand and British servicemen who lost their lives during the war. A section is also dedicated to the Indian soldiers of the Punjab Regiment. The Peace Park on the west coast of Labuan is also dedicated to fallen soldiers. Located next the park is Surrender Point, built as a memorial on the spot where the commander of the Japanese Army surrendered to the Austrialian 9th Division on 9th September 1945. This led to the end of World War II in Borneo.
Historic Buildings and Sites
Kuching, the capital of Sarawak, has some of Borneo's best 19th Century buildings, constructed during the rule of Charles Brooke, the second White Rajah of Sarawak. The Astana (1870) was built as Brooke's residence, and is now the governor's residence. Fort Margherita (1879) named for Charles Brooke's wife, originally the police headquarters, now houses the Police Museum. The Square Tower (1879), built as a prison, is now a multimedia information centre and video theatre, providing information and documentaries on Sarawak's tourist attractions. The Court House complex (1874), a superb collection of buildings, includes the colonial-baroque Clock Tower, and the Charles Brooke Memorial built in 1924. The complex also includes the Pavilion building - a piece of old New Orleans transplanted to Kuching and completed in 1909 - and the Round Tower, originally planned as a fort in 1886.
In Sabah, very few buildings survived the bombing at the end of WWII. Sandakan, the pre-war capital, has three surviving structures. The Sam Sing Kung Temple is the oldest building in Sandakan and the Tham Kung Temple, built in 1894, has a unique 'temple within a temple' feature - a new temple was built around the original. St Micheal's and All Angels Church is a beautiful granite church begun in 1893 which took 20 years to complete. 
The house of Agnes Keith is now a popular tourist stop for those who have read her books. Her first book on Sabah, "Land Below the Wind", helped to popularise the old seafarer's name for Sabah. It describes her life in Sandakan from 1934 to 1942. Although of a pre-war design, the house was rebuilt after the war. 
In Kota Kinabalu only three buildings were left standing after WWII. The Atkinson Clock Tower built in 1905 in memory of the city's first District Officer who died at the age of 28 of 'Borneo fever'; the colonial Post Office building constructed in 1916 to house various government offices which now houses the Sabah Tourism Board office; and the Welfare Department Building constructed around 1910. It was destroyed in a fire in 1992.
In Labuan, the Chimney Information Centre, built in 1999 using the design of a colonial-era school, is a site museum which traces the history of coal mining on the island. The coal mines of Tanjung Kubong were in operation from 1847 till 1912. The Chimney Tower, underground tunnels and coal-mining shafts are relics of this once highly successful commercial era in Labuan's history.
The Sabah Museum has excellent displays of costumes and accessories worn by the various indigenous peoples of Sabah, musical instruments, ceramics and brassware. The photo collection gives a valuable insight into Sabah's modern history from the 1930's till the present. Another interesting section of the Sabah Museum is the Heritage Village, set in the museum grounds. Here you can wander about the traditional houses of Sabah's major tribes, and see their tools and fishing traps on display. In the gardens, herbs, vegetables and medicinal plants used for food and healing are grown.
The old wing of the Sarawak Museum, built in 1891 in the style of a Normandy town house, has one of the best collections of any museum in Southeast Asia. The exhibition of traditional woodcarvings is magnificent, as are the splendid Chinese ceramics and furniture, art gallery and archaeological exhibits, including a reconstruction of the early human settlements at Niah Caves.
Other museums in Sarawak are dedicated to some fascinating themes. These include the Cat Museum, Chinese History Museum, Islamic Museum, Timber Museum, Police Museum, and Pua Kumbu (textile) museum.