Malayan Union

From Academic Kids

The Malayan Union was formed in 1946 by the British. It was a confederation of the Malay states and the Straits Settlements excluding Singapore, which was placed as a crown colony under direct British rule. It was conceived to simplify the administration of British colonies in the Malay Peninsula.

Few of the key details of the Union were:

  • Malayan citizenship that would give equal rights to all would be citizens regardless of race
  • citizenship based on the jus soli principle
  • the transformation of the title Sultan to President.

In a way, the Sultans, the traditional rulers of the Malay states, would concede all their powers to the British Crown except in the matters of culture and religion. The Union would be ultimately placed under the rule of a British Governor.

The idea of the Union was first expressed by the British on October 1945 in the aftermath of the Second World War. Sir Harold MacMichael was assigned the task of gathering the Malay state rulers' approval for the Malayan Union in the same month. In a short period of time, he managed to obtain all the Rulers’ signatures through intimidation.

On April 1, 1946, the Malayan Union officially came into existence with Sir Edwand Gent as its first governor. The capital of the Union was Kuala Lumpur.

The Malays opposed the creation of the Union. The opposition was mainly due to the way Sir Harold MacMichael acquired the Sultans’ signatures, the erosion of the Sultans’ powers and the offering of citizenship to recent immigrants mainly the ethnic Chinese because their economic dominance was seen as a threat to the economic development of the Malays. The United Malays National Organization, orUMNO, a Malay political association formed by Dato’ Onn Jaafar on March 1, 1946, led the opposition against the Malayan Union.

In the end, due to tremendous internal pressure inside the Malayan Union, the British finally conceded to the local opposition. The Malayan Union ceased to exist on January 31, 1948. It was replaced by the Federation of Malaya (Persekutuan Tanah Melayu in Malay) which recognised the position of the Malays as the definitive people of Malaya as well as outlining stricter conditions on the granting of citizenship.

The Federation of Malaya would later become part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.

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