Federation of Malaya
Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (Malay)
Anthem: God Save the King / Queen (1948–1957)
Negaraku (1957–1963)
Location of the Federation of Malaya (dark blue)
Location of the Federation of Malaya (dark blue)
StatusProtectorate of the United Kingdom (1948–1957)
Sovereign state (1957–1963)
and largest city
Kuala Lumpur
3°8′N 101°41′E / 3.133°N 101.683°E / 3.133; 101.683
Common languagesMalay (official) and English
GovernmentFederation as British protectorate (1948–1957)
Federal parliamentary elective constitutional monarchy (1957–1963)
• 1948–1952
George VI
• 1952–1957
Elizabeth II
• 1957–1960
Abdul Rahman
• 1960
• 1960–1963
High Commissioner 
• 1948
Edward Gent
• 1948–1951
Henry Gurney
• 1952–1954
Gerald Templer
• 1954–1957
Donald MacGillivray
Head of government 
• 1955–1957
Tunku Abdul Rahman
(as Chief Minister)
• 1957–1963
Tunku Abdul Rahman
(as Prime Minister)
LegislatureFederal Legislative Council
(since 1959)
Dewan Negara (Senate)
(since 1959)
Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives)
(since 1959)
• Established
1 February 1948[1]
31 August 1957
16 September 1963
CurrencyMalayan dollar (1948–1953)
Malaya and British Borneo dollar (1953–1967)
Time zoneUTC+7:30 (Malaya Standard Time)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Malayan Union
Crown Colony of Malacca
Crown Colony of Penang
Today part ofMalaysia

The Federation of Malaya (Malay: Persekutuan Tanah Melayu; Jawi: ڤرسكوتوان تانه ملايو), more commonly known as Malaya, was a country of what previously had been the Malayan Union and more previously, British Malaya. It comprised eleven states – nine Malay states and two of the Straits Settlements, Penang and Malacca. It was established on 1 February 1948.[2]

Initially a self-governing colony, Malaya became sovereign on 31 August 1957,[3] and on 16 September 1963, Malaya was superseded by Malaysia when it united with Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah), and Sarawak.[4] Singapore was expelled on 9 August 1965, leaving the original states of Malaya as well as Sarawak and Sabah – now also known as East Malaysia – making up modern-day Malaysia.


From 1946 to 1948, the eleven states formed a single British crown colony known as the Malayan Union.[5] Due to opposition from Malay nationalists, the Union was disbanded and replaced by the Federation of Malaya, which restored the symbolic positions of the rulers of the Malay states.

Within the Federation, while the Malay states were protectorates of the United Kingdom, Penang and Malacca remained British colonial territories. Like the Malayan Union before it, the Federation did not include Singapore, despite its traditional connections with Malaya.

The Malaya Agreement was formulated by the British–Malay Pleno Conference between June and December 1946. At the end of the meeting, the Pleno Conference produced a 100-page "Blue Book."[6] It was signed on 21 January 1948 at King House by the Malay rulers, and by Sir Edward Gent as the representative of the British government.[7] The Agreement superseded the Agreement creating the Malayan Union, and prepared for the establishment of the Federation of Malaya on 1 February 1948. The position of the Malay rulers was also restored.

The Federation became independent from British colonial rule and became an independent member of the Commonwealth of Nations on 31 August 1957.[2][8] In 1963, the Federation was reconstituted as "Malaysia" when it federated with the British territories of Singapore, Sarawak, and North Borneo; a claim to the latter territory was maintained by the Philippines.[9][10] Singapore separated from Malaysia to become an independent republic on 9 August 1965.[11]

List of member states

System of government

The government of the Federation of Malaya was headed by a British High Commissioner with executive powers, assisted and advised by the Federation of Malaya Executive Council and the Federation of Malaya Legislative Council.

Conditions of citizenship

The conditions of citizenship of the Federation of Malaya were further tightened using law enforcement and naturalisation by application. Under the laws, the following were automatically granted citizenship:

  1. Citizens of the Sultan of any state
  2. British subjects born in Penang or Malacca who have lived continuously for 15 years in the federation
  3. British subjects born in the federation whose fathers were born or lived continuously for 15 years in the federation
  4. Anyone born in the federation, conversant in the Malay language and following Malay traditions in his or her daily life
  5. Anyone born in the federation whose parents were born and lived continuously for 15 years in the federation

Via naturalisation (by application), one could achieve citizenship, given these criteria:

  1. Born and lived for at least 8 of 12 years in the Federation of Malaya before the application was made
  2. Lived in the Federation of Malaya for at least 15 of 20 years before the application was made

In both cases (via naturalisation), applications must be well-behaved, swear allegiance and clarify their reasons for living in the federation, and are fluent in either the Malay or the English language.

The Federation of Malaya, through its constitution, guarantees the rights and special position of the Malay people as well as rights, powers and sovereignty of the Malay rulers in their respective states.[13]

Separation of powers of the federal and state governments

The federation agreement (Perjanjian Persekutuan) set the powers of the federal and state governments. Financial matters must be handled by the respective states. The Sultan was given full power on religious issues and Malay customs. Foreign policy and defence continued to be administered by the British government. The federation agreement was made the Constitution of the Federation of Malaya and officially declared on 1 February 1948.[6]

Federation of Malaya Legislative Council

Dato' Onn bin Jaafar Mentri Besar of Johor, and President of the United Malays National Organisation, unpacking the State and Federation of Malaya Agreements with Dr. W. Linehan, C.M.G. Adviser on Constitutional Affairs, for the signatures of His Highness the Sultan of Johor, 1948

The Federation of Malaya Legislative Council held its first meeting in the Tuanku Abdul Rahman Hall, Kuala Lumpur in 1948. It was opened by the British High Commissioner Sir Edward Gent. Attendees included the British Minister of State for Colonial Affairs, Lord Listowel. The membership of the Council was structured to include:

The unofficial members were required to be either Federation citizens or British subjects.

In 1948 the ethnic composition of the council was made up as follows:

Dato' Onn Jaafar stressed at the first meeting that the citizens of the Federation of Malaya did not want the interference of external powers in the affairs of the Federation; the Chinese representative Ong Chong Keng asserted that the Chinese people would be loyal to the Federation of Malaya. At this first Council meeting, several minor committees were formed:

The first session passed the Kuala Lumpur City Bill, the Transfer of Power Bill, and the Loan and Debt Bill.[14]

Registration of PKMM rejected

In 1950, the Federation of Malaya Government rejected the registration of the Malay Nationalist Party of Malaya (Parti Kebangsaan Melayu Malaya, PKMM) as a legitimate political party. PKMM had two wings, namely Angkatan Pemuda Insaf and Angkatan Wanita Sedar. Initially, PKMM did not have communist leanings. After Mokhtaruddin Lasso was elected as the first PKMM president in October 1946, this party was influenced with communism. The Young Malays Union (Kesatuan Melayu Muda, KMM) merged with PKMM, and Burhanuddin al-Helmy became the second PKMM president. Burhanuddin led PKMM toward the formation of Melayu Raya, a merger of Indonesia and Malaya. In December 1947, Ishak Haji Mohamed became the third PKMM president and PKMM switched from communism to nationalism. PKMM tended against United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and colonisation. PKKM established the Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (PUTERA), a conglomeration of radical Malay Political Parties and then merged with the All-Malaya Council of Joint Action (AMCJA) which thoroughly opposed the 1948 Federation Agreement for the foundation of the Federation of Malaya. PKMM accused officials selected in the Federation of Malaya of being "puppets" of the "Colonial Office". For PKMM, there was no basis in "preparing Malaya as a democratic government".[15]


The judicial system was a typical hierarchical structure consisting of lower courts, a High Court and a Court of Appeal. Successive Chief Justices were Sir Stafford Foster-Sutton (1952–1953) (afterwards Chief Justice of Nigeria, 1955), Sir Charles Mathew (1953–1956) and Sir James Beveridge Thomson (1957–1963).


Federation of Malaya Population[16]
Ethnic Group 1948 1951
Malay 2,457,014 2457014
2,631,154 2631154
Chinese 1,928,965 1928965
2,243,971 2243971
Indian 536,646 536646
566,371 566371
Other 64,802 64802
75,726 75726
Total 4,987,427 5,517,222

Evolution of Malaysia

Evolution of Malaysia

See also


  1. ^ "Federation of Malaya is inaugurated - Singapore History". eresources.nlb.gov.sg. Archived from the original on 8 October 2015. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  2. ^ a b See: Cabinet Memorandum by the Secretary of State for the Colonies. 21 February 1956 Federation of Malaya Agreement
  3. ^ The UK Statute Law Database: Federation of Malaya Independence Act 1957 (c. 60)[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "No.10760: Agreement relating to Malaysia" (PDF). United Nations Treaty Collection. United Nations. July 1963. Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 May 2011. Retrieved 29 July 2010.
  5. ^ Burgess, Michael; Pinder, John (2007). Multinational Federations. Routledge. ISBN 9781134120864. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Constitution Of The Federation Of Malaya Announced". National Archives of Malaysia. 23 December 1946. Archived from the original on 13 September 2019. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  7. ^ Hale, Christopher (2013). Massacre in Malaya: Exposing Britain's My Lai. History Press. ISBN 9780750951814. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 21 August 2015.
  8. ^ "1957: Malaya celebrates independence". BBC News. Retrieved 9 August 2016.
  9. ^ "United Nations Treaty No. 8029, Manila Accord between Philippines, Federation of Malaya and Indonesia (31 July 1963)" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  10. ^ "Exchange of notes constituting an agreement relating to the implementation of the Manila Accord of 31 July 1963" (PDF). Archived (PDF) from the original on 29 October 2013. Retrieved 23 July 2013.
  11. ^ See: the Independence of Singapore Agreement 1965 and the Proclamation of Singapore.
  12. ^ a b See: The UK Statute Law Database: Formation of the Malay States and of the Settlements of Penang and Malacca Archived 16 January 2014 at the Wayback Machine into a new independent Federation of States under Federation of Malaya Constitution
  13. ^ "Formation of The Federation of Malaya". National Archives of Malaysia. 1 February 1948. Archived from the original on 13 September 2019. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  14. ^ "Inaugural Conference of The Federation of Malaya Legislative Council". National Archives of Malaysia. 24 February 1948. Archived from the original on 13 September 2019. Retrieved 13 September 2019.
  15. ^ Rejection of the registration of the Malay Nationalist Party of Malaya[permanent dead link]
  16. ^ Annual Report on the Federation of Malaya: 1951 in C.C. Chin and Karl Hack, Dialogues with Chin Peng pp. 380, 81.