7 triumphant moments that helped shape Malaysia into the resilient nation it is today

Malaysia turns 63 on August 31, 2020.

It’s hard to believe for many of the older generation, that the country is now six decades old. While there have been many events that helped shaped the Southeast Asian nation to what it is today, here are 6 that I feel played a pivotal role.

These are the triumphs that Malaysians experienced as the country progressed over the years. We’ll start with the most obvious one.

1. Achieving independence without a drop of blood shed.

In Malay, the country’s national language, the word merdeka means ‘independence’. Unlike other Asian nations that were under British rule, Malaysia (then referred to as Malaya), achieved its independence without a drop blood spilled.

The founding fathers: Tunku Abdul Rahman (Malaysia’s first prime minister), Tan Cheng Lock, V. T. Sambanthan, and many others were instrumental in ensuring that the country not only achieved independence peacefully but also made sure the three major races lived in harmony with each other.

The peaceful means the nation achieved its independence became embedded in Malaysia’s DNA. Many Malaysians are known to be warm and friendly and the nation has been relatively peaceful despite several political crisis here and there.

2. Ending a confrontation with Indonesia peacefully.

British forces during the confrontation in Borneo. IMAGE: Wikipedia.

The 1960s was a period of uncertainty for Malaysia. Following the creation of Malaysia after Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore agreed to form the nation in September 16, 1963, Indonesia immediately declared that it didn’t recognize the formation.

This led to a three year period of hostility between the two nations, now dubbed the Indonesia–Malaysia confrontation or Borneo confrontation.

Despite Singapore leaving Malaysia on 9 August 1965, Malaysia was again able to sit down with Indonesia and negotiate a peace deal. On 11 August 1966, Indonesia officially recognized Malaysia.

3. Dominating the Thomas Cup.

Many Malaysians still remember the Thomas Cup victory of 1992. IMAGE: SAYS.

If Brazil is known for soccer and India is known for cricket, Malaysia is well known for badminton.

In fact, even before achieving its independence, the Malaysian badminton was already kicking butts in the courts. Malaya was the first nation to lift the Thomas Cup (badminton’s version of the World Cup) in 1949 and they won the coveted trophy three times in a row beating the U.S. and Denmark.

Malaysia reclaimed the title in 1967 and once again in 1992 after beating its rival Indonesia. The sport has brought many Malaysians together and will continue to do so for many years to come.

4. Overcoming doubts through the Proton Saga.

 
The Proton Saga. IMAGE: Carsome.

In the 1980s, as Malaysia grew economically, it began toying with the idea of producing its own car.

While many had their doubts if Malaysia is capable of producing its own national car, the Southeast Asian nation made many of its doubters do a double take when the Proton Saga on July 9, 1985.

The first Proton to hit the streets was the result of a partnership with Japan’s Mitsubishi Motors and was the brainchild of Malaysia’s then prime minister, Mahathir Mohamad. Today, the Proton brand is known worldwide.

5. Weathering the Asian financial crisis.

The Asian financial crisis badly affected many nations. IMAGE: The Wall Street Journal.

Despite not economically strong as Singapore in current times, Malaysia was among the nations that was the first to strongly bounce back from the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

The crisis, which began in Thailand on July 2, 1997 when the Thai baht collapsed after Thailand floated the baht due to lack of support from foreign currencies, quickly spread across the region.

Property prices, the stock market, and other assets had their values significantly reduced. Despite being among the many nations that was adversely affected, Malaysia’s rebound was extremely strong due to well executed macroeconomic policies and a demand for electronics.

6. The Commonwealth Games.

The year was 1998. Malaysia had successfully maneuvered its way from the Asian financial crisis and hosted one of the most memorable Commonwealth Games – a first for Asia.

Despite an internal political crisis between Mahathir and his then deputy, Anwar Ibrahim, Malaysia managed to put on a memorable show as the host of the sports tournament.

The Southeast Asian nation ranked 11 and nabbed 59 gold medals – a feat many had initially doubted. The games also revealed that Malaysia is capable of organizing international sporting events.

7. A change of hands.

 
Mahathir Mohamad (centre) admitted that he didn’t expect the Pakatan Harapan coalition to win.

After 61 years of reign, Barisan Nasional was removed from power after Mahathir made a return to politics through Pakatan Harapan.

Despite the government being short-lived, many Malaysians will never forget the triumphant moment when the inevitable happened: The fall of a six decade old government that was deemed corrupt.

As the nation turns 63, what more triumphant moments will take place? Only time will tell.

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Cover image sourced from baoquocte and Brian J. Chong.