During our passage through this part of the world, I found it a little difficult to get my head around this whole Malaysia area. Singapore is Singapore and the rest of our stops seem to be Malaysia but almost appear independent. So I heard a little of the history on my tours in Brunei and Kuching (Borneo), and did a little research on my own to help me understand this area. This blog is more to get my head around and remember these facts. I hope it’s not too boring. I was surprised at how much I did not understand about this part of the world and how much events in other parts of the world played into the development of the many countries on this side of the globe.
So a little background – Before World War II, the Malay Peninsula was governed by the British as the Federated Malay States.
World War II was disastrous for the British Malayan Command. The Japanese swept down both coasts of the Malay Peninsula. Despite fierce fighting, and because most of the British military was tied down fighting the Germans in Europe, those that remained in Malaya simply could not cope with the Japanese onslaught. The British military equipment that was left to defend Malaya, was outdated and no match for the modern equipment used by the Japanese. Plus the only two battleships based in the region, the HMS Prince of Wales and HMS Repulse, were sunk by Japanese bombers off the East Coast of Malaya.
By January 1942, the British had been pushed all the way back to Singapore, which then fell to the Japanese in February 1942. The situation was no different on Borneo, which fell to the Japanese in April 1942 after months of fierce fighting. The Japanese occupation was brutal, and many, particularly the ethnic Chinese, suffered and perished during the occupation. Among the most notorious atrocities committed by the Japanese were the Sandakan Death Marches, where few survived.
For me, when I was in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I was questioning why anyone could justify dropping that bomb on Japan or any other place for that matter. But with the history that I have learned since, as we have travelled through these countries who were involved with fighting the Japanese, it becomes a little more clear why countries like the UK and Australia, Philippines and the US all agreed that dropping the bomb was the only way to stop the Japanese.
I am still not convinced that anything could justify the A Bomb, that there could not have been some other way to settle all of this, because the devastation and destruction of the bomb was unthinkable. And sad. And in my opinion, A Bombs and H Bombs should be destroyed and never used again on anyone anywhere in our world.
After World War II, the Federated Malay States, the unfederated Malay States, and the Straits Settlements of Malacca and Penang were federated to form a single British colony known as the Malayan Union, with Singapore splitting off to form a separate colony.
In the Malayan Union, the sultans of the various states ceded all their powers, except those in religious affairs, to the British crown. However, widespread opposition to the Malayan Union led the British to reconsider their position, and in 1948, the Malayan Union was replaced by the Federation of Malaya, in which the executive positions of the sultans were restored. When Malaya invited Sabah, Sarawak, and Brunei to unite to form the Federation of Malaysia, there was a dispute in the Borneo states on whether joining Malaya would be a good idea. Sabah and Sarawak eventually decided to join under a list of circumstances (they didn’t join with Malaya to be regarded as states, but as separate national entities forming a federation).
Brunei did not want to join Malaysia primarily due to the fact that the Sultan of Brunei would not have as much power as he would being the only monarch, and also possibly because the distribution of their oil would have to go to the entire country and not stay within their own.
In the long run, I think Brunei not joining Malaysia was a good move for them, since Sabah and Sarawak today do not have the privileges that were agreed upon, and that most of their resources do not go to their state governments, causing them to be the poorest states in Malaysia. Brunei on the other hand is wealthy and continues to grow and I guess will do so as long as the oil and gas hold out. It’s been an interesting journey through this area and a large learning curve.
And now onto Beautiful Bali…