Malay Union

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Malay Union flag
Malay States and Straits Settlements, 1922

The Malay Union was a federation on the Malay Peninsula and the predecessor of the Malaya and Malaysia Federation . It was founded in 1946 by the British colonial power as a Federation of the Malay States ( Federated Malay States and Unfederated Malay States ) and the Straits Settlements without Singapore and existed until the Federation of Malaya was founded in 1948. While the Malay States were protectorates in the Union , remained Penang and Malacca British Crown Colonies .


The intention of forming a Malay Union was first expressed by the British in October 1945. In the same month Sir Harold MacMichael was commissioned to obtain the approval of the rulers of the Malay states. Before long, all the sultans had signed after they were intimidated.

On April 1, 1946, the Malay Union was officially established. Sir Edward Gent was its first governor and Kuala Lumpur the capital.


The Malays were against the Malay Union from the start. Just one month after the Union was founded, the UMNO was founded, in which the resistance formed.

The Malay resistance had three main reasons:

  • the way MacMichael got the signatures of the sultans
  • the erosion of the power of the sultans
    The traditional rulers of the Malay states had to cede almost all powers to the British crown, with the exception of cultural and religious matters. The sultans were called presidents from then on. The whole union was ruled by a British governor.
  • the generous granting of citizenship
    In the Malay Union, the ius soli was applied . All citizens were promised equal rights regardless of ethnicity. The main criticism of the Malays was that Chinese people who had only recently immigrated were able to obtain citizenship of Malaysia. The Chinese were seen as a threat to Malaysia's economic development because of their dominant position in the economy.


The British eventually gave in to pressure from the Malays. The Malay Union was dissolved on January 31, 1948 and replaced by the Malaya Federation , which strengthened the role of the Malays in society and made naturalization more difficult.

The Malaya Federation later became part of the Malaysia Federation .

See also