31 August 1957: the Federation of Malaya declares independence from the UK

On this day in 1957, after ten years of preparation, the Federation of Malaya became an independent nation.

In 1771 the UK set up a trading post on the Malay Peninsula, in the northern province of Penang. Almost 200 years later, on 31 August 1957, the region would establish its own independent government, rebelling from the British and instituting The Federation of Malaya. In a significant move towards decolonisation, the new government united its 11 member states under the new flag, eventually leading to the formation of Malaysia as the nation we know today.

The political decisions that led to the autonomy of the Federation were made a decade before, though took years to implement as the decoupling process developed. At the end of the British-Malay Pleno Conference, which lasted from June to December in 1946, representatives from both parties agreed how the Federation would form its own sovereign state, signing what has now become the famous ‘Blue Book’ (the official document detailing the conditions of independence). This early form of government consisted of a dual system of legislative and executive councils, which balanced responsibilities between each other beneath the remaining British High Commissioner, who was advised by both parties in the conduct of policy during these interim years.

Finally, once the preparations and political infrastructure required for sovereign governance were developed significantly, the Federation of Malaya was declared an independent nation on this day in 1957, with Tunku Abdul Rahman becoming its first prime minister. Despite the ejection of Singapore in August 1965, the state of Malaysia has grown to prominence throughout Southeast Asia, with its capital Kuala Lumpur serving as one of the major trading hubs of the area.

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