The Road to Independence

This is a timeline of the important events and decisions along Malaysia's path to Independence. Malaya achieved Independence on 31st August 1957 from the British, and Malaysia was formed with the inclusion of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore, on 16th September 1963. Singapore seceded from Malaysia in August 1965.

Organised Opposition to the Federation

The Malayan Democractic Union, the Malay Nationalist Party, the Singapore Federation of Trade Unions, the Malayan Indian Congress, and the Ceylon Tamils Association were among the parties that formed the Council for Joint Action to oppose the Federation, which later became the Pan-Malaysian Council for Joint Action (PMCJA). The PMCJA sent letters to the Press and organised rallies nationwide.

White Paper on the Malayan Union is Published

The British finally published its White Paper on the Malayan Union, detailing its plans for citizenship and eventual self-rule. The White Paper presented the Malayan Union as a fait accompli, citing the Sultans' formal agreement with MacMichael. The British Governor's assent to all matters was now required, including matters related to Islam.

Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (PUTERA) Formed

Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (PUTERA) or Central Force of the People formed to oppose the Federation and offer an alternative proposal. PUTERA then joined forces with the PMCJA to form the AMCJA (All-Malaya Council of Joint Action) which sent a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in March 1947.

Sukarno Meets Ibrahim Yaacob in Taiping

On 8th August, an Indonesian delegation headed by Sukarno and Mohammad Hatta had talks on Indonesian independence in Saigon with the Japanese. On the way back, they stopped in Taping to meet with Ibrahim Yaacob and other KMM officials. Ibrahim told Sukarno of the idea of "Melayu Raya" (or Indonesia Raya). Sukarno was said to have been enthusiastic, but Hatta less so. (Source: Red Star Over Malaya, Cheah Boon Kheng, NUS Press)


At the time of the Japanese surrender, the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA), a resistance offshoot of the Malayan Communist Party, emerged as the strongest political (and armed) group in Malaya. There were between 3,000 to 7,000 members of the MPAJA. (Source: Red Star Over Malaya, Cheah Boon Kheng, NUS Press).

MCP Takes a Military Stance

At the Fourth Plenum of the Central Committee, there was an ideological shift in the MCP towards armed conflict. This was a departure from their immediate post-war stance of a peaceful struggle.


The left-leaning Kesatuan Melayu Muda (KMM) led by Ibrahim Yaacob was formed in 1938. It consisted of graduates of the Sultan Idris Training College (SITC) who later joined up with Malay graduates from other institutions such as MCKK. Their aim was to achieve Independence for Malaya through a political union with Indonesia, forming Melayu Raya or Indonesia Raya. During the Japanese Occupation, KMM sought the patronage of the Japanese, believing that the Japanese would grant Malaya Independence. However, the Japanese disbanded KMM in 1942, out of fear of a political uprising against them.

The MCP Changes Strategy

The MCP changes direction once again, urging its branches to focus on organising "the masses" rather than military attacks. This possibly stemmed from the government's resettlement of Chinese families (regarded as Communist sympathisers) to "new villages" guarded by barbed wire which made communications and procurement of supplies such as food, difficult.

PUTERA-AMCJA Unveils the People's Constitutional Proposals

PUTERA-AMCJA unveiled a 60-page set of constitutional proposals in July 1947. The final document was the accepted compromise between the various groups of the coalition. Among the proposals were: a) People born in Malaya were to be automatically "Melayu" citizens and had to renounce other citizenships; b) Malay was to be the official language of the country; c) for the first nine years, 55% or more representatives in central legislative council are to be Malays, and d) All citizens to be accorded equal rights and opportunities.

The MCP & Labour Unions

After the war, the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) focused on organising the mainly Chinese labour force in the country. By April 1947, the Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU) was estimated to have 263,000 members, and was said to control 80% to 90% of the trade unions in Malaya. They championed workers' rights for better living conditions and equal pay among others, especially in the tin and rubber industries. Through the labour unions, strikes were organised to wring concessions.

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