General Information
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Malaysia practices parliamentary democracy with constitutional monarchy. His Majesty the Yang di-Pertuan Agong is the head of state.

Parliament is the most important institution in a country which practices the principles of democracy.

The Parliament of Malaysia consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives held its first meeting on 11 September 1959.

Listed below are the important events which lead towards parliamentary democracy in Malaysia.

    The Straits Settlements Legislative Council was established following the transfer of the Straits Settlements (Penang, Singapore and Malacca) from the English East India Company to Colonial Office.
The Legislative Council was the first institution in the country which had debates and discussions which shows the characteristic of modern Parliament.
Independent Malay States of Perak, Selangor, Pahang and Negeri Sembilan entered into a confederation collectively known as the Federated Malay States (FMS).  
This was a significant development as a foundation was laid for the eventual adoption of a federal system of government for the entire country like what we have today.

There was no legislative body to formulate and regulate laws for the four states as a whole before the Federation.

The respective State Councils in the four states continued to pass legislation in respect of their own states.
A central legislative body known as the Federal Council was established along parliamentary lines for the four Federated Malay States.

The Federal Council was a nominated Assembly with 13 members, including the Rulers of the four Federated Malay States, the Resident General, four British Residents and four unofficial members.

The formation of the Council was one step towards parliamentary democratic system of the government.
The Rulers from the Federated Malay States withdrew from the Federal Council.

The restructuring of the Federal Council changed its membership to 13 official members and 11 unofficial members.

The Federal Council was the only nominated body until the outbreak of the Second World War in December 1941.
The Japanese Occupation (1942-1945) caused the suspension of all constitutional development but at the same time it brought about political consciousness among the people.
An Advisory Council was formed and had 13 members representing the Malay States and two Straits Settlements, Malacca and Penang.

Meanwhile the British tried to unite the three systems of administration (Federated Malay States, Unfederated Malay States, Straits Settlements – Malacca and Penang) through the Malayan Union.

The Malayan Union was greatly opposed by the Malays led by Dato' Onn Jaafar who was then the President of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO).

It was felt that the Malayan Union would deprive the Malay Rulers of their sovereignty
Resistance against the Malayan Union resulted in the Federation of Malaya Agreement in 1948. The Federal Legislative Council was established which replaced the Federal Council at the federal level.

The Federal Legislative Council consisted of 75 members (three ex-officio, 11 from the Malay states and the Straits Settlements, 11 British officials and 50 unofficial members). This was the first time the Legislative Council had two thirds unofficial majority.

The Agreement was another step taken by the British to formulate the basic principles of a government with Parliament.
A “Member System” which was the forerunner of the present Cabinet system was introduced. Members were entrusted with several portfolios under their charge.
The Malay Rulers presented an official Mace to the Council. The Mace symbolizes the supreme authority and prestige of the Council.
The British High Commissioner ceased to preside over the Council. In his place a Speaker was appointed. The first Speaker of the Federal Legislative Council was Dato' Sir Mahmud bin Mat.
The Federal Legislative Council established under the Federation of Malaya Agreement was dissolved to make way for a General Election. This marked the first time that the people of Malaya went to the polls to elect their representatives to the Federal Legislative Council.

In the first general elections the Alliance which were United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) and Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC)) won 51 out of 52 seats contested. Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra was appointed the first Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya and thereby formed his first Cabinet.

Members of the Federal Legislative Council were increased to 98 members, 52 elected members replaced 50 unofficial members, 35 nominated members represented various interests, the remaining 11 was made up of Chief Ministers of the nine Malay States and one representative each from Penang and Malacca.

This event was a significant progress towards achieving Parliamentary democracy in the nation.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra, the Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya led an “Independence Mission” to London to ask the British to grant independence to Malaya.

The British Government agreed to give Malaya complete self-government.
A Constitution for a fully independent and sovereign Malaya was drawn up by an independent body of distinguished jurists from several Commonwealth countries headed by Lord Reid.

The Federal Constitution was unanimously adopted by the Federal Legislative Council and it was decided that Parliamentary democracy based on the Westminster model was best for the country.

Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra was appointed as the first Prime Minister of Malaya and his Cabinet consisted of 12 members.

On 31 August 1957, independence was declared at Merdeka Stadium. The Federal Legislative Council remained a unicameral Parliament until its dissolution in June 1959.
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra with his first Cabinet after Independence. Seated from left to right : Abdul Aziz Ishak, V.T. Sambanthan, Dato' Abdul Razak Hussein, Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, H.S. Lee, Sulaiman Dato' Abdul Rahman and Sardon Hj. Zubir. Standing from left to right: Ong Yoke Lin, Abdul Rahman Talib, Mohamed Khir Johari, Tan Siew Sin, and Bahaman Shamsuddin (Source: Arkib Negara Malaysia)

With the achievement of Independence on 31 August 1957 the nation had for the first time a Head of State – the late His Majesty Tuanku Abdul Rahman ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Muhammad.

In accordance with the provisions of the Federal Constitution, His Majesty the King is a constitutional monarch chosen from among the Malay Rulers by the Conference of Rulers.
The 1st General Election was held. A bicameral Parliament was formed which constituted of His Majesty the King, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
Opening of the First Parliament by His Majesty the 1st King, Tuanku Abdul Rahman ibni Al-Marhum Tuanku Muhammad at Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall, Jalan Ampang The First Meeting of the First Session of the First Parliament took place at Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall, Jalan Ampang.

His Majesty the King officially opened the First Parliament on 11 September 1959. The House of Representatives which consisted of 104 elected Members convened for the first time a day earlier.

The Senate consisted of 38 nominated Members too had its first meeting a day earlier. The occasion saw the beginning of parliamentary democracy in a newly independent country.
First Parliament Meeting at Tunku Abdul Rahman Hall on 11 September 1959
The proposal to merge Malaya with Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah by Tunku Abdul Rahman was approved by the House of Representatives on 18 October 1961.

Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Prime Minister of Great Britain held a meeting in London to discuss the formation of Malaysia. The British were very much in favour of the formulation of Malaysia.
The Cobbold Commission led by Lord Cobbold was entrusted with the task of holding a referendum in Sabah and Sarawak to determine whether the people of those two states supported the proposal to create the Federation of Malaysia consisting of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak.

The report stated the majority of the people in the two states agreed to the proposal and the report of the Cobbold Commision was accepted.
The Federation of Malaya, United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak agreed to the terms of the Malaysia Agreement. The State Legislatures in Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak passed resolutions enabling the establishment of Malaysia. Malaysia was declared on 16 September, 1963.

The House of Representatives at that time consisted of 159 members – 104 from Peninsular Malaysia, 16 from Sabah, 24 from Sarawak and 15 from Singapore. The Senate comprised of 50 members - 28 members represented the 14 State Legislatures and 22 members were nominated by His Majesty the King.

His Majesty the 3rd King, Tuanku Syed Putra ibni Al-Marhum Syed Hassan Jamalullail, officiated the Parliament Complex near the Lake Perdana on 2 November 1963.

The 1st Parliament was dissolved on 1 March 1964 and the 2nd General Election was held on 25 April 1964. Following the continuous redelineation of the constituency by the Election Commission, the number of seats in the House of Representatives had increased up to 222 seats in the Twelfth Parliament.
The Senate consists of 70 Senators.

The membership of the Senate is made up of two categories:-

26 members elected by the State Legislative Assembly to represent 13 states (each state represented by two members).

44 members appointed by His Majesty The Yang di-Pertuan Agong on the advice of the Prime Minister, including two members from the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur and one member each from the Federal Territory of Labuan and Putrajaya.

To be eligible as a member, a person must:
The tenure of office is a three-year term for a maximum of two terms, applicable to both federal and state appointments.


The life of the Senate is not affected by the dissolution of Parliament. Senators are drawn from the ranks of persons who have rendered distinguished public services or have achieved distinction in the professions, commerce, industry, agriculture, cultural activities or social service or are representatives of racial minorities or are capable of representing the interests of Orang Asli.

Every Member, before taking his seat in the Senate, must take the prescribed oath before the President of the Senate. By the oath, the Members swear or affirm that they will faithfully discharge their duty as Senators to the best of their ability, to bear true faith and allegiance to Malaysia and to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

Last updated: 10 July 2023 | Hits: 96207

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