THE ESTABLISHMENT OF THE FEDERATION
The Federation of Malaya Agreement was accepted by the British Government, the Sultans, leaders of the UMNO, and representatives of the various communities. The Federation of Malaya was then established on 1st February 1948.
The Federation consisted of the nine Malay states and the settlements of Penang and Malacca. Singapore remained a separate Crown Colony. Instead of one highly centralized government, Malaya now had a Federal Commissioner, whose appointment was approved by the Sultans, was head of the Federal government. He had to safeguard the position and rights of the Malays.
THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT
The Federal Executive and Legislative Councils would help the High Commissioner. The Federal Executive Council consisted of both official and unofficial members. The unofficial members would be chosen from the various races.
The Federal Legislative Council consisted of the High Commissioner, 15 official and 61 unofficial members. 31 of the unofficial members were Malays and the rest Chinese, Indians, Europeans and Eurasians. The unofficial members also included the representatives of the State Councils and the two Settlements. At first the unofficial members were nominated by the High Commissioner. Later they were appointed “Members” or ministers of departments such as Railways and Ports, Works and Housing. This was an important step towards self-government.
THE STATE GOVERNMENT
The State government was headed by the Sultan. Those in Penang and Malacca were each headed by a Resident Commissioner. Each state had its own Executive and Legislative Councils.
The State governments controlled local administration, health, education, agriculture and lands. But the Federal Government was allowed to make any changes in these matters if it thought it necessary. British Advisers remained. They had no executive powers. They could only advise. The Menteri Besar was the chief official of each state.
THE MAJLIS RAYA NEGERI MELAYU
A conference of Rulers called the Majlis Raya Negeri Melayu was set up to advise the High Commissioner. They would meet at least three times a year. Any changes in the constitution, immigration and appointments of senior government officials needed the approval of this conference.
A common Malayan citizenship was given to all. However, laws were made to make it harder for immigrants to qualify for citizenship. Besides the Malays, Indians, Chinese and British subjects born in the Federation and their children were given automatic citizenship. Children whose parents were Federal citizens at the time of the children’s births also became citizens automatically. Those who were born in the Federation spoke Malay and followed Malay customs also became citizens automatically.
Persons born in the Federation could apply for citizenship when they had lived there for 8 out of the 12 years. Immigrants could also apply for it when they had lived in the Federation for at least 15 out of the 20 years. These applicants had to be of good character and able to speak Malay or English. They also had to make a declaration of permanent settlement.
THE MALAY PENINSULA UNDER ONE GOVERNMENT
For the first time the Malay Peninsula, excluding Singapore, came under one government. The Federation of Malaya Agreement was important because it prepared Malaya for self-government. The constitution in the Agreement became the basis for the constitution of Malaya in 1957 and for the Federation of Malaysia in 1963.
REACTIONS OF THE MALAYS
The Malays were quite satisfied with the changes. The Federation Agreement restored the powers of the Sultans and the States. It also protected the position and special rights of the Malays. A more restricted citizenship prevented the other races from taking away Malay influence. All Malayan citizens would have equal rights but the Malays would keep their political status and special rights.
There were more unofficial members of all races in both Federal and State Councils. The local people now had a greater share in the government. Moreover, the Malays were given a majority representation in the Federal and the State Councils.
REACTIONS OF THE CHINESE AND INDIANS
The new constitution was, however, less popular with the Chinese and Indians as many of them were mainly interested in citizenship. The Federation Agreement now prevented many of them from obtaining citizenship. The Malayan Chinese were not happy that Singapore was left out of the Federation. They were dissatisfied as they were treated differently from those living in Singapore. The Malayan Indians felt that the government had not given them a fair share in the running of the government.
In spite of these feelings among the non-Malays, most of them were prepared to accept the new constitution and live in cooperation.