Elephants, oxen, and tigers

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One of the Commonwealth’s most popular stamp collecting areas, the majority of Malaya stamps were printed by De La Rue of London and showcase a host of exotic animals found throughout the far-reaching Malay peninsula, from elephants, to oxen, to tigers – a fitting, universal tribute to the broad multi-ethnic culture found in the country today.

Originally home to aboriginal peoples, by the 2nd century BC settlers arrived from China, followed by Indian traders thereafter. Hinduism and Buddhism thrived during this time and once the port of Malacca was founded in the 15th century the onset of Muslim merchants also led to the introduction of Islam.

Seized by the Portuguese in 1511, who in turn were driven out by the Dutch in alliance with the Sultan of Johor, in 1786 the Sultan of Kedah granted the island of Penang to the British East India Company for use as a trading post. The British later took Malacca from the Dutch and added Singapore in 1819. The collective colonies of Penang, Malacca and Singapore were ruled by Britain and known as the Straits Settlements. Later, the Federated Malay Sates (Selangor, Negeri Sembilan, Perak and Pahang) came into existence, with Kuala Lumpur as the capital and Borneo soon following suit.

After World War II, in 1948, a Federation of Malaya was created under British protection, and following an election in 1955 the United Malay National Organisation (UMNO) took control of the country, thanks to a clever campaign of intercommunal relations appealing to localised groups (i.e. Malay candidates for Malay constituencies, Indian candidates for Indian areas, and Chinese candidates for Chinese communities.) Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister-elect, was hailed as the Father of Independence in 1957. A message from the Queen welcomed Malaya to the Commonwealth. The Union Jack was removed and the Malayan flag hoisted in place, while the country exploded into a jamboree of fireworks, bonfires, and dances at the stroke of midnight.

The federation was renamed Malaysia in 1963.