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The Unfederated Malay States

National History - The Federated and Unfederated States

The Federated Malay States (FMS) was a federation of four protected states in the Malay PeninsulaSelangor , Perak , Negeri Sembilan and Pahang . It was established by the British government in 1895 and lasted until 1946.

The United Kingdom was responsible for foreign affairs and defence of the federation. Although the states were officially responsible for their domestic policies, they were bound by treaty to follow the advice of the British Resident General. Kuala Lumpur, which was then part of Selangor, was the capital of the federation. The first Resident General was Sir Frank Swettenham.

The federation states, along with the other Malay states of the peninsular and British possessions, were overrun and occupied by the Japanese during World War II. After the liberation of Malaya, together with the Straits Settlements and theUnfederated Malay States, the four protected states entered the Malayan Union. The federal form of government was subsequently used as a model for consolidating the independent Federation of Malaya and later evolution into Malaysia in 1963, with the inclusion of Sabah (North Borneo), Sarawak and Singapore.

Constituent States and First Durbar

Although the Resident General was the federation’s real administrator, each of the four constituent states of the federation retained their respective hereditary rulers (sultans). During the inception of the Federated Malay States, the reigning sultans were:

In 1897, the four rulers met at the convention of the first Durbar in the royal town ofKuala Kangsar, Perak. This formed the basis for theConference of Rulers that was created later on under Article 38 of the Malaysian Constitution in August 27, 1957.

Flag and emblem of the Federation

The Federated Malay States flag consisted of four different-colored stripes, namely white, red, yellow and black. The unique colour combination represented the four constituent states- red, black and yellow for Negeri Sembilan; black and white for Pahang; black, white and yellow for Perak; and red and yellow for Selangor. In the middle is an oblong circle with a Malayan tiger in it.

Coat of Arms

The coat of arms of the Federated Malay States features a shield flanked by two tigers. On the top of the shield is the crown (known as Eastern Crown in English heraldry), symbolizing the federation of monarchies under the protection of the United Kingdom. A banner with the phrase "Dipelihara Allah" (Under God's Protection) written in Jawi is located underneath the shield.

The quartered shield of four colours follows the same pattern of representation used in the official flag.

Naval Jack

In addition, the Federated Malay States also had a naval jack orensign for use on government ships. The ensign, with the four colors of the FMS, was flown byHMS Malaya (commanded by Captain Boyle under the5th Battle Squadron of theBritish Grand Fleet) during the Battle of Jutland in the North Sea, which was the largest and the only full scale clash of battleships during World War One.

The Federation Treaty and Administration The British Protectorate

The Treaty of Federation was drawn up and signed on the 1st of July 1896, whereby the four rulers agreed to a federation and centralized administration of the states. By this treaty and the previous acceptance of the British Residents System in Selangor (1875), Perak (1874), Negeri Sembilan (1873) and Pahang (1888); the FMS were officially turned into a nominally independent protectorate of Great Britain (not to be confused with the British possessions like the territories of the Straits Settlements) The Malay Rulers effectively surrendered their political power in their states. All decisions were officiated only after consulting and with the due consent of their respective Residents. However, the United Kingdom pledged not to interfere in matters relating to native Malay traditions and Islamic affairs.  

Structure of the Federated Malay States Federal Council

British established the Federal Council in 1889 to administer the FMS. It was headed by the High Commissioner (The Governor of the Straits Settlement), assisted by the Resident-General, the Sultans, the four state Residents and four nominated unofficial members. This structure remained until the Japanese invaded Malaya on 8 December 1941. From 1896 to 1936, administrative power was held chiefly by the Resident-General, later known as the Chief Secretary of the Federation, but after this period, authority over the states shifted to the High Commissioner.

State Council

The individual states were under the nominal rule of the sultans but all royal decisions were subjected to review by the State Council. The State Council was made up of the Resident (or in certain cases by the Secretary to the Resident), native chiefs, and representative(s) of the Chinese community nominated by the Sultan. The council discussed legislative issues including revision of all sentences of capital punishment. The Resident and his staff (consisting mostly of Europeans and Malays) also handled administrative work.

Administrative Subdivisions

For the purposes of efficient administration, the federal states were further divided into districts (Malay: Daerah). Each district was administered by a District Office (Malay: Pejabat Daerah) headed by a District Officer (Malay: Pegawai Daerah).


State Capital





  • Ulu Perak (Upper Perak)

  • Larut and Krian

  • Kuala Kangsar

  • Kinta

  • Hilir Perak (Lower Perak)

  • Batang Padang

The territories of Dinding andPangkor Island wereceded to the British, administered as part of the Straits Settlement. Returned to the government of Perak in 1935.


Kuala Lumpur

  • Kuala Selangor

  • Ulu Selangor

  • Kuala Lumpur

  • Klang

  • Ulu Langat

  • Kuala Langat


Kuala Lipis

  • Ulu Pahang

  • Temerloh

  • Kuantan

  • Pekan

Negeri Sembilan


  • Coast District

  • Seremban District

  • Jelebu

  • Kuala Pilah

  • Tampin

Tanjung Tuan (also known as Cape Rachado) was a Dutch possession (originally Portugues before 1641), passed to the British in 1824. Administered as an exclave of Malacca til today.


In the earlier period, the Straits dollar currency was issued but this currency depreciated over time. In 1906, it was pegged at two shillings four sterling pence. The British government then introduced a new currency, Malayan dollar (ringgit in Malay) in 1939 for use in Malaya and Brunei. Its denominational values ranged from 1 cent to 1000 Malayan dollars and retained the same exchange rate as the Straits dollar.

The States’ main economic activity was focused on agriculture and mining with emphasis on rubber and tin. Malaya was the main supplier of these two commodities in accordance with the British industrial demand. Rubber estates or plantations were established in all four states and tin was mined primarily in the Klang Valley in Selangor and the Kinta valley in Perak. These labor-intensive economic activities prompted the British to import immigrant workers from Southern India to work the plantations and workers from Southern China to mine the tin. The economy was balanced and self-sustainable as the income of the federation exceeded what was expended in terms of maintaining the administration and economic activities.

In the later period, the British began to pay attention to the development of infrastructure, education and public services. Resources were poured into the development of the city of Kuala Lumpur as the capital of the federation. This period saw rapid growth in terms of communications infrastructure such as interstate roads, anarrow gauge railway line from Penang to Singapore, and Port Swettenham (present day Port Klang). Public services improved with the launching of public schools and academic institutions as well as efforts to improve public health. An area in the city was gazetted as a settlement for the Malay calledKampung Baru. Public buildings were also constructed such as theKuala Lumpur railway station, theBangunan Sultan Abdul Samad complex and Masjid Jamek.

The table and section below illustrates the economic growth of the federation and its member states:

Growth of trade and government revenue and expenditure (1875–1922)


































































Note: All values are in Straits Dollar (One dollar fixed at two shillings and four pence sterling). Data for Pahang included only from 1890 onwards

Ref: Harrison, Cuthbert Woodville. An Illustrated Guide to the Federated Malay States. 1923


The revenue of Selangor in 1875 amounted to only $115,656; in 1905 it had increased to $8,857,793. Of this latter sum $3,195,318 was derived from duty on tin exported, $1,972,628 from finance, federal receipts, and $340,360 from land revenue. The trade balance was chiefly derived from the revenue farms, which included the right to collect import duty on opium and spirits. The expenditure for 1905 amounted to $7,186,146, of which sum $3,717,238 was on account of federal charges and $1,850,711 for public works. The value of the imports in 1905 was $24,643,619 and that of the exports was $26,683,316, making a total of $51,326,935 equivalent to £5,988,000. Tin is the principal export. The amount exported in 1905 was 17,254 tons. The total area of alienated mining land at the end of 1905 amounted to 65,573 acres (265 km2).


The revenue of Perak in 1874 amounted to $226,333. That for 1905 amounted to $12,242,897. Of this latter sum $4,876,400 was derived from duty on exported tin, $2,489,300 from railway receipts, $505,300 from land revenue and $142,800 from postal and telegraphic revenue. The remainder is mainly derived from the revenue farms, which are leased for a short term of years, conveying to the lessee the right to collect import duties upon opium, wine and spirits, to keep pawnbroking shops, and to keep public licensed gambling-houses for the use of non-Malay only. The expenditure for 1905 amounted to $10,141,980. Of this sum $4,236,000 was expended upon railway upkeep and construction and $2,176,100 upon public works. The value of the imports into Perak during 1905 was over $20,000,000, and that of the exports exceeded $40,000,000, making a total of over $60,000,000, equivalent to about seven million sterling. The output of tin from Perak ranged between 18,960 tons, valued at $23,099,506 in 1899, and 26,600 tons, valued at $35,500,000, in 1905. The fluctuating character of the output was due to the uncertainty of the labour supply. The mining population was recruited exclusively from the districts of southern China, and during certain years an increased demand for labourers in China itself, in French Indo-China, in the Dutch colonies, and in South Africa temporarily and adversely affected immigration to the Straits of Malacca. The output had, moreover, been affected from time to time by the price of tin, which was $32.20 per pikul in 1896, rose to $42.96 in 1898, to $74.15 in 1900, and averaged $80.60 in 1905. Exclusive of tin, the principal exports were $108,000 worth of Para rubber, $181,000 of copra, $54,000 of hides, $48,000 of patchouli, and considerable quantities of timber, rattans and other jungle produce.

Negeri Sembilan

The revenue of the Negri Sembilan amounted to only $223,435 in 1888. In 1898 it had increased to $701,334, in 1900 to $1,251,366, and in 1905 to $2,335,534. The revenue for 1905 was derived mainly as follows: - customs $1,268,602, land revenue $145,475, land sales $21,407, while the revenue farms contributed $584,459. The expenditure in 1905 amounted to $2,214,093, of which $1,125,355 was expended upon public works. The trade returns for 1905, which are not, however, complete, showed an aggregate value of about $13,000,000. The value of the tin exported during 1905 exceeded $6,900,000, and the value of the agricultural produce, of which gambier represented $211,000 and damar $80,000, amounted to $407,990.


The revenue of Pahang in 1899 amounted to only $62,077; in 1900 to $419,150. In 1905 it was $528,368. The expenditure in 1905 amounted to $1,208,176. Of this sum $736,886 was expended on public works. Pahang is still a source of expense to the federation, its progress having been retarded by the disturbances which lasted from December 1891 until 1895, with short intervals of peace, but the revenue was steadily increasing, and the ultimate financial success of the state is considered to be secure. Pahang owed something over $3,966,500 to Selangor and $1,175,000 to Perak, which had financed it for some years out of surplus revenue. The value of the imports in 1905 was $1,344,346, that of the exports was $3,838,928, thus making a total trade value of $5,183,274. The most valuable export is tin, the value of which in 1905 amounted to $2,820,745. The value of the gutta exported exceeded $140,000, that of dried and salted fish amounted to nearly $70,000, and that of timber to $325,000.


Press and Publications

1. The Malay Mail

The Malay Mail was the first newspaper daily published in 1 December1896 when KL was the capital of the Federated Malay States.

Currently, The Malay Mail is a tabloid, promoted as "The Paper That Cares" and is linked to the broadsheet New Straits Times via Media Prima Berhad. It is an afternoon paper and has several editions.

2. The New Straits Times (NST)

The New Straits Times is Malaysia's oldest newspaper still in print. Initially, the paper was Malaysia's onlybroadsheet format English-language newspaper. However, following the heels of British newspapersThe Times and The Independent, a tabloid version first rolled off the presses on 1 September 2004 and since 18 April 2005, the newspaper has been published only in tabloid size, ending a 160-year-old tradition of broadsheet publication.

The paper was originally founded as The Straits Times in 1845 and covered all of what was then British Malaya, andSingapore, where it was based. This continued when Singapore became part of Malaysia in 1963, but upon its departure from the Federation in 1965, the publication split and a separate paper based in Malaysia the New Straits Times, was established, whilst The Straits Times continued publication in Singapore.

The Unfederated Malay States

The Unfederated Malay States comprised five British protected states in the Malay Peninsula in the first half of the twentieth century. These states were Johor, Kedah,Kelantan, Perlis, andTerengganu. In contrast with the four neighbouringFederated Malay States ofSelangor, Perak, Pahang, and Negri Sembilan, the Unfederated Malay States were not bound by a common institution, and did not form a single state in international law.

When the Straits Settlement was dissolved in 1946, Penang and Malacca were grouped together with the five Unfederated Malay States and the fourFederated Malay States to form a unitaryMalayan Union. In 1948, theMalayan Union was reconstituted as a federation of eleven states known as theFederation of Malaya. Nine continued asBritish Protected States, while two of them, Penang and Malacca remained as British colonies. The Federation of Malaya gained full independence from the UK in August 1957.

History of Formation

Johor accepted a treaty of protection with the United Kingdom in 1885, and eventually succumbed to British pressure to accept a resident "Advisor" in 1904. Unlike the other Malay states under British protection, however, Johor remained outside of the Federated Malay States.

Under the Bangkok Treaty of 1909,Siam transferred its jurisdictional rights over the northern Malay states (Kelantan, Terengganu,Kedah, and Perlis) to theUnited Kingdom. These states then became British Protected States.

Administration and Language

The chief officer of the British colonial administration was the "Advisor". In contrast with the Federated Malay States, the Unfederated Malay States enjoyed greater autonomy as they were not legally obliged to follow the advice of the British. The de facto official language of the Unfederated Malay States was Malay (written in Jawi script).


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