Malaysia. In southern Malaysia, the year began with heavy
floods forcing at least 100,000 people to leave their homes.
The government warned of food shortages and the spread of
infection among the homeless. The worst was the situation in
the area around Johor Baharu. The crisis center was built in
300 places where the affected could get food and roof over
their heads. About 20 people died in what was referred to as
the worst floods in the country in nearly 40 years.
A filling election in the Ijok district in April
attracted considerable attention, as it marked the former
Finance and Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim's political
comeback. Anwar Ibrahim himself was banned from running for
political office until 2008 because of a corruption
conviction, but he chose to publicly go out and support the
candidate for his old party People's Justice Party (PKR).
However, the election was won by a candidate from another
party who is part of the ruling party coalition UMNO.
CountryAAH, Malaysia's continued good economic growth meant that during the
spring, the government announced that employees within the
state administration would receive substantial salary
increases of up to 35 per cent for the poorest paid. Malaysia's GDP
growth averages 5 percent per year.
When a federal court rejected a 42-year-old Christian
woman's request to have her religious affiliation on the ID
card changed from "Islam" to "Christianity," this sparked
strong debate over whether religious freedom is truly
guaranteed in Malaysia's constitution. The woman had converted to
Christianity from Islam in 1998, but the federal court ruled
that only a Sharia court applying Islamic jurisprudence
could decide on a possible change in religious affiliation.
The problem was that a sharia court was likely to convict
her as a defender, in practice a criminal.
Malaysia's constitution provides for religious freedom, but in
the country all ethnic Malays are automatically classified
That same month, a Muslim woman was given permission to
give her Hindu husband full custody of six of their seven
children. She chose to do this after a Sharia court declared
her 21-year-old marriage to her husband invalid because he
did not convert to Islam at the time of the marriage. The
woman and children had been forced into a Muslim village
from the family home.
In November, Malaysian car manufacturer Proton launched a
plan to produce a Muslim car. In it, for example, special
place is made for the Qur'an, and the car would also have a
compass showing which direction Mecca is located. The
production of the Muslim car would be done in collaboration
with manufacturers in Turkey and Iran.
In the same month, a large government-critical
demonstration was held in the capital Kuala Lumpur. Between
10,000 and 30,000 people protested against electoral laws
that they felt would benefit the ruling UMNO. Police met
protesters with tear gas and water cannons. About 20 people
were arrested at the time.
Tear gas and water cannons also met around 5,000 Indian
Malaysians who demonstrated in the capital that month. The
ethnic Indians objected to what they consider to be
discrimination against the Indian minority, and they also
demanded financial compensation from the United Kingdom for
the British during the colonial period bringing Indians to
Malaysia to work on plantations there.