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I. Background

Malaysia is a country 329,847 sq km in size. It comprises Peninsular Malaysia and the states of Sabah and Sarawak on the island of Borneo. It lies in South East Asia and is an active member of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The total population at the first quarter of 2011 was 28,477,600.

Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy in which the head of the government is the King, known as the the Yang Di Pertuan Agong. He is the ceremonial head of state chosen by the Council of Rulers and holds his position for a term of five years in a rotation decided by the Council. The real power and administration of the country lies with the executive in the form of the Prime Minister and his cabinet.

The Prime Minister of Malaysia is chosen from the elected ruling coalition (Barisan Nasional) by members in the coalition's biggest party (United Malay National Organisation or Umno). Malaysia has a bicameral parliament with the elected Dewan Rakyat (lower house) and the appointed Dewan Rakyat (upper house). Together, these houses perform the legislative function for Malaysia. Bills are debated and voted on by both houses before becoming acts of law.


The judicial system is heavily modeled after the British Westminster system, a legacy of British colonisation. The court hierarchy in Malaysia also closely mirrors the British equivalent with the lowest court being the Magistrates Court followed by the Sessions Court, High Court, Court of Appeal and the highest court in the land, the Federal Court. Presiding over the entire judiciary is the Chief Justice, who is appointed by the constitutional monarch, the Yang Di Pertuan Agong, on the advice of the Prime Minister. As for the appointment of the President of the Court of Appeal, the Chief Judge of Malaya, the Chief Judge of Sabah and Sarawak, and other Federal Court judges, similar procedure is taken with the additional requirement of consultation with the Chief Justice.

A parallel Syariah legal system also exists and governs the Muslim majority, and is concerned largely with matters of faith, marriage and the practice of Islam among Muslims.

Civil Society

Civil society in Malaysia has in the past largely been involved in welfare of women, children and the underprivileged. In the past nearly two decades, however, more non-governmental organizations (locally known as NGOs) that concern themselves with civil liberties, human rights and discrimination have emerged. NGOs are considered as societies and are thus regulated by the Societies Act. However, human rights organisations tend to be registered as companies due to the difficulties faced in registration as societies. For example, Amnesty International was denied its application to register as a society in Malaysia.

Mobile Connectivity

As at 2010, telecommunications research site put the mobile penetration at 113% out of a population of 25 million. This figure takes into account both foreigners living in Malaysia, and individuals having more than one mobile phone line.The 3G statistics stand at 9.2 million people, as of 2010. Broadband penetration stands at 11% (population) and 35 % (household).

Attitudes to Privacy

Communities in Malaysia are often close knit, with communal needs and requirements put above those of the individuals. Extended families and tight communities, and tribal customs, often mean that the communal understanding on the concept of individual privacy is underdeveloped.

However, urbanization and progress, and the attendant migration to bigger cities have to a certain extent broken the traditional holds on communities. It is expected that individual privacy will take on a larger significance in times to come and that Malaysia will recognize this basic right.