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The Commonwealth of Nations is a voluntary association of independent sovereign states, most of which were once governed by the United Kingdom and are its former colonies. It was formerly known as the British Commonwealth of Nations. The Commonwealth is an organisation where countries with diverse economic backgrounds have an opportunity for close and equal interaction. The primary activities of the Commonwealth are to create an atmosphere of economic cooperation between member nations, as well as the promotion of democracy and good governance in them.
There are two terms that a country must fulfil for the country to become a part of the Commonwealth. The first term is that the country must have already achieved its independence. The second term is that the country has been part of Britain or a part of its colony. If any country fulfils these two requirements they can automatically be a part of the Commonwealth (WordIQ. com 2011). The main objective of Commonwealth is to provide facilities and benefit to member countries and to have diplomatic relations between members and non member countries
History Origins of Commonwealth The idea of the Commonwealth took root in the 19th century. In 1867 Canada became the first colony to be transformed into self -governing ‘Dominion’ and others followed. In 1884, the politician Lord Rosebery became the first to call this changing British Empire as the ‘Commonwealth of Nations’. In 1931, the United Kingdom parliament adopted the statue of Westminster, forming the legal foundation of what was to become of the Commonwealth.
Under the Statute, the Dominions of Canada, Newfoundland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Irish Free State became autonomous communities within the British Empire, equal in status and freely associated as members of the British Commonwealth of Nations (Commonwealth Secretariat 2011) In 1930 the first Empire Games later to be known as the Commonwealth Games was held for the first time. Modern Commonwealth The modern Commonwealth that we recognize it today really began with the independence of India and Pakistan from Britain in 1947.
In 1949, India’s desire to become a republic and to cut constitutional ties with the British monarchy while remaining within the Commonwealth, forced leaders to rethink the principals of the Commonwealth membership. The London Declaration of the same year dropped the word ‘British’ from the association’s title. Removing the requirement that member countries have the British monarch as their Head of State, the same declaration recognised King George IV as the symbol of their free association and as such the Head of the Commonwealth.
India was thus welcomed as the first republican member in a modern and voluntary association. Committed to racial equality and national sovereignty, the Commonwealth became the natural association of choice of many new nations emerging out of decolonisation in the 1950s and 1960s. From this point on the Commonwealth expanded rapidly with new members from Africa, the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Pacific. (The Commonwealth Conversation 2011) Commonwealth Countries -Anguilla -Antigua and Barbuda -Australia -Australian Antarctic Territory Bahamas -Bangladesh -Barbados -Belize -Bermuda -Botswana -British Antarctic Territory -British Indian Ocean Territory -British Virgin Islands -Brunei -Cameroon -Canada -Cayman Islands -Channel Islands -Cook Islands -Cyprus -Dominica -Namibia -Nauru -New Zealand -Nigeria -Niue -Norfolk Island -Pakistan -Papua New Guinea -Pitcairn Islands -Ross Dependency -Seychelles -Sierra Leone -Singapore -Solomon Islands -South Africa -Sri Lanka -St Christopher-Nevis -St Helena -St Lucia -St Vincent and the Grenadines -Swaziland -Tanzania -Tokelau -Tonga Trinidad and Tobago -Falkland Islands -Falkland Islands Dependencies -Fiji -Gambia -Ghana -Gibraltar -Grenada -Guyana -India -Isle of Man -Jamaica -Kenya -Kiribati -Lesotho -Malawi -Malaysia -Maldives -Malta -Mauritius -Montserrat -Mozambique -Turks and Caicos Islands -Tuvalu -Uganda -Vanuatu -Western Samoa -Zambia -Zimbabwe How Malaysia became a member of the Commonwealth Malaya had been voted into the Commonwealth at the 1957 Prime Ministers conference. Then the Commonwealth countries helped Malaya to become a part of the United Nations.
The entry of Malaya made it easier for the newly formed Malaysia which included Malaya, Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore to become a member of the Commonwealth as well. Furthermore, the entry of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore into the newly formed Malaysia was supported by the Commonwealth as Britain wanted to give all its colonies independence (Boyce . P. J). The Malayan emergency (between1940s-1960s) and the Indonesian Confrontation Another benefit of Malaysia being part of the Commonwealth is the help that the Commonwealth provided Malaysia with during the Malayan emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation.
During the Malayan Emergency Malaya gained a lot of help from the Commonwealth. During that period of time Commonwealth countries Commonwealth countries like Australia cooperated with British forces, locally and raised units, and military personnel from other various British Commonwealth countries including New Zealand. Other benefits that Malaysia obtained from the Commonwealth was New Zealand helped in training members of the Malaysian Armed Forces at that time.
During the Indonesian Confrontation, the Australian Regiment (Commonwealth Brigade) served in Sarawak between April and August 1966 to help during the confrontation. The Confrontation was a conflict between Indonesia and Malaysia that took place mainly on the island of Borneo. Malaysia British and Commonwealth forces including Australia helped and supported Malaysia. 1964 the Indonesians stunned the British and Malaysians by beginning a series of paratroops and seaborne raids into southern Malaysia leading to fears that the Malayan Emergency would be renewed.
At that time, the Commonwealth troops in Malaysia, including Australia, were called into action to deal with the raiders, and the Australian Government agreed to the deployment of an Australian Army battalion in Borneo to help the Commonwealth forces on the island. The Commonwealth reinforcements began by setting up strong points along known infiltration routes. The British Government also gave its approval for Commonwealth forces to conduct patrols across the border into Indonesian territory. This forced the Indonesians onto the defensive and prevented Indonesian incursions into northern Borneo.
The policy of Confrontation, which had been intended to prevent this outcome, had cost the lives of 590 Indonesians and 114 Commonwealth soldiers (Australian involvement in South-East Asian conflicts 2009). This shows that the entry of Malaysia into the Commonwealth had many benefits. Through the help of the Commonwealth countries Malaysia was able to maintain its peace during times of great needs. Benefits of Malaysia being a Commonwealth country Malaysia has become an independent country on the 31st of August 1957 and has become a member of the Commonwealth ever since.
As Malaysia became a member of the Commonwealth, Malaysia gained many benefits. In the early days of the Commonwealth, the benefit of being part of the Commonwealth was all Commonwealth countries accorded each others’ goods privileged access to their markets and there was a free or preferred right of migration from one Commonwealth country to another. Besides these, Commonwealth consumers retain many preferences for goods from other members of the Commonwealth, so that even in the absences of tariff privileges, there continues to be more rade within the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth also provides benefits to the citizens of Commonwealth countries. For example, the Commonwealth places moral pressure on members who violate international laws, such as human rights, laws and abandon democratically elected government. So if anything like this would to happen to Malaysian citizens or other to Commonwealth citizens the Commonwealth would help. Besides that, the Commonwealth also trains experts in developing countries and assisting the by monitoring elections.
Other benefits of Malaysia being part of the Commonwealth is we can learn many cultural and historical links between wealthy first class countries and poorer developing nations with diverse social and reglious backgrounds. The common inheritance of the English language and literature, the common law and British systems of administrations, is also another benefit of Malaysia being part of the Commonwealth. Malaysian citizens also have some distinctive rights, for example, Malaysian citizens are usually entitled to register to vote in the elections of other Commonwealth countries if they are residents in that specific country.
Malaysian citizens (mainly citizens of Penang and Malacca) who were born on before 1st of January 1983 and have either a British born mother or father have the ‘right of abode’. This right entitles them to enter, live and work in the United Kingdom. Woman from Malaysia who has married to a British man before 1st January 1983 are also entitled to this right. Those who come to the United Kingdom in this scheme may claim state benefits if they intend to make United Kingdom their permanent home. (WordIQ. com 2011).
Commonwealth countries like Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Britain has also helped Malaysia maintain its peace after gaining its independence in 1957 by restricting the influence of the Malaya Communist party (Parti Komunis Malaya (PKM)) and defending Malaysia against the terrorism of the Communist party lead by Chin Peng. Besides that, a defence agreement between Malaysia, Britain, Australia and New Zealand was obtained when Indonesia declared a confrontation against Malaysia. Malaysia also uses the Commonwealth as a bridge for participating in various socioeconomic and political activities.
Malaysia is also the Commonwealth Secretariat for drawing up technical cooperation programmes such as technology management, agricultural training, environment and remote sensing. The main benefit of being part of the Commonwealth is the opportunity for close and relatively frequent interaction, on an informal and equal basis, between members who share many ties of language, culture and history (WordIQ. com 2011). Another benefit that Malaysia gained from being part of the Commonwealth is all Malaysian products exported to other Commonwealth countries such are given a low tax rate.
Another benefit of being part of the Commonwealth is the Commonwealth games. All countries that are members of the Commonwealth are allowed to compete in the Commonwealth games. Malaysia has been competing in the Commonwealth games since 1966 and has won a total of 128 medals over that period of time (Commonwealth Secretariat 2011). Furthermore, scholarships and fellowship are awarded by Commonwealth countries to citizens of other Commonwealth countries under the Commonwealth and Fellowship plan. Malaysia has also awarded citizens of other Commonwealth countries with scholarships and fellowships under the Commonwealth and Fellowship plan.
Malaysia offers up to 10 Commonwealth scholarships each year for Master’s or PHD study. Besides that, other advantages of being a part of the Commonwealth is the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize award . Two Malaysians were awarded with that award. Tash Aw was a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize regional winner with the ‘Harmony Silk Factory’ in 2006 and so was Sri Lankan Rani Manicka who was born in Malaysia, with her novel ‘The Rice Mother’ (Commonwealth Secretariat 2011). Besides that, Malaysia has also been able to have diplomatic relations with many other Commonwealth countries and this has brought many benefits to Malaysia and its people. Boyce P. J) Malaysia in the Commonwealth Malaysia also plays a very active and prominent role in the Commonwealth. Its contributions to the Commonwealth are varied and wide-ranging. For example, Malaysia had once chaired the High Level Appraisal Group on the Commonwealth that reviewed the roles and structures of the Commonwealth in the 1990s and beyond. Malaysia also again chaired the first meeting of the Steering Committee of Senior Officials (SCOSO) in 1993 which was tasked to provide policy guidance and future strategic directions for the Commonwealth Secretariat in carrying out the mandates entrusted to it.
Malaysia has also participated in several Commonwealth Observer Missions to member countries such as Bangladesh, Ghana, Malawi, Namibia, Pakistan, South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia and Nigeria, to observe the conduct of elections in these countries. These observer missions were part of the Commonwealth’s contribution to the active promotion of the Commonwealth’s fundamental political values, in particular the strengthening of democracy. Malaysia was also able to criticise and show its dissatisfaction towards South Africa through the Commonwealth for its apartheid policies.
Malaysia was also responsible for the withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth. The withdrawal of South Africa from the Commonwealth is mainly because Tunku Abdul Rahman had campaigned for the expulsion of South Africa before and during the 1960s Prime Ministers conference (Commonwealth Secretariat 2011). Malaysian senior Commonwealth officers Being a part of the Commonwealth also allows Commonwealth citizens to be a part of the Commonwealth board of members. Some Malaysians were also given the opportunity to be part of the Commonwealth board members mainly as Commonwealth officers.
Some examples of Malaysian senior Commonwealth members include: •Mohd Shafie Apdal, Chair of the Executive Committee of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association •Mohamed Sidek Hassan, member of the Board of Directors, Commonwealth Association for Public Administration and Management •Professor Gajaraj Dhanarajan, President and Chief Executive Officer, Commonwealth of Learning 1995-2004 •Dr Omar bin Abdul Rahman, Chair, Commonwealth Partnership for Technology Management •Professor Dato’ Abdullah Malim Baginda, Joint Honorary President, Common Wealth Network for People Centred Development International (Commonwealth Secretariat 2011)
Commonwealth meetings that Malaysia hosted Being a part of the Commonwealth also allows Malaysia to host any Commonwealth meetings. In 1989, the Commonwealth Head of Governments Meeting was held in Malaysia for the first time. This meeting resulted in the Kuala Lumpur Statement and the Langkawi Declaration on environment. The Langkawi Declaration was the first Commonwealth statement that included environmental protection as a vital factor in development. In 1998, Malaysia hosted the Third Commonwealth Youth Ministers Meeting.
Then in the same year the Commonwealth games was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for the first time. In the year 2004, the first Commonwealth Tourisms Meeting was held in Malaysia. In 2009, The Seventeenth Conference of Commonwealth Education Ministers was held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (Commonwealth Secretariat 2011). Commonwealth Projects Another benefit of being a part of the Commonwealth is the Commonwealth projects. Malaysia has been able to join Commonwealth projects has benefited Malaysia. Export-Oriented CPB ; Institutional strengthening (2007/08) This Commonwealth Secretariat commissioned project provided assistance to the Government of Malaysia in improving the competitiveness of the Malaysian Professional Services Development Corporation (PSDC). Assistance was provided to develop systems and structures which strengthened professional capacity. The PSDC strategic orientation was redefined to take account of operational and human resources priorities. The project also focused on building the capacity of the PSDC to develop a marketing plan for the promotion of Malaysia professional services. ) Marketing Plan for Professional Services (2000) Assistance was provided (courtesy of the Commonwealth Secretariat) to the Government of Malaysia to formulate a strategic plan for the expansion and diversification of exports of professional services. 3) Expert in Tissue Culture, Malaysian Cocoa Board (2000) The Commonwealth Secretariat commissioned an expert to assist the Malaysian Cocoa Board develop suitable micro propagation techniques for multiplication of cocoa clonal materials. ) Export Market Plan for the Promotion of Professional Services (2000) The objective of this Commonwealth funded programme was to assist the Government of Malaysia in formulating policies and devising implementation strategies and a national plan for an export development programme, designed to assist the expansion and diversification of exports of professional services. 5) Workshop of Project Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation for Points of Contact (1997).
The objective of this Commonwealth Secretariat commissioned project was to create awareness among participants of the expected role of POCs and PCPs in the management of technical assistance projects and to enhance their understanding of approaches and techniques used. (Commonwealth Secretariat 2011) Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme The Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme (MTCP) was first initiated at the First Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) for Asia Pacific Region in Sydney in February 1978.
It was officially launched on 7 September 1980 at the Commonwealth Heads of State Meeting in New Delhi to signify Malaysia’s commitment to South-South Cooperation, in particular Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC). In line with the spirit of South-South Cooperation, Malaysia through the MTCP shares its development experiences and expertise with other developing countries. The MTCP was first formulated based on the belief that the development of a country depends on the quality of its human resources.
The programme forms part of the commitment of the Malaysian Government towards the promotion of technical cooperation among developing countries, strengthening bilateral regional cooperation, as well as nurturing collective self-reliance among developing countries. The MTCP emphasises the development of human resources through the provision of training in various areas which are essential for a country’s development such as public administration, good governance, health services, education, sustainable development, agriculture, poverty alleviation, investment promotion, ICT and banking.
Various short-term specialised courses are offered by MTCP training institutions, many of which are centres of excellence for training. Since its launching, more than 20,000 participants from 138 countries have benefited from the various programmes offered under the MTCP (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia – Malaysian Technical Cooperation Programme). Through this programme not only other countries benefit, but even Malaysia has some benefits.
Through this programme Malaysia not only can show others that it has the ability to help other developing countries to develop but it also allows Malaysia to stand out as other developed countries in this world like the United States of America, Japan or even Britain (Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia 2011). Young Malaysians and the Commonwealth Malaysia being a part of the Commonwealth has also benefits for young Malaysian citizens as they are allowed to participate in competitions organized by The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS).
The Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS) has run a range of competitions that attract creative talents of young people around the Commonwealth. With writing, film and photography categories, the RCS Young Commonwealth Competitions are open to anybody under the age of 30 living in any Commonwealth countries. They encourage creative responses to global challenges and offer a unique international platform for new young talent. In 2011, all the competitions took the theme “Science, Technology and Society”.
In the 2011 competition, With nearly 4000 entries in the Essay Competition, Zoe Lynn Chitty from Malaysia has been awarded the Special Award for Creative Writing with her story titled “The day the computer started misbehaving”. Zoe was invited to attend the Gala Awards Ceremony at the Commonwealth Club in London. After returning to Malaysia, Zoe has also written a poem about her trip to London. Her poem, “The London Rhyme” is about her experience in London when she was there for the high profile award ceremony.
Besides that, in 2011, 19-year old Malaysian, Lee Sheng Wang has also been nominated for the Commonwealth Vision Awards in this year’s competition. The Commonwealth Vision Awards promotes excellence in film-making and they were designed to encourage creative filmmaking by young, actual and prospective filmmakers in Commonwealth countries (British High Commission Kuala Lumpur 2011). Conclusion In conclusion, Malaysia has gained many benefits since it became a part of the Commonwealth.
The help and support that Malaysia gained from the Commonwealth during the Malayan emergency and the Indonesian Confrontation has been very important because without the help and support of the Commonwealth the Malaysia that we know of today might not exist. Furthermore, being a part of the Commonwealth has also given Malaysia the opportunity to become part of many Commonwealth projects that has helped Malaysia in so many ways. Being a part of the Commonwealth has also benefited Malaysian citizens through the competitions it has held, the Commonwealth games and also through the awards and the scholarships it gives.