Located on the
northern part of the island of Borneo, Sabah
shares its western border with the State of
Sarawak and its southern border with the
Indonesian Province of East Kalimantan. It is
known locally as "Sabah, negeri di bawah
bayu," which means "Sabah, the land
below the winds," because of its location
just south of the typhoon-prone region around the
Sabah covers 26,400 square
miles (73,711 square kilometers), making it the
second largest of the Malaysian states. All three
of the highest mountains in Malaysia are located
in the western region of Sabah, with the central
and eastern ranges consisting primarily of lower
mountain ranges and plains. The most important
river is the Kinabatangan, which winds its way
from the western ranges through the central
region and into the Sulu Sea. Sabah is also home
to one of the world's largest rainforests.
Sabah is the second most
populous state in Malaysia (behind Sarawak), with
an estimated population of 3,387,880 (2007).
About two-thirds of the people belong to
indigenous tribes, the largest of which are the
Kadazans, Muruts, Bajaus, Kedayans, Sulu, Bisaya,
Rumanau, Minokok, and Rungus. The largest
non-indigenous group is Chinese, and there are
also minor populations of Malays and Europeans.
The largest city in Sabah is
Kota Kinabalu, which also serves as the state
capital. Other major cities include Sandakan,
Tawau, Lahad Datu, Keningau, Semporna, and Kudat.
The chief government official
in Sabah is the Yang di-Pertua Negeri, which is
roughly equivalent to a Governor in the United
States. He is assisted in his duties by a State
Cabinet. Lawmaking authority lies with the State
Legislative Assembly. The Yang di-Pertua Negeri
and members of the Assembly are elected by
popular vote every five years. The state is
divided into five administrative divisions, which
are in turn divided into 24 districts.
Sabah is also divided into 25
parliamentary constituencies and 60 state
assembly districts, each of which elects one
member to Parliament and one to the State
The flag of Sabah is rectangular, in the
proportion 1:2. The canton is icicle blue in
color (symbolizing unity and prosperity), with a
silhouette of Mount Kinabalu in royal blue
(strength and cooperation). The fly is equally
divided into three bands of colors, the foot of
which extends to the hoist. The top band is
zircon blue (peace and tranquility), followed by
white (purity and justice) and chili red (courage
and conviction). The design of the state flag was
officially established on September 16, 1988.
The Sabah crest consists of two arms in
yellow holding up the state flag resting on a
band of all five state colors (as seen in the
state flag). The two arms symbolize unity and
cooperation among the state's multi-racial
communities for progress and success of the
country; the five colors represent the five
divisions in the state. Immediately below the
crest is the state shield, with a top segment
consisting of the colors zircon blue, white and
chili red in V bands. The lower segment of the
shield contains the silhouette shape of Mount
Kinabalu against a plain icicle blue background.
The shield rests on a red scroll carrying the
state motto "Sabah Maju Jaya" in blue.
Timber continues to be the
principal industry in Sabah, although timber
reserves are gradually running out. Tourism is
currently the second largest part of the state
economy, with most tourists coming to enjoy the
state's many national parks, diverse flora and
fauna, and/or the divers' paradise available off
the coast and around the off-shore islands.
Palm oil is the principal
agricultural product, followed by rubber and
Sabah is served by one
international airport, at Kota Kinabalu.
In the 16th century what is now
Sabah was part of the Sultanate of Brunei. In
1658, the Sultanate of Brunei fought with the
island of Singhs, and then ceded the northeast
portion of Borneo to the Sultan of Sulu to
compensate the latter for his help in settling a
civil war in Brunei.
In 1761, the British East India Company made an agreement with the Sultan of
Sulu allowing the company to establish a trading
post in the region. The post, along with an
attempt to build a settlement and military
station centered around Pulau Balambangan,
failed, however, and international interest in
the area all but disappeared.
In 1865, the American Consul of
Brunei obtained a 10-year lease over North Borneo
from the Sultan of Brunei. Ownership of the lease
was then transferred to an American trading
company, which attempted to establish a trading
base and settlement at Kimanis. When those
attempts failed, the rights were sold to the
Austrian Consul in Hong Kong, who later obtained
a new 10-year lease. In 1881, the trading rights
were transferred to the British North Borneo
Provisional Association Ltd. The British North
Borneo Company was formed the following year, and
established Kudat as its capital. The capital was
moved to Sandakan in 1883 to better capitalize on
the region's vast timber resources. The British
North Borneo Company retained administrative
control over the area until 1942, even after it
became a British Protectorate in 1888.
The Japanese invaded Borneo in
1942, and occupied most of the island until 1945.
After World War II
the island became a British Crown Colony, with
Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu) as its capital.
Sabah remained a Crown Colony until 1963, when it
joined the Federation of Malaysia.
British East India Company
World War II
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