As we approach the halfway point of 2020, many events in Malaysia and abroad have shaped and defined these past few decades.
From the Japanese Tsunami to the ruling party losing power for the first time in 60 years, these past few decades have been more than unpredictable.
1. The Asian Financial Crisis
Starting in 1997, South East Asian economies began faltering and slowing down. The crisis started in Thailand when the currency nosedived against the US Dollar. As the economy crashed, millions lost their jobs. The crisis then spread like a plague across South East Asia: Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore were hit hardest. Malaysia’s economy plunged by 7% in 1998, with the manufacturing and construction sector being hit the hardest. The currency too was hit hard. Many people lost their jobs and have to drastically cut spending.
2. Opening of KLIA International Airport
Amidst the financial crisis affecting the region, Malaysia opened its new airport, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in June 1998 in Sepang. The airport replaces the Subang Airport due to its overcrowding. The new airport was considered futuristic at that time with its design, architecture, and size. Spanning the size of 100km square, it is one of the largest airports in the world.
The airport is now one of the main hubs in the region, serving destinations to Europe, East Asia, and Australia. It is also one of the busiest in the world, with 59 million passengers served in 2018.
3. Petronas Towers and KLCC Opened
The icon of Malaysia was opened right on the 42nd Independence Day on 31 August 1999 along with KLCC Mall and it’s park. The building became the tallest building in the world until 2004. However, it remained the tallest twin tower in the world with 88 floors.
The towers host Petronas, the national oil and gas company as well as other companies. It is also an attraction amongst tourists, particularly the skybridge connecting the towers and would be occasionally used as a place to skydive for daredevils. Since it’s opening, a new tower, Petronas Tower 3 began construction in 2006 and was completed in 2011.
4. 9/11 Attacks
The world was shocked when a Pearl-Harbor style attacked happened in the most powerful country in the world: The United States. On September 11, 2001 terrorists hijacked four commercial planes and flew them into their targets. Two planes hit the twin towers (The World Trade Centre) in New York City, one hit The Pentagon in Washington D.C and one crashed into a field IN Pennsylvania after passengers revolted.
Nearly 3,000 innocent people were killed during the attacks, and thousands more were injured and had to live through their trauma and injuries. The attack led to the collapse of the twin towers, causing New York City to lose their iconic twin towers forever.
5. 2004 Tsunami
We are always lucky that Malaysia is safe from earthquakes and tsunamis. However, this was not the case in the 2004 tsunami. A 9.2 Magnitude earthquake shook the epicenter in Sumatra off Banda Aceh, triggering colossal tsunamis across the region. It hit Aceh, India, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. The tsunami struck Malaysia in parts of Penang and Langkawi.
More than 250,000 people lost their lives that day, with most of the victims in Aceh. In Malaysia, 67 people died. Many more lost their livelihoods. The incident also shows that despite Malaysia’s safe location, we should always be ready and prepared in case a disaster strikes again in the future.
6. The First Malaysian Astronaut In Space!
History was made on October 2007 when Malaysian astronaut Sheikh Muzaphar Shukor flew into space along with 2 other astronauts. He is the first, and only Malaysian to have flown into space as of 2019. He flew as a guest on the Russian Space Program and flew on the Soyuz TM-11.
A medical graduate, he underwent 18 months of training in Russia before being selected after medical examinations were completed. Fellow and retired astronaut Robert Gibson, as well as the Russian Ambassador to Malaysia at that time, called him a “fully-fledged astronaut.”
7. Global Financial Crisis
Ten years after South East Asia recovered from 97-99 crisis, the crisis struck again. The world plunged into financial crisis, with many economies in the Western world contacting. Many lost their jobs and got their houses and property repossessed, leaving them homeless. While Asian countries were particularly unaffected, their economies slowed down. Malaysia’s economy slowed in 2008 and fell into recession in 2009. However, it recovered the following year with economic growth of 6%.
8. MH 370
This 5-year-old mystery doesn’t seem to be any closer in getting solved! On 8 March 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 departed from Kuala Lumpur International Airport to Beijing. 40 minutes into the flight, it disappeared from radar. Later investigations showed that it flew into the Southern Indian Ocean and crashed there. No debris has been found up till today.
239 people were on board the plane. Their families and friends never get to see them again. The search for the missing plane has become the most expensive in history, totaling $112.4 million dollars. Various searches have been conducted to search for the plane, none of them have been successful.
9. MH 17 Crash
Four months after MH370 disaster and the search ongoing, tragedy struck again. Flight MH17, flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur was shot down by a missile while flying over Ukraine. All 298 people were killed, making it the worst air shootdown in history. 80 of the passengers were children.
10. Ruling Party Falls After More Than 60 Years In Power
9 May 2018 will forever be a historic day in the minds of Malaysians. On the election day, the ruling party Barisan Nasional lost for the first time in 60 years, with the opposition Pakatan Harapan gaining power for the first time ever. No other party had won the election in the past, and the victory of the new government brought many hopes that long-running problems would be fixed and reforms implemented.