Eighty percent of the population lives on the peninsula.
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These population figures have an important place in peninsular history, because Malaysia as a country was created with demography in mind.
Malay leaders in the 1930s and 1940s organized their community around the issue of curbing immigration.
What was to become East Malaysia had different colonial administrations: Sarawak was governed by a British family, the Brookes (styled as the "White Rajas"), and Sabah was run by the British North Borneo Company.
Together the cosmopolitan hub of British interests was Singapore, the central port and center of publishing, commerce, education, and administration.
Western Malaysia is on the southern tip of the Malay peninsula, and stretches from the Thai border to the island of Singapore.
Eastern Malaysia includes the territories of Sabah and Sarawak on the north end of Borneo, separated by the country of Brunei.
The climactic event in forming Malaysia was the Japanese occupation of Southeast Asia from 1942-1945.
Japanese rule helped to invigorate a growing anti-colonial movement, which flourished following the British return after the war.
The two groups mostly live in the urban areas of the Malay Peninsula's west coast, and their sometimes competing, sometimes parallel influences shape the shared life of Malaysia's citizens.