Time, Past And Present — Yow Hong Chieh

Malaysia Time Zones.
Malaysia Time Zones.

Follow us on Instagram and subscribe to our Telegram channel for the latest updates.


SEPT 13 — This Malaysia Day, I thought I’d write about an aspect of federation overlooked by many – the time zone shared by Peninsular and East Malaysia.

Incidentally, Peninsular Malaysia follows East Malaysia time, not the other way around. This isn’t news to most, but still confuses some.

Anyway, let’s get down to it:

In 1901, Malaya — specifically, the Federated Malay States and Straits Settlements — adopted British Malayan Mean Time, which was based on Singapore Mean Time (GMT+06:55).

This single standard time was needed ease scheduling issues arising from increasing rail, postal and telegraph links. Singapore was chosen because it was the administrative capital of the FMS and Straits Settlements then.

Four years later, this was rounded up to GMT+07:00 and renamed Standard Zone Time.

In a bid to give labourers more leisure time after work, the Straits Settlements Legislative Council proposed Daylight Standard Time (GMT+07:30) in 1920. This was deemed too radical by lawmakers.

The idea languished for 12 years before being reintroduced with a more modest proposal to shift to GMT+07:20. This time, lawmakers agreed and the new standard time came into effect on the first day of 1933.

Funnily enough, Daylight Standard Time would later be amended in 1941 to align with GMT+07:30, like the original proposal nearly two decades before.

This was also the first time Malaya shared the same time zone as Sarawak and North Borneo. Before this, time out east was anywhere from 10 minutes to an hour ahead.

Then, war and invasion by bicycle. During the Japanese occupation, everyone was forced to follow Tokyo time, which 90 minutes ahead.

After the British returned in 1945, standard time reverted to GMT+07:30.

Strangely, it was the formation of the Malaysia on September 16, 1963 that once again set the peninsular and Borneo states apart, at least horologically.

Peninsular Malaysia kept with GMT+07:30 while Sabah and Sarawak went 30 minutes ahead.

There it remained, through Konfrontasi, Singapore’s exit from the federation, the opening of Malaysia’s first KFC in 1973 – all the way up to 1981.

That year, a young Dr Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister. One of the first things he set out to do was unite the country under one time zone.

To accomplish this, Dr Mahathir brought the clocks in Peninsular Malaysia forward to match those in East Malaysia (GMT+08:00).

Singapore, not wanting to be left out, followed suit on January 1, 1982.

And that’s why Kuala Lumpur and Singapore are one hour ahead of Jakarta and Bangkok, despite being on roughly on the same longitude.

Happy Malaysia Day weekend, folks!

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of The Malay Mail Online.

Related Articles