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Labuan: Country and Foreign Investment

Population, Language and Culture

When the island was ceded to Queen Victoria in 1845 there were no permanent inhabitants there. Rajah James Brooke proclaimed Governor of Sarawak in 1841 also became Labuan's first governor.

On 1 August 1848 Labuan was declared a free port and open to settlers. Brooke tried to persuade the Chinese and Brunei people from Brunei to come to Labuan but he was not successful. However Chinese merchants from Singapore started opening up shops in the settlement. Others started farming.

The population of Labuan in 1867 was about 4,000, the majority being Muruts, Dusuns and Kedayans. There were also Malays from the Straits Settlements, 600 Chinese, Indian stallkeepers and 40 Europeans.

Under the Labuan Order-in-Council dated 10th July 1946 Labuan ceased to be part of the Straits Settlements, and became part of the Colony of North Borneo. The island, meanwhile lost its privileges as a free port. Labuan in 1946 had a population of 9,253.

In the decade that Labuan was incorporated with North Borneo as a colony in 1946 she had to pay the same tariff conditions as the other ports. Under these conditions the island did not prosper. A decision to return Labuan to the status of a free port was made. And so on 1st Sept 1956 Labuan was reconstituted a free port by Ordinance.

On 31st August 1963 the state became self-governing and on 16th September of the same year was made a state within the Federation of Malaysia. North Borneo took the name of Sabah.

Today Labuan has a population of about 85,000 (in 2010, according to Malaysian Government statistics). The indigenous people that now inhabit Labuan are the Kedayans, Brunei and Kadazan. It is not known when the Kedayans first came to Labuan. The Kedayans are a Muslim people and are probably of Sumatran or Javanese origin.

The official language is Bahasa Malaysia. However, English is widely spoken and many documents and publications are available in English.



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