KL skyline. Photo: Luke Ma, Attribution license, Creative Commons.
KL skyline. Photo: Luke Ma, Attribution license, Creative Commons.

1 February signifies a public holiday for Kuala Lumpur residents every year, to celebrate Federal Territory Day. But how much do we know about this annual event and its history? Here’s our cheat sheet:

What is a federal territory?

A federal territory is a district under the control of the federal government rather than a state government. Kuala Lumpur became a federal territory on 1 Feb 1974, whilst Labuan Island became a federal territory on 16 April 1984, and Putrajaya on 1 Feb 2001. All three territories are under the control of the Ministry of Federal Territories.

What happened when KL withdrew from Selangor state?

In order to formally remove KL from Selangor, permission was needed from the Selangor State Legislative Assembly and the Conference of Rulers. As a result of the Constitutional amendment, 94 square miles of Selangor was handed over to the Federal Government, forming the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur. It is rumoured that Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah (then the Sultan of Selangor) shed tears when he signed away KL.

Why do some people refuse to celebrate FT Day?

By forming a new territory, the new Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur changed the representation of MPs and number of voters in Selangor. Because of how the voting lines changed, Selangor lost nine seats. Eight of those seats had been previously won by Opposition members in the 1969 elections. This has lead to allegations of “gerrymandering”.

What is gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is the process of manipulating the districts or boundaries of a state so as to favour one particular party. In Malaysia, the sizes of constituencies varies a lot. By changing the boundaries, it’s possible to give one party an advantage over another – for example, a candidate in a smaller constituency needs fewer votes to win. The Electoral Commission’s job is to redraw the boundaries to make them fairer.

Who controls the Federal Territory of KL now?

KL is under the ruling of the Datuk Bandar Kuala Lumpur or Mayor, YBHG. Datuk Seri Hj. Ahmad Phesal Bin Hj. Talib, whose decisions are overseen by the Federal Territories Minister. Currently, the majority of parliamentary seats in KL are held by Opposition members, but the ruling national party still controls how KL is run. Elected Members of Parliament meet with the Mayor once a month to give recommendations.

Where does Selangor officially end and KL begin?

The golden arch seen on the Federal Highway with the words “Kota Darul Ehsan” marks the border between the state of Selangor and the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur.

Anna Lee