I am fairly new to banknotes, and even newer to blogging, so I thought I’d start by writing about something familiar – the Malaysian Ringgit. I lived in Malaysia for a year back in 2003-2004, so I’ve held Ringgit notes in my hands, carried them in my purse, and used them at the store. The specific note I’m going to write about is the 1 Ringgit, p51 2012. I was relaying to my husband that with just 4-5 Ringgit I could get a whole breakfast at a local spot (roti pisang was usually what I ordered – it was a type of flat Indian bread (roti canai) with banana cooked into it – yum!), but it would cost me 12 Ringgit to get a drink from Starbucks. This was because Starbucks charged American prices even in Malaysia! However, on my homesick days I could walk into Starbucks and not even know I wasn’t somewhere in the US – so the taste of home was sometimes worth the extra spending!
Anyway, away from reminiscing and onto the banknote! This Malaysian note is a polymer note and is a beautiful blue color. The designers of this note chose to feature some items very symbolic of Malaysian culture (songket – a beautiful woven fabric with gold thread; bonga raya – the hibiscus flower, which is the national flower; and the wau bulan -moon kite), and also a well-known leader – Tuanku (meaning “my lord”) Abdul Rahman.
I never involved myself much in Malaysian politics when I lived there so I did not know much about their government or leaders, but in researching Abdul Rahman it seems that he did quite a lot for his people, so I wanted to talk about him. He was president of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO) and was able to secure an alliance with the Malayan Chinese Association in 1951, and the Malayan Indian Congress in 1955. Even when I was in Malaysia in 2003, although they boast unity among the cultures there, it was clear that if you were Malay you lived in a Malay neighborhood and had Malay friends, if you were Chinese you lived in a Chinese neighborhood and had Chinese friends, if you were Indian…well, you get the picture. Partially this is because the Malay are almost 100% Muslim, so they do not drink alcohol, have dogs as pets, or eat food that is not Halal (similar to Kosher). However, many of the Chinese and Indians around them do not consider these things unclean, so the Malay do not usually feel comfortable going into the home of someone who may have a dog or keep alcohol in the home, and they certainly will not eat their food. All that to say, the fact that Tuanku Abdul Rahman was able to unite these groups in some way is significant. He then went on to gain independence for Malaya from Britain in 1957 and became their Prime Minister until 1970. He passed away at the age of 87 in 1990. He certainly played a significant role in getting Malaysia to the place where they are today.
The other item on this 1 Ringgit note that I wanted to highlight is the red “bunga raya” – the rosa-sinensis hibiscus flower, which is the National flower of Malaysia since 1960. The name “bunga raya” means “celebratory flower” or “grand flower”. The red color symbolizes courage and vitality, while the 5 petals of the flower stand for the five principles of the Rukun Negara (Translated “Pilars of the State”)which include Belief in God; Loyalty to King and Country; Supremacy of the Constitution; Rule of Law; and Courtesy and Morality. Malaysia chose a beautiful flower to symbolize their newly found independence and the values they uphold as a country, and this note is a wonderful tribute to that.
I’ll stop there before this blog-ette becomes a full-fledged blog, but I truly loved my time living in Malaysia and the time I spent learning about this banknote only made me appreciate the culture and people that much more. I hope it does the same for you!