Of the unexpected in London …

Probably not many Malaysians have seen, let alone held in their hands, the original copies of the Malaysia Act 1963 and the Independence of Malaya Act 1957 — both laws enacted by The Parliament of the United Kingdom which have massive significance to Malaysia.

I did so and so did a few of my friends who were fortunate to have had this unexpected experience several years ago.

The occasion was a visit to the Parliament House of the United Kingdom in London, as part of the agenda arranged for a select group of us who were on a senior management programme in London. 

As we know, the UK Parliament is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories.

The documents we saw were essentially the original ‘birth certificates’ of the Federation of Malaya and Federation of Malaysia, respectively. The laws that gave birth to the Federation of Malaya on Merdeka Day 1957 and Federation of Malaysia on Malaysia Day, September 16, 1963. 

We were not told prior to the visit that we would be seeing these historical documents, which came as a special, well appreciated surprise.

These historical documents are kept somewhere in a small back office at the House of Parliament, London. Probably, in second or third floor, if I my recollection serves me right. 

The writer (centre) with the original Malaysia Act 1963.

The Parliament of the United Kingdom alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. They had to pass a special law to grant independence to Malaya in 1957 and later enact the Malaysia Act in 1963, on the formation of the Federation of Malaysia.

During the same trip we were also given a visit to the City of London (‘The City’) right in the heart of London. Not many know that the City of London is not the same as Greater London, the capital city of the United Kingdom. 

The City is separate and distinct from London, like a city within a city.  This was also a surprise for us.

The title of the Mayor of the City of London is called the Lord Mayor of London, while the title of the Mayor of Greater London, or London, as it is commonly known, is just Mayor of London.  Kind of confusing for the uninitiated.

Greater London is not only the capital city of the United Kingdom, but is also a county that covers a total area of 607 square miles and incorporates 32 boroughs, as well as the City of London!

What is called as the City of London has its origins in the fortified Roman settlement of Londinium, which was erected roughly two thousand years ago on the northern bank of the River Thames and came to encompass one square mile within its walls.

It is for this reason that despite the City of London actually covering an area of two square miles, Londoners still affectionately refer to it as ‘the Square Mile’.

The next time when you find yourself in Central London, the part called ‘the City of London’ or ‘the Square Mile’, look out for markers made of cast iron dragons in the streets.

These are actually the marks representing the boundaries of the City of London which stretches north from Temple and the Tower of London on the River Thames to Chancery Lane in the west and Liverpool Street in the east.

Enjoy the exploration and the surprises.

The writer is a regular contributor to the New Sarawak Tribune.