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Did You Know: Kuala Lumpur Used to Be the Capital City of Selangor Until the Mid-1970s


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Source: Kitab Tawarikh & Pexels | Umar Mukhtar

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As January draws to a close and we say goodbye to the first month of 2024, many people in Kuala Lumpur, Putrajaya, and Labuan are also taking the time to commemorate the celebration of Federal Territory Day. And while plenty of Malaysians are just thankful for the public holiday, do we all really know why 1 February is regarded as a territorial holiday for these states?

In historical context, Federal Territory Day marks the anniversary of the transfer of Kuala Lumpur from the state of Selangor to the federal government, which took place on 1 February 1974.

WAIT WHAT? That’s right! Kuala Lumpur used to be part of Selangor way back when, all until about 50 years ago. But what if we were to tell you, that apart from being designated within the state, Kuala Lumpur was also regarded as the capital city of Selangor? If you didn’t know it before, you do now!

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Kuala Lumpur.


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Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

According to Malaysian history, Kuala Lumpur was originally developed around 1857, and acted as a town handling the tin mines of the region, officially serving as the capitol of Selangor from 1880.

Growing exponentially from being just 0.65km² in 1895 to an approximation of 243km² at present day, as according to a report by The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific, the development of Kuala Lumpur not only saw through the booming of various industrial eras but also in surviving multiple World Wars.

Kuala Lumpur circa 1880.

However, on 28 January 1974, a concurrence which would come to be known as the Federal Territory Agreement was signed by the Yang-di Pertuan Agong at the time, Tuanku Abdul Halim Muadzam Shah of Kedah and the Sultan of Selangor, Almarhum Sultan Salahuddin Abdul Aziz Shah. This agreement introduced Federal Territory Day, which would take place four days later on 1 February 1974.

Signifying an agreement on behalf of the Federal Government of Malaysia through the Agong, and the State Government of Selangor on behalf of the Sultan, the transfer signified the official handling of Kuala Lumpur as a territory to the Federal Government, which resulted in the establishment of Malaysia’s first Federal Territory.

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Ceremony handing Selangor to the Federal Government in 1974.

While the reasoning behind the separation of Kuala Lumpur from Selangor have been numerous, the territory’s notability as an administrative centre for trade, commerce, and banking since Selangor’s institution as part of the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, contribute to a large probability of the outcome, as stated by Selangor Travel.

Shortly after in 1978, Shah Alam was officially instituted as the capital city of Selangor to replace Kuala Lumpur. Bringing significance to the state, Shah Alam became the first planned city in Malaysian history after independence from Britain in 1957.

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Shah Alam, Selangor.

Following the lead, Labuan officially became the second federal territory of Malaysia come 16 April 1984, while Putrajaya joined as the third, and as of 2024, final federal territory of Malaysia in 2001.

Despite the differing anniversary dates of Labuan with that of Kuala Lumpur and Putrajaya, the holiday is maintained and celebrated on 1 February yearly, due to the significance. In Malaysian history, 1 February 1948 signified the day the Federation of Malaya was formed, also known as British Malaya.

Ceremony handing Putrajaya from Selangor to the Federal Government in 2001.


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Ceremony handing Labuan from Sabah to the Federal Government in 1984.

In celebrating Federal Territory Day, may all Malaysians remember this ground-breaking and historical change that further modernised the city of Kuala Lumpur to become a booming cosmopolitan, appreciated and lauded by many people around the globe and at home too.

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To all those celebrating Federal Territory Day, have a good break! And to all those elsewhere, too bad!

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Also read: 9 Cultural Landmarks You MUST Visit if You’re Travelling to KL on Federal Territory Day

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Source: Labuan

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