The British Malaysian Society was
Formed in 1983

“A man, Sir, should keep his friendships in constant repair” – Samuel Johnson.

History of 1981

May 1981
Dr. Mahathir Mohamad
becomes Prime Minister of Malaysia

When Dr Mahathir Mohamad, a medical doctor, became Prime Minister of Malaysia early in 1981, it was perhaps inevitable that the close relations hitherto enjoyed between Britain and Malaysia would look different when seen from his desk. For, unlike his three predecessors he had not been educated in Britain, nor like them was he a member of the English Bar. He articulated a general feeling that Britain took Malaysia for granted and did not take seriously complaints about irritants, especially in the commercial and educational fields. As he put it later: “It took the shock of dealing with a reputedly abrasive personality to correct an out-of-date patron/client relationship.” The British Malaysian Society (BMS) emerged as a response to the Buy British Last policy proclaimed by Dr Mahathir in October 1981 in response to perceived grievances.

October 1981
Dr Mahathir
enacts Buy British Last policy

Initiated in Kuala Lumpur by Neville Green then running Standard Chartered Bank’s Malaysian operations and in London by Sir Donald Hawley, Britain’s immediate past High Commissioner in Malaysia, a group of senior businessmen in both countries moved to repair the longstanding – but now frayed – ties between the two countries. With Dr Mahathir’s encouragement to do so obtained in Kuala Lumpur by Neville Green, the group began discussions in December 1982 with a view to creating bilateral alliances dedicated to a more modern relationship, hence the creation of the BMS. An inaugural lunch took place in London in November 1983. Whilst the Buy British Last policy became history after two years, coming to an end in October 1983, it had the effect of creating a new, more positive mood.

History of 1983

November 1983
The British Malaysian Society is formed

Following formation of the BMS, The Malaysian British Society (MBS) was formed thereafter, in September 1984, at a dinner in Kuala Lumpur at which Dr Mahathir was the Guest of Honour. The first joint meeting of the two Societies was held in London in 1985, in No.10 Downing Street.

History of 1984

September 1984
The Malaysian British Society is formed

The principle movers were, in London, Bank of England Governor Lord Richardson, The British Malaysian Society’s founder President, and in Kuala Lumpur, Tun Ismail Ali, founder President of the MBS. The former brought to bear his international experience of central banking and the latter a legally trained mind. Tun Ismail (1918 – 1998) had also pursued a distinguished and highly influential career, first as a diplomat and later as Governor of Bank Negara Malaysia (central bank) for 18 years. Lord Richardson put together a Council for the BMS which included Lord Jellicoe, then Chairman of the British Overseas Trade Board, and other business leaders of the day from banking, manufacturing, trading, shipping, accounting and the oil industry.

History of 1985

March 1985
Mrs Thatcher hosts
The first meeting of the two Societies in London

From its inception, BMS impact on the bilateral relationship was considerable. Differences between British Airways and Malaysian Airline System were resolved and extra money for overseas students was provided, with the BMS’s strong support, by the British government. Difficulties for British investors and businessmen in Malaysia were reduced or overcome. In 1985 the MBS and the BMS were instrumental in sending a first cohort of 42 Malaysian students to selected British boarding schools for ‘A’ Level courses and on to Oxford and Cambridge and other universities. Over subsequent years the BMS actively monitored many hundreds more ‘A’ Level students, almost all of them kampong children, through successful school careers into top British universities. The Malaysians reciprocated by financing their own ‘Top Universities Scheme’. The Society awarded annual prizes, for the best ‘A’ Level student named after Sir Arnold Hall (1915 – 2000), Chairman of the Hawker Siddeley Group, and the Richardson Prize for the most outstanding university student.

The twin Societies became involved in other educational initiatives, taking a direct interest in promotion of training for Malaysians in such diverse fields as accountancy, engineering and medicine. Several cultural events were held under the aegis of the BMS. Joint meetings took place not only in Kuala Lumpur and London but also in Penang, Langkawi, Kuching and on HM Royal Yacht Britannia in Port Klang and at Leeds Castle, Bath and at Hampton Court.

History of 1998

June 1998
The Malaysian British Society is dissolved

A new relationship having prospered amongst old friends, the Malaysians took the view in 1998 that the Societies could be dissolved. At the British end however, it was felt that there was still a need for a bilateral society, supporting the work of the two governments. Aided by a group of influential advisers in Kuala Lumpur, friends of Malaysia in Britain decided to carry on as The British Malaysian Society and subsequently replaced the dissolved MBS with its own KL Panel. The Panel initially comprised many activists of its predecessor MBS but importantly, today it includes a younger generation of British educated leaders from Malaysian commerce and industry.

History of 2002

September 2002
The British Malaysian Society KL Panel is formed

In recent years, the Society has concentrated its bilateral relationship endeavours very much on educational and cultural activities and in adding value to membership through diverse events programmes.

History of 2003

May 2003
BMS event in HSBC, Canada Square, Canary Wharf, E14

A highlight of the year was a talk by BMS Vice President & past Chairman of Shell Sir Mark Moody-Stuart on ‘Sustainable development and its applicability to Malaysia’.

History of 2004

January 2004
BMS support of the Kandis Resource Centre’s ‘Spirit of Wood’ exhibition

The art of Malay wood-carving was dramatically demonstrated during January 2004 at the University of London’s School of Oriental & African Studies Brunei Gallery. This was made possible largely through the endeavours of an activist lady member of the Society who also curated the exhibition.

History of 2005

November 2005
BMS musical event, Netherhall House, NW3

This was the first of a number of musical evenings hosted by the BMS featuring aspiring Malaysian musicians.

History of 2006

March 2006
Dinner with Tun Musa Hitam

An evening in the House of Lords hosted by the Royal Society for Asian Affairs and enjoyed by BMS members, with Tun Musa Hitam ‘Speaking as a Deputy Prime Minister’.

History of 2007

August 2007
BMS members’ tour West Malaysia to celebrate
the 50th anniversary of Merdeka

On 31st August 2007, some 90 UK members of the Society joined in Kuala Lumpur more than 120 British ex-service veterans wearing Pingat Jasa Malaysia commemorative medals to celebrate fifty years of Malaysia’s nationhood on the Merdeka Padang. All attended a British High Commission reception next day hosted by HRH The Duke of York representing the Queen at the celebrations.

October 2007
The first Malaysia – UK Partnership Dialogue,
Mansion House, City of London

Jointly organised by the BMS in London and by the Asian Strategy & Leadership Institute (ASLI) in Kuala Lumpur, this 25th October 2007 day long Dialogue hosted by the Lord Mayor of the Corporation of London was attended by the Malaysian Minister of Foreign Affairs, three of his cabinet colleagues, the FCO’s Parliamentary Under Secretary of State and by leading City of London businessmen. This was followed in the evening by a reception in the Locarno Suite, Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

November 2007
BMS Merdeka concert at Cadogan Hall,
Sloane Square, SW3

An evening of contemporary classical music was arranged by the Society on 14th November 2007. This including the first public performance of music composed by Benjamin Britten as a possible Malayan national anthem performed by the London Sinfonietta, and gamelan based music by a Malaysian composer played by a young Malaysian pianist

History of 2008

April 2008
A first BMS conference for top British schools on opportunities in Malaysia

Some 45 school heads & governors attended this 24th April 2008 day long conference jointly arranged & hosted in the National Liberal Club, Whitehall by the Society and the UK’s leading educational consultancy

History of 2009

March 2009
BMS open evening for prospective new members

This 26th March 2009 evening was designed to recruit new, young, mainly London resident Malaysian members. An interested gathering of 75 attended. 34 joined BMS.

April 2009
The second Malaysia – UK Partnership Dialogue

This afternoon Dialogue, like its predecessor, was jointly organised by BMS in London and ASLI in Kuala Lumpur, and was hosted on 27th April 2009 at the National Liberal Club where the newly appointed Malaysian Minister of International Trade & Industry was the keynote speaker. Lord Powell and Lord Sheikh were amongst other speakers.

May 2009
A BMS members’ preview of an exhibition of fabrics & handicrafts of Sarawak

This two week exhibition previewed on 26th May at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in Shoreditch and closed with a BMS sponsored lunch for 80 at the Awana Restaurant, Sloane Avenue, SW3.

History of 2010

April 2010
A second BMS education colloquium, this time on overseas opportunities for top British schools.

This was a re-run of the April 2008 conference, again hosted in the National Liberal Club in Whitehall but this time aimed at the geographically wider opportunities on offer in Asia. Then in May 2010, the third in the series of Malaysia – UK Partnership Dialogues was held in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Kuala Lumpur. This opened with speeches by The Duke of York HRH Prince Andrew, by The Crown Prince of Perak HRH Raja Nasrin Shah and by the Minister of International Trade & Industry Dato’ Sri Mustapa Mohamed. Speeches were followed by a Luncheon then by a Dialogue in both of which, amongst others, Nottingham University’s Vice-Chancellor Prof. David Greenaway and Pro Vice-Chancellor Prof. Christine Ennew participated.

History of 2011

March 2011
A first for the BMS was a career workshop co-hosted for post-graduates and addressed by active practitioners in London's Limkokwing University Piccadilly premises.
Some 80 students attended.

The Society’s year 2011 saw a record number of events staged and enjoyed by participants. Amongst the events was the year’s AGM in May incorporating a reception hosted for members by the President. But the year’s highlight was the Society’s joint venture with the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in Shoreditch and the Islamic Arts Museum in Kuala Lumpur. The outcome was an Exhibition which took place in the School in June featuring a wide selection of Malaysian royal weaves with artisans from Terengannu and Perak demonstrating the country’s traditional textile weaving techniques. The Exhibition was twinned with a talk on the subject hosted in Asia House, and was followed by a Gala Dinner hosted in London’s Drapers’ Hall. The Society’s Exhibition Catalogue for the joint venture contained a Forward contributed by HRH Prince Charles.

Later in the year, London’s Inner Temple Sub-Treasurer hosted a talk by himself and the Temple’s Malaysian Bencher, Tan Sri Dato’ James Foong. The Temple’s only other Malaysian Bencher was Malaysia’s first Prime MInister, the late Tunku Abdul Rahman. The year’s final event for 2011 was a Christmas reception hosted for members and friends by the Chairman in December.

Importantly 2011 also included the first of a series of introductory talks by distinguished educationalists who have over a number of years developed links with Malaysian culture and education.

Meanwhile the Society’s successful Book Project continues strongly and has so far arranged collection of some 6,000 English language reading and other books from UK schools now distributed and in use in Malaysian schools.

History of 2012

January 2012
The flamboyant Mr. Chinnery,
An English Artist in India and China'.

A sparkling opener for 2012. The first loan exhibition in London devoted to Chinnery since the Arts Council housed one in 1957, with a private view and talk by Betty Yao. A BMS/Asia House joint venture.

Dato’ Kim Tan’s Inner Temple talk on ‘Social Entrepreneurship – a Malaysian success story’ was a second highlight of the year.

Followed by the year’s third highlight, Dato’ Erik Jensen’s illustrated lecture on his latest book ‘Where Hornbills Fly – a journey with the head-hunters of Borneo.’ The year’s third BMS/Asia House joint venture.”

History of 2013

A full year of events and change for the Society

On 1 January Dato’ Neville Green handed over the Chair to Dato’ Zarir Cama after 30 years service as one of our founders and latterly as Chairman for many years.
13 events were held including the World Eco Fibre and Textile Exhibition in January, 3 talks on the Malaysian general election and its aftermath, joint events with Asia House and The Royal Society for Asian Affairs, a very successful students careers evening, as well as the usual social lunches and dinners.

Towards the year end the Management Committee decided to streamline the Society’s management and restructure the various committees and advisory groups to make best use of our limited resources. Details will be finalised in early 2014 and announced to members.

History of 2015

Strong membership growth and extensive programme of events

There was an increase in individual membership during the year while corporate support was maintained. The thirteen events organised by the Society in 2015 were well attended with members being invited to a further ten events arranged by affiliated organisations. Five of our events covered current Malaysian affairs, the area which proved to be of the greatest interest to members and our traditional Eid and Chinese New Year meals continued to be popular. The Annual Dinner was again held at the Inner Temple and, mainly thanks to two business class tickets being donated by Malaysia Airlines, the auction raised over £6,000; cheques for over £3,000 each were presented to two Malaysian charities – Mercy Malaysia UK and Voice of the Children.

The newly formed Executive Committee was strengthened at the beginning of the year with the addition of Jason Brooke, a Sarawak Association committee member, Haliza Hashim-Doyle the TV3 Representative in London, and Mei Sim Lai, an active member of several City organisations including the Institute of Directors City Branch with which the BMS has held joint events.

History of 2014

Another full year, with changes to management structure completed

We had a very full year with membership numbers stable and some significant changes introduced in the shape of our committees which manage the Society’s business. It was felt that having both the Management and the Education & Culture Committees as separate entities was cumbersome and took up unnecessary time. These committees were merged and we now have one Executive Committee, with all the different areas of activity becoming the remit of specific Executive Committee members. This has considerably focused our efforts to allow a wider and more intense discussion on topics and issues and future plans.

Finally Dato’ Zed Cama stepped down from the Chairmanship after a two year tenure and handed over the baton to Dato’ Anthony Cooper who, with his strong and live connections to Malaysia, is already bringing around added and real momentum to the Society’s activities.

We hosted a number of talks and events which received strong turnouts for speakers such as Tash Aw (on his award winning book), John Goodwin (on palm oil), Sharmila Sekaran (on children’s rights) and Prof Hugh Montgomery (Matters of life and death), as well as our usual social events such as the Eid and Chinese New Year celebratory meals and, our main event, the annual dinner.

History of 2015

Strong membership growth and extensive programme of events

There was an increase in individual membership during the year while corporate support was maintained. The thirteen events organised by the Society in 2015 were well attended with members being invited to a further ten events arranged by affiliated organisations. Five of our events covered current Malaysian affairs, the area which proved to be of the greatest interest to members and our traditional Eid and Chinese New Year meals continued to be popular. The Annual Dinner was again held at the Inner Temple and, mainly thanks to two business class tickets being donated by Malaysia Airlines, the auction raised over £6,000; cheques for over £3,000 each were presented to two Malaysian charities – Mercy Malaysia UK and Voice of the Children.

The newly formed Executive Committee was strengthened at the beginning of the year with the addition of Jason Brooke, a Sarawak Association committee member, Haliza Hashim-Doyle the TV3 Representative in London, and Mei Sim Lai, an active member of several City organisations including the Institute of Directors City Branch with which the BMS has held joint events.

History of 2015

Strong membership growth and extensive programme of events

There was an increase in individual membership during the year while corporate support was maintained. The thirteen events organised by the Society in 2015 were well attended with members being invited to a further ten events arranged by affiliated organisations. Five of our events covered current Malaysian affairs, the area which proved to be of the greatest interest to members and our traditional Eid and Chinese New Year meals continued to be popular. The Annual Dinner was again held at the Inner Temple and, mainly thanks to two business class tickets being donated by Malaysia Airlines, the auction raised over £6,000; cheques for over £3,000 each were presented to two Malaysian charities – Mercy Malaysia UK and Voice of the Children.

The newly formed Executive Committee was strengthened at the beginning of the year with the addition of Jason Brooke, a Sarawak Association committee member, Haliza Hashim-Doyle the TV3 Representative in London, and Mei Sim Lai, an active member of several City organisations including the Institute of Directors City Branch with which the BMS has held joint events.

History of 2016

Broad programme of events continued with more Malaysian and younger members joining

The membership increased in 2016, particularly with more student members joining, most of them Malaysian. Sixteen events were held during the year, three topical, four on business matters, four on education and culture and five others mainly of a social or networking nature. Highlights were a talk in July by HE Vicki Treadell, the British High Commissioner to Malaysia, hosted by the Inner Temple, and the Annual Dinner in October at which several thousand pounds were raised at an auction, much of it thanks to Malaysia Airlines again donating business class tickets. Donations from the proceeds were made to Hospis Malaysia and Dignity Foundation for Children. Joint events were held with the Institute of Directors City Branch and the Malayan Volunteers Group.

Two new Honorary Life Members were appointed – Dato’ Neville Green, the BMS Founder Chairman, and Dr John Breakell, former Chairman of the Education and Culture Committee. Both had given invaluable service and support to the Society over many years. Three members retired from the Executive Committee and Stephanie Cheong succeeded Julian Metcalfe as the Events Organiser.

Relations with the Malaysian High Commission, MIDA and MATRADE were strengthened and members were invited to a number of Malaysian events hosted by other organisations with hospitality being offered to members by the Malaysian High Commissioner, HE Dato’ Ahmad Rasidi Hazizi, on several occasions.

History of 2017

60th Anniversary of Merdeka
Celebrated with Music from Malaysia Concert in October and the House of Lords Christmas Reception in December; many popular events oversubscribed

Fourteen events were held this year including talks by both our Vice Presidents, Sir David Greenaway, who recently retired as Vice Chancellor of the University of Nottingham and Chairman of the Russell Group of Universities, and Lord Powell who was the Guest Speaker at the Annual Dinner held at the Inner Temple. Two joint events were held with the IOD City Branch and for the first time two joint cultural events were held with the Sarawak Association. The usual five social and networking events, including the President’s Reception, the Chinese New Year lunch and the EID dinner, were held and were well attended by both members and guests. Some events are proving so popular that members have been advised to book early if they want to attend.

During the year, apart from celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Merdeka, more emphasis was put on our student membership and our corporate members, including Coventry University’s London Campus and Battersea Power Development, both of which joined during the year. A Panel Discussion for students with Lord Bilmoria as a key speaker was held in December and was attended by Malaysian students from sixteen universities.

The Society continued to have good relations with both the British High Commissioner to Malaysia, HE Vicki Treadell, who gave a stimulating talk at the Inner Temple in September, and HE Dato’ Ahmad Rasidi Hazizi, who again hosted events at the Malaysian High Commission in London and attended the Annual Dinner and other BMS events.