From the earliest times Labuan has had various cultural and religious influences with an illustrious history under the rule of various empires.
1500s – 1800s
After the fall of the Majapahit Empire in the early 16th century, Labuan came under the rule of the Brunei Sultanate.
Labuan catches the eye of the British, who were scouting for a new naval base location to protect their regional interests and for operations against piracy.
Labuan was officially ceded to the British by Raja Muda Hashim, uncle of the Sultan of Brunei on 18 December 1846.
Labuan was made a crown colony and free port. The island’s first administrative system was installed with Sir James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak appointed as the first Governor of Labuan. Other notable appointments included Sir Hugh Low as Colonial Secretary.
The first coal mining operation was carried out by the Eastern Archipelago Company. Immigrant Chinese labour was imported from Hong Kong to work the coal mines. The North Borneo Chartered Company eventually took over the mine, which was closed in 1911 due to flooding.
A railway line was built to transport coal from Tanjung Kubong coal mine to Victoria Port along McArthur Road (known today as Jalan Tun Mustapha).
The administration of Labuan was handed over to the British North Borneo Company, also known as the North Borneo Chartered Company.
Labuan was reverted to a crown colony. In 1906, it was suggested that the island be included as part of the Straits Settlement.
Labuan was placed under the Straits Settlement administration headed by Sir Arthur Henderson Young G.C.M.G.
The Japanese Imperial Army invaded the region and ruled a large part of Borneo for several years. Labuan was renamed Pulau Maida (Maeda-shima) after General Maida, the chief commander of the Japanese forces in Borneo who was killed in an air crash on the way to Labuan.
On 10 June 1945, a convoy of 100 Allied ships landed in Labuan. An attack was launched by the Australian Army’s 9th Division resulting in the surrender of the Japanese.
On 9 September 1945, General Masao Baba, Commander of the 37th Japanese Army, formally signed a letter of surrender at Surrender Point in Layang-Layangan beach before Major General George F. Wootten, Commander of the Australian Army’s 9th Division.
Labuan was again placed under the command of the North Borneo British Crown Colony (now known as Sabah). Sir Edward Twining was then Governor to Sabah.
Labuan Town Board was formed to administer the island.
The free port status of Labuan was reinstated, making it a duty-free island.
On 16 September 1963 Labuan together with Sabah and Sarawak became independent and joined Malaysia.
Labuan was proclaimed a Federal Territory of Malaysia on 16 April 1984.
1990s to present
The island was declared an International Offshore Financial Centre on 1 October 1990. Initially, there were only 6 banks, 5 legal firms and 8 accounting firms established on the island.
The regulator of the jurisdiction, then known as Labuan Offshore Financial Services Authority came into being.
In January, Labuan was repositioned and renamed Labuan International Business and Finanial Centre.
New legislation enacted renaming the regulator as Labuan Financial Services Authority (Labuan FSA).
Today, Labuan is surging ahead. It is progressing well in its development as a financial hub and an upcoming tourist destination. It stands to progress further as its vast potentials are gradually exploited.