From the earliest times, Labuan has had various cultural and religious influences with an illustrious history under the rule of various empires.
See here for more on Labuan’s World War 2 sites.
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 established and Sir James Brooke, the first White Rajah of Sarawak, was appointed as the first Governor of Labuan. Other notable appointments included Sir Hugh Low, who made the first documented ascent of Mount Kinabalu, as Colonial Secretary.
The Eastern Archipelago Company undertook the first coal mining operations on the island. Immigrant Chinese labourers were imported from Hong Kong to work the coal mines. The North Borneo Chartered Company eventually took over the mines, which closed in 1911 due to flooding.
A railway line, one of the country’s first, was built to transport coal from Tanjung Kubong coal mine to Victoria (Bandar Labuan) 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 led 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 Toshinari Maida, the chief commander of the Japanese forces in Borneo.
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.
Labuan was again placed under the control of the North Borneo British Crown Colony (now known as Sabah) and was governed by Sir Edward Twining, a member of the Twinings tea family.
Labuan Town Board was formed to administer the island.
The free port status of Labuan was reinstated on 1 September 1956 under the Custom Ordinance (Amendment No. 2) 1956, making it a duty-free island.
On 16 September 1963 Labuan together with Sabah and Sarawak became independent and joined Malaysia.
Labuan was transferred from Sabah to Malaysia’s federal government, who proclaimed the island 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 as part of a rebranding exercise.
New legislation was 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. The island stands to progress further as its vast potentials are gradually uncovered.