Posted by: Kaki Ayam | May 7, 2008

Malaysia Race Relations

Have been reading a post from a commenter to a thread in this forum repeatedly for a number of times. I feel the writer put forward eloquently what many right thinking malaysians (esp:non-bumi) feel about race relations in this beloved country of ours. Many people (including lawyers, professors, teachers and professionals) do have this kind of racist mentality. As such, it’s no wonder after 4 generations the Chinese and Indians reach the shore of Malaysia, there are still people who think that this country belongs solely to a single race and that we are merely squatting in their God blessed land, and that we need to show our gratitude for their benevolence and generosity. Never mind of the fact that they weren’t the original inhabitants of the country in the first place.

Afraid that the post may be archive or deleted in due time, I do a copy and paste as below –

Assimiliation is the answer

written by Nik Elin Zurina Bt Nik Abdul Rashid, 17 April, 2008 at 05:18 pm

I google searched for the meaning of “the social contract” and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_contract_(Malaysia) defined it to mean the quid pro quo trade-off through Articles 14–18 of the Constitution, pertaining to the granting of citizenship to the non-Malay people of Malaysia, and Article 153, which grants the Malays special rights and privileges.

I know I should not be depending entirely on a Wikipedia to support my contention, but that was the easiest piece to google for its meaning.

It proceeded to state, “the social contract is typically taken to mean a quid pro quo agreement that provides the non-Malay and other non-indigenous peoples of Malaysia (mostly the Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indian) with citizenship, in return for their granting special privileges to the Malays and indigenous people of Malaysia, collectively referred to as the Bumiputra (sons of the soil).”

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution states that: “It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.”

The Malay special position are thus fundamentally guaranteed under the Federal Constitution. So why are we still questioning this special position?

The issue here is that if each and everyone of us, in the words of HRH Tengku Mahkota Kelantan, “tidak ungkit mengungkit” (meaning it cuts both ways, ie Malays don’t raise issues about non Malay rights and non Malays don’t raise the issues of Malay rights) then racial harmony can be achieved. Which means, “if you don’t provoke me, then I have absolutely no right to provoke you”. But if you start questioning my special position which has been enshrined in the Constitution, then, I will have a right to question you on how you have managed to gain your citizenship.”.

And although this is a hard fact to swallow for many non Malays, it is actually very much still relevant, unless and until such time that the Federal Constitution is amended.

HRH was giving his keynote address in a forum entitled “Malay unity is the core of national unity” . I take it to mean that neither the non Malays nor the Malays should raise issues of each others rights in order to ensure racial harmony. Now what is so wrong with that statement?

Most unfortunately, it has been mischievously and gravely reported to read that the HRH Tengku Mahkota has commanded that NO non Malay is to question the Malay rights if Malaysians wanted to enjoy peace and harmony in Malaysia since the Malays were “co-erced” into giving citizenship to the non Malays. Now that’s what I call VERY provocative selective reporting.

Instead of showing the beauty of co-existence that HRH has asked of us in most of his 24 paragraph speech (which was prepared for him and given out the night before and where HRH made major amendments to the original text), the reporters instead chose to report as follows:

“Kelantan Crown Prince Tengku Faris Petra said today that Malays had been coerced into giving non-Malays citizenship and the latter should therefore not seek equality or special treatment.”… “Therefore, the rakyat must unite and never raise issues regarding Malay rights and special privileges because it is a quid pro quo in gratitude for the giving in of citizenship (beri-paksa kerakyatan) to 2.7 million non-Malays into the Tanah Melayu federation.”…Thus, it is not appropriate for these other ethnic groups to have citizenship, only (later) to seek equality and privileges,” said Tengku Faris, who read from a 11-page prepared text.”

Now compare this with the actual read out text.

“17. Tidak harus ada apa-apa kebimbangan.Raja-raja akan menjadi payung kepada perpaduan dan menjadi sumber ketaatan kepada seluruh rakyat, sebagaimana yang termaktub di dalam perlembagaan dan rukun negara. Dengan demikian, sewajarnyalah semua rakyat bersatu dan tidak harus (not necessary) ada ungkit-mengungkit mengenai hak dan keistimewaan orang-orang melayu kerana ia adalah quid pro quo sebagai balasan kepada beri-paksa kerakyatan kepada 2.7 juta kaum lain yang datang ke Persekutuan Tanah Melayu. Maka memanglah tidak wajar setelah kaum lain mendapat kerakyatan, mereka menuntut pula persamaan hak dan keistimewaan.”

The whole text can be found at

http://www.malaysianbar.org.my/opinions/comments/text_of_tengku_mohammad_faris_petra_s_speech.html#jc_writeComment

The text must be read in its entirety. I presume the 3 persons who prepared the text for HRH to read must have used the same wikipedia in order to extract information about the Malay race.

Anyway, this should be taken to mean that I have no right to question the right of an Indian to practise his faith and beliefs, and I have no right to question the right of a Chinese to have his pork and eat it, much as they have no right to question about my privileges. Does anyone disagree with this statement? I am careful not to use the word, “Malay rights” as it is not Malay rights that are enshrined, but the Malay “special position”.
Lets put it this way, if my parents had adopted a Chinese brother and an Indian brother for me when I was young. We grew up together as brothers and sisters living in harmony and co-existence. Lets say, the Chinese and the Indian continue practising their faith in our home. They are given their space to do as they like. But the house is still a Malay home, rumah Melayu.

My Chinese adopted brother works hard to help my father run his rubber estate business and contributes substantially to our family expenses with his very clever business acumen. The Indian adopted brother helps my father tap rubber as I am too lazy to tap the rubber myself. I sit at home and take care of my father. Then when my father dies, as a Muslim, only I get to inherit his estate and wealth. Surely the Chinese and Indian brother would be upset as they had worked just as hard as my father to build up the family wealth, and thus the constant bickering with my brothers. But I am “special” as I am his natural child. Although my father tries hard to raise us all as equals, it is difficult as the Chinese refuses to come down and be my equal partner. He still thinks that his race is far more superior than mine and as such, refuses to accept our customs and traditions. The Indian brother, on the other hand, has always practised the traditional “caste” system. And even among the people of India back in homeland India, they fight with each other, saying that they are not “Indians” but Malayalese, Tamils, Ceylonese, Keralalese, Bengalis and Punjabis etc.

(I remember when I was teaching part time a long time ago, I taught about our various races that made up Malaysia. I asked all Malays to raise their hands, and then the Chinese, and then when it came to who is an Indian, there was this Indian girl named if I remember correctly, Elizabeth Sebastian, and when I asked her her race, she told me that she was Christian race and not an Indian. She refused to acknowledge herself as an Indian girl and she was almost in tears when told she was of Indian descent. After that I learnt never to look at a person by their race as it would only upset people. Not everyone is proud of their lineage.)

Anyway, to continue my story, my 2 adopted brothers, are still allowed to live in my Melayu home. Although I had secretly hoped that after all these years, they would have assimilated themselves to the Malay culture and Custom. But they dont.

(I must confess that had this been the real situation, I would have given to my adopted brothers 1/3 of my fathers estate as “wasiat” as that would be permitted under Syariah laws, since they are my adopted brothers)

http://www.muis.gov.sg/websites/rservices/opendocall.asp?type=I&sno=549.

Having had a family of their own now, they send all their children to Tamil schools and Chinese schools, instead of sending them to the normal sekolah kebangsaan. The reason, they don’t want their children to lose their ethnicity by mixing with the Malay Muslim children. They still don’t know how or refuse to speak proper Malay, although they have lived with us for so many years. To them, their race is superior and should not be sacrificed.

(Sekolah kebangsaan has bacaan doa selamat in the school and this they highly object to as their children are not Muslims). So they make their children grow further apart from the Malays.

My neighbour, on the other hand who has adopted a Chinese and an Indian child as well, does not face this problem as their Chinese child has started wearing kebaya’s and batek and speaks Malay and although they are still Buddhist they are now called Baba’s and Nyonya’s instead and very much still proud of their ancestral Chinese lineage. The Indian child has converted to Islam and although he still looks Indian, speaks Tamil but has been called themselves Mamak and Mami’s.

It is the responsibility of ALL Malaysians, irrespective of race, to stop provoking for equal rights as what they are actually asking is for them to be accorded more respect and privileges than the Malays. If that is what they keep on harping, then they are playing with fire. If we cant then, lets just live together in harmony and forget the colour of your skin, or what is my faith. I believe that in order for Bangsa Malaysia to be born, we need to completely assimilate into one race.

SO many talk about not looking beyond race. SO IS EVERYONE ready and really willing to give up your race? Only then can we really find the true meaning of a nation with only one race. Bangsa Malaysia.

What I am trying to state is that if all Malaysians truly believe in equality, then one shouldn’t ask for “special treatment” for the Chinese or Indians.

Why don’t we sit down together and plan a true Malaysian race, devoid of any one particular race being dominant, like the Nyonyas and Babas and the Mamaks. I would have no qualms about the Baba’s and Nyonya’s and the Mamaks and the Mami being called Bumiputras and accorded the same treatment, privileges, rights as Bumiputras. They deserve it as they have assimilated themselves well with the local customs and culture. Now that’s what I call Bangsa Malaysia. I cannot see how we are ever going to reach Bangsa Malaysia, if all we do is try to suppress Malay “special position”.

If you want to be equal, then be equally Malaysian. Don’t try and turn Malaysia into China or India.

Nik Elin Zurina Bt Nik Abdul Rashid

A commenter responded bravely to correct Nik Elin thoughts –

Reply to Nik Elin

written by Gerard Samuel Vijayan Lourdesamy, 18 April, 2008 at 03:15 pm

I am shocked by the ravings and ranting of Nik Elin. Things should be put into perspective. Frankly, we can all agree to disagree on the Crown Prince of Kelantan’s speech. But there is no need to descend into a racial tirade against others just because some of us may have a different view of his Highnesses’ speech.

If Nik Elin has an axe to grind just because she may be disappointed with the outcome of the 12th general election that is perceived to have eroded Malay political supremacy, please don’t take it out on us non-Malays. The overwhelming majority of the voters, Malay and non-Malay alike decided to reject the abuses and excesses of UMNO and the BN over the last 50 years including UMNO’s purported defence of Malay rights and privileges that has only benefited a select group who are well connected and well remunerated by the ruling party. The vast majority of the Malays have been left out of the Malay agenda by their own leaders and people. That is the reality.

Nik Elin should perhaps explain exactly who is questioning the Malay special position as enshrined in Article 153 of the Constitution. All races have accepted this. None of the political parties in the BN or the PR have raised this and neither was this an issue in the election campaign. If Nik Elin is unhappy that the PR wants to replace the NEP with a more open, transparent and effective affirmative action policy based on need, irrespective of race, so be it. But don’t give the impression that the Chinese and Indians are threatening the Malay special position just because all races are clamouring for justice equality and equity. So who is provoking whom?

The social contract is not defined in the Constitution. Neither does the term “Bumiputera” appear any where in the Constitution. Article 153 of the Constitution that is much alluded to talks only about the special position of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak in the context of quotas in the public services, education and in the giving of business permits and licenses. It does not envisage Malay domination at the expense of the other ethnic groups to the point where their fundamental rights are eroded and they are treated differently. A good example would be UITM where although a public university, funded by all taxpayers irrespective of race but only open to the Bumiputera and not others. Article 153 does not justify this. Neither does it allow for the government, the public services, the universities and government linked companies to be dominated by one race only irrespective of merit and ability. The same applies to appointments and promotions in the public sector, the awarding of public contracts, the granting of licenses and permits. There is a big difference between affirmative action programmes and institutionalised discrimination. The former it can be argued has its limited origins in Article 153 but the latter runs foul in the face of the Constitution and is against both the letter and spirit of the Constitution.

Article 153 was only intended to last for 15 years but it has not been reviewed. Even the late Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, was of the view that this provision should not be retained longer than 15 years as it would not be helpful in creating a genuine Malaysian society based on equality, mutual trust and tolerance. But I concede that given the present climate in this country and ever since the NEP was introduce in 1970, there is a culture of dependency, mediocrity and malaise that is prevalent to the point that Article 153 is used as the convenient fallback position to avoid any serious discussion about where we are heading as a nation and to justify the endless abuses and misdeeds of the ruling elite and their supporters.

Nik Elin’s little analogy about her “adopted” Chinese and Indian brothers reveals a lot about her way of thinking. Firstly, why must it always be known as a “Malay” home and not a “Malaysian” home? Is it because the Chinese and Indian brothers are still considered outsiders despite living in this country for three or four generations (far longer than some UMNO politicians from Indonesia who are immediately called “Bumiputera”) and are perceived to have the option of returning to their “homelands”? Secondly, it is unfair to generalise that all Chinese think of themselves as superior to other races. They only make up 28% of the population. If Malays feel inferior to the Chinese then they should ask themselves why they feel insecure, what are their weaknesses and inadequacies and why after 37 years of affirmative action policies by a Malay dominated government, they lack the ability to compete with the Chinese on a level playing field without a “constitutional” crutch from the government? Thirdly, what has the Indian “caste system” got to do with inter-ethnic relations in Malaysia? As a Malaysian of Indian origin, I can safely say that caste is not a major issue or barrier in Malaysia for social mobility amongst Indians. As for India, just to enlighten Nik Elin, there are two major ethnic groups, the Indo-Aryans (who live mostly in Northern India) and the Indo-Dravidians (who live mostly in Southern India). These are sub-divided to various smaller ethnic groups depending on geographical location. As such Tamil, Malayalee, Telegu, Bengali and Punjabi are not “castes” but regional ethnic groups living in different parts of India. They are not fighting or killing each other. They are all called Indians collectively and are very proud of their heritage in diversity. The “caste” problem is only prevalent in the poorer states of eastern and central India such as in Bihar, Orissa, Madhya Pradesh and also in parts of Gujerat and Rajasthan where because of land ownership disputes resulting in a preponderance of land being owned by higher “caste” persons, the poor are marginalized and abused. In any event, the Government of India has addressed these issues through laws including constitutional safeguards for those of lower castes and other scheduled groups. Do we have laws in Malaysia to deal with race relations and discrimination?

As for the anecdote about the little Indian Christian girl who had somewhat confused her ethnicity with her race, that can be excused. Perhaps she was not well informed by her parents. After all there are many Malay Muslims who behave as if they are Arabs and practice an Arab-centric form of culture and deny their Malay roots and identity.

Nik Elin’s broadside about vernacular schools and the reason why Chinese and Indian parents send their children to these schools in not fair and totally unjustified. I myself am the product of a government school. But I was there in the 70’s and 80’s. A lot has changed since then. Standards and quality have declined. The school administration and teaching staff are dominated only by one race and most hold very prejudiced and derogatory views about other races. Some even impart their racist and bigoted views to their students. Students who are from minority communities are told to conform to other religious teachings and beliefs, cover themselves even during games (although, they are wearing standard uniforms) and other imposed values that are not shared by other ethnic groups. I know of many cases where non-Malay parents were forced to take their children out of government schools because of acts of discrimination and indifferent treatment by Malay principals and teachers. But there are some good government schools with dedicated and qualified Malay teachers who are not influenced by race and religion. They are becoming a rarity. As far as speaking in proper Bahasa Malaysia is concerned, it is incorrect to say that most non-Malay students from the vernacular schools are very poor in the language. It is true that few speak the language at home but most parents emphasize the importance of the national language in order to live and work in Malaysia. It is equally important in order for them to pass public examinations and gain entry into public universities and colleges. Therefore, it is not true to suggest that they are utterly illiterate or useless in the language as disproved by the pubic examination results. On the same token, after more than 100 years of Chinese and Indian migration to Malaya, how many Malays can speak in Mandarin or Tamil? It must be remembered that 45% of the population is non-Malay.

On the “doa selamat” issue. Firstly, why must such prayers, be said in non-religious schools. If we want to talk about multiculturalism, then apart from Muslim prayers, non-Muslim prayers should also be recited but that is not permitted because only Islam is the official religion. Secondly, when I was in government schools, 30 years ago, the “doa” was never recited except in the Islamic religious studies class. Thirdly, why is it that non-Muslims are lumped together in “moral” studies classes as if they are morally lacking or deficient? Are they not entitled to instruction in their own religious beliefs? Has the government introduced courses on comparative religious studies and understanding as part of the curriculum in all national type schools and public universities? There are many within the education system that favour and encourage separatism. It is unfair just to blame non-Malay parents for this.

I am surprised at Nik Elin’s enlightened idea about assimilation. Assimilate into what? A Malay dominated culture. I think that is what you are suggesting. I don’t mind a Malaysian culture that is representative of our shared heritage, beliefs, customs and values. But not the imposition of one culture on another purely based on statistics and history. Why can’t we have unity in diversity, a true form of multiculturalism based on mutual respect and tolerance? What about Sabah and Sarawak? Have the Malays there who are a minority assimilated into the majority Kadazan and Iban communities? It is remarkable that in East Malaysia, an ethnic minority community that is Muslim can dominate in government and economics over the majority ethnic Christian communities. This is the end result of UMNO exporting its Malay supremacy (even through) illegal means into the two states and maintained by the proverbial divide and rule policy. What has happened to the special position, rights and privileges of the Sabah and Sarawak natives under Article 153 of the Constitution and the famous 30 Points of Agreement that was their basis for entry into Malaysia? It would seem that all this was conveniently sacrificed at the altar of Malay supremacy. Please practice what you preach first before imparting words of wisdom to others. Assimilation as far as I know was an abject failure in southern Thailand, in Indonesia and parts of the Philippines. So why experiment with something that is unworkable and counter-productive to nation building. Have Muslims assimilated in the West?

The non-Malays are not provoking for equal rights in the context of Article 153 of the Constitution. They are neither questioning the status of the Malay Rulers, of Islam and Bahasa Malaysia. These are unifying and entrenched features of our Constitution and focal to our common destiny as a nation. What the non-Malays are seeking is fair, just and equitable treatment as citizens of this country. We are all only subservient to God, the Constitution and the laws of the country. We only want what is right and fair for our communities. Just like the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak, we have also contributed immensely to the peace, progress and prosperity of this country since before independence until now. Why deny us a proper stake in the well being and future of this country? Why work overtly and covertly to weaken, erode and destroy our rights? We are not interested in special treatment or privileges. We have never needed them and we have very little use for a crutch. There are poor and marginalized Chinese and Indians just like poor Malays who also need help and assistance, why ignore them?

Nik Elin can keep her “special position”, status and privileges and reconcile them with her Islamic faith. I leave that to the judgment of God. All this talk about playing with fire is unnecessary. It cuts both ways. If Nik Elin is advocating “constructive destruction” I am all for it. Perhaps we can rebuild a new Malaysia.

There is no question of Malaysia becoming China or India but neither do we want it to become another Afghanistan, Sudan or Saudi Arabia.

Gerard Lourdesamy


If either of the writer of the above article do not wish their comment and writing to be published in this blog, please inform the blog owner at kaki.ayam@gmail.com. The post will be remove accordingly.
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Responses

  1. I found your blog on MSN Search. Nice writing. I will check back to read more.

    Eric Hundin

  2. This debate about ‘special right’, bla, bla…. is now getting more annoying than ever. Why don’t we all just rest it? Once, and for all.

    The only real ‘bumiputeras’ (the sons of the soil) in Malaysia are: the Senoi, Negrito, Iban, Bidayuh, Kadazan, Dusun, Murut, etc. Unlike the Malay, Chinese and Indian (who migrated to Malaysia from somewhere else: Indonesia, China and India) — these real natives of Semenanjung/Sarawak/Sabah have been here for thousands of years.

    Ironically, they (read: Senoi, Iban, Kadazan et. al) never get obsessed in this racial sentiment. If there is such a ‘ketuanan’ concept in Malaysia — it should be Ketuanan Kadazan, Ketuanan Iban or Ketuanan Negrito — and not Ketuanan Melayu. Why would anyone want to be a Tuan in a land he/she migrated, into barely 500 years ago (or less)?

    But no, these real ‘bumiputeras’ are genuinely nice people. We (yes, I’m one of them!) don’t care about ketuanan. We also don’t bitch 24H7W, although, socio-economically and politically speaking — we are still the most marginalised group in Malaysia. Compromise, that is the key. All we want.. is just to live harmoniously. With all other Malaysian: regardless of races and religions.

    I think the Sabahan people (bumi and non-bumi) had never argued this issue (i.e. ketuanan, special right, etc) – with so much passion as the West Malaysians do. We have respect for each other. OK, things might have become slightly different (not as good as it used be) since the bastard Anwar Ibrahim brought in his UMNO army (in 1990s) and introduced racial sentiments to the naïve Sabahans. But still, I think the Sabahans (Kadazan-Bajau-Chinese-Indian-etc) are generally very modest on this issue.

    What do you want to prove anyway? That you are the real “sons of the soil”? That you do contribute more to the nation? That you are more special than any other Malaysians?

  3. Hi Rem, after so much argument on race and religion supremacy, I do agree with you that it is very tiring.

    For most of your writing on the right of the ‘real’ bumiputra, yes, I fully agree on them. I do feel that the real bumi are not accorded the necessary rights and not given proper assistance, whether those in Peninsular or those in Sabah/Sarawak.

    It’s good to know that natives in Sabah and Sarawak are not obsessed with racial/religious issue. This makes Sabah and Sarawak a real nice place to stay in. Recently, I have the priviledge of visiting Sabah, and glad to say, I really like the place very much. Will be going there again, should there be discounts on air asia tickets.

    The debate on special rights of the Malay will be boring, but will never ceased, as long as they continue to claim supremacy over this land of ours. There are just too many attempt by the government to brainwash the Malays into thinking that the other races are merely given the permission to stay temporarily and as such must adhere to the social contract.

    Many, does not know that the NEP (Dasar ekonomi Baru) should have ended many years ago and that the NEP is just a temporary measure introduced to ease the racial tension due to the wide gap of wealth between races.

    As such, people like Nik Elin (and many more) must be corrected and rebuke in the strongest manner and in the strictest term. Yes, it is boring and annoying, not the mention tiring.

    To answer your questions –

    What do you want to prove anyway?
    That the gov promotes segregation and racial intolerance.

    That you are the real “sons of the soil”?
    No.

    That you do contribute more to the nation?
    Everyone of use, regardless of race and religion contributes accordingly to the nation in their very own way. Absolutely no one should claim to have contributed more.

    That you are more special than any other Malaysians?
    No. But that there will be a united race call Bangsa Malaysia in the future.

    Thanks for commenting, Rem.

  4. We very well written reply with rational & well thought out rebuttal. I guess the reply manages to express a lot of the frustration & worries felt by many.

    And to do it without resorting to emotional outburst is remarkable. In order to resolve these long standing ‘sensitive’ issues, we need cool heads like him to voice out & defend the rights of others.


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