Racial Politics & Middle-Class Malaysia Pt. 2


August 18, 2005 12:01 AM

(cont’d from Part 1)

Let me start by saying that the scope of discussion about racial politics in Malaysia is beyond these mere blog entries. More thorough information can be found following the links below. What follows are my thoughts formed through my own experiences.


Being middle-class in Malaysia is contradictory in terms. My family had multi-racial friends and we celebrated each other’s holidays: Hari Raya, Chinese New Year and Deepavali. We got along just fine.

Once the bigger picture is looked at though, that is when my parents’ subtle racism manifest themselves. Whenever my parents had to deal with government officials, I’d always hear them say negative things when referring to the Malays. When I couldn’t understand why they’d say things like that, they’d tell me that they don’t mean the Malay ppl that we know but those that we don’t.

It’s highly hypocritical to say the least and it stems from a resentment of bumiputra privileges. These included among other things: 7% discount for property purchases and a quota system biased towards the bumis for entry into universities and government jobs.

But my parents never made a big fuss or were passionate about the politics. They had jobs, and we led comfortable lives. The way that they’d protest is by voting for the opposition and that’s the extent of it. Life inevitably goes on. The ones that *would* get passionate about politics are from the extreme ends of the social spectrum. The poor are always missing out, and the rich always have something to lose. Ppl in the middle class are happy as long as they were allowed to prosper and accumulate wealth. And most of all, we can afford to migrate which is what my family did.

The dominant factor was education: it was unneccesarily harder for my brother and I to eventually get into a good local university because of the imposed racial quotas.

I would like to pose 2 questions: the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP) (1971-1990) (since replaced by the National Development Policy) was put in place ostensibly to create racial parity but what criterion are being used to judge whether parity has been achieved? And can parity really ever be achieved?

In ending, a Malaysian of non-bumi descent would never feel 100% “Malaysian” within the current system that has not changed much since the NEP was introduced in 1971.

UPDATE Aug 18th 4:17PM
Alternate viewpoint: the NEP can remain in one form or another (and probably will), as long as the economic pie continues to grow and benefits every Malaysian regardless of race and social class. Otherwise there’s no point in arguing who gets what cut of the pie if the pie itself is shrinking due to political instability. Wong SuLong@The Star has more.

5 thoughts on “Racial Politics & Middle-Class Malaysia Pt. 2

  1. cherryripe

    I believe the issue of education was one of the main reasons my parents were keen for us to leave M’sia.

    Strange sort of ‘progress’, eh? People need to help themselves as well if they want to develop, improve; special privileges only serve to instill apathy and laziness, i reckon.

    Reply
  2. mooiness

    cherry: all these ppl leaving inevitably creates a brain drain as a direct result of the inequities of the laws. Mahathir has mentioned about this “crutch” that the Malays are too dependent upon, and Badawi has chastised the laziness and complacency that stems from being “bumi” but guess who are the largest constituency that votes for UMNO? The same Malay ppl that they are criticising so in the end, little changes. But I’m kinda optimistic with Badawi as he seems to be more progressive. We’ll see. 🙂

    Reply
  3. honeypoy

    Words,words,words. Easy to say, hard to act upon.By the time something actually gets done,I think the brain drain effect has gone way too long to be reversed.

    And they all wonder why we want to leave Malaysia. I love it here,friends,family,great parties,excellent food,lovely weather. But enough is enough.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Mooiness! » Racial Politics & Middle-Class Malaysia Pt. 1

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