Few years back, I went to a cyber café near my neighbourhood to settle down all the documents needed just a couple of weeks before the uni registration day for the new intakes. At that time, the café owner approached me and we had a small talk about the uni that I was going to enter as he noticed all the documents that I asked to be printed out got the uni’s logo all over them. Then, he told me about his niece, who turned out to be one of the applicant for the same university. He said that his niece applied for medicine course, which is not something odd as she scored straight As for SPM and an outstanding 4.0 CGPA for her matriculation exam. Until he said that her application was turned down, and worst, she did not even make it to the interview stage. How can a totally above average student like her not even called for the interview stage? I was literally dumbfounded because my friend with slightly lower academic achievement than her had already secured his enrolment in the dental course (still on the path to become a doctor though) in the same uni. What went wrong? The hurtful truth was that, he was born a Malay, while she was born an Indian.
Living in Malaysia, the people here are used to hearing about Bumiputra’s privileges here and there. First, let’s define the term Bumiputra. This term refers to the ethnicities that are native to Malaysia. The biggest native ethnic there is in Malaysia is the Malay, which constitutes more than half of the total population in Malaysia. The rest of the ethnicities that enjoy the Bumiputra’s privileges only make up around 13% of the whole population in the country. So here comes the first question; why does a major race populating a country need such kind of protectionism or privileges?
To answer this, we need to look back at the history of the country itself. Around half a century ago, years after Malaysia finally gained its independence, there was a big concern on the imbalance of socio-economic status between the races in the country. This is because of the strong socio-economic status hold by the Chinese then due to their venture in businesses, leaving the Malays, Indians and other indigenous races working at rural areas as farmers and other low income jobs. In order to promote balance on the socio-economic status among the races, the government had come out with several solutions under the policy known as the New Economic Plan (NEP). And sadly, this is where it all started..
Under the NEP, it is undeniable that tremendous change has occurred in terms of socio-economic balance among Malaysians regardless of race. Significant increase can be seen on the other races income level and there is more involvement of other races especially Malays in professional jobs and businesses. All went well in the early stage but in the long run, the policy backfires. The NEP was meant to promote balance between the races in Malaysia to ensure that no race will be left out economically and socially. However, the implementation severely leaned towards helping the Malays alone to uplift their social status.
This agenda might have been vital during the post-independence days due to the poor living status held by most Malays at that point in time. But the continuity of implementation of the NEP had been proven to be a form of social bias instead of promoting equality. The quote system that came along with the NEP had made it easier for any Malay-born Malaysian to gain access towards education, employment, and other benefits. Other races especially the Chinese and Indian were having a hard time to compete for these accesses for long. But then, we can still see the domination of these two races in highly-skilled professions and businesses. Thus comes the second question; how does a race without any given protectionism or privilege in a country surpass the race that has been given lots of privilege?
Survival of the fittest. I learned this phrase several years back during my high school. This phrase was introduced by Herbert Spencer upon reading Charles Darwin’s writing entitled On the Origin of Species. In my own words, the phrase implies that when there is a large number of beings with a limited number that is allowed to survive, the being with best attribute will be the most likely to survive. In addition, this attribute will be carried by their offspring for generations. Applying this to the current situation in Malaysia, I would deem the attribute as hardworking. When the Chinese and Indian know that they have to compete for a limited quota in education, employment and etc., they work even harder to secure their places. And they eventually made it to the top. I believe that any Chinese or Indian parents up to this date will still tell their kids to work hard because they know that it could be the only way for their kids to gain success in this biased system. But then, there is still no guarantee of success.
It is the other way around for the Malays, especially the youngsters. We have been too used to being ‘pampered’ by the system that we barely work hard enough to achieve those. As results, incompetency and high dependency towards the government aid among many young Malays nowadays have peaked more than ever. The laid-back attitude of ours has also been a major cause as to why we are still left behind in many areas. As bad as it sounds, this is the ugly truth that we, Malays need to embrace. I am not writing this to create any further racial tension (we have had it bad enough) or to make myself look ungrateful for being born a Malay myself. But we need to wake up and start making changes before it is too late to regret things. We should not let any more talent like the girl in my story gone to waste just because of this fraudulent system we are currently having. Despite the race we are born in, let us work together to make things right again for the next generations so that they will not be assessed based on race anymore, but rather based on their own efforts and hard works. If we really come together as one, we can end this curse.
*The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of DuaRinggit.