Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Malaysian Elections '08: A Reflection on Malaysia and its Racial Policies and Problems .....

So, as all Malaysians would be aware by now the Opposition (made up of PAS, PKR, DAP) have swept through the elections winning 5 states (Penang, Kedah,Perak,Selangor,Kelantan,and the Federal Territory of KL) crushing the BN's 2/3 majority in Parliament. To be frank, i wasn't interested in the elections at all given how its usually a ''show election' whereby the government (whom has been in power since 1957) inevitably comes back to power with a 90% hold of the Parliament...the Opposition, namely, the Islamic Party of PAS has only managed to clinch Kelantan and once Terrenganu and thats it....so it was really political history being made in Malaysia when the Opposition managed to take over 5 states including ALL the urban states and the most developed ones like Penang, Selangor, and even the capital city KL. It must have been a huge blow to the government as they've never lost so much support and so many states, despite still being able to retain power, in 50 yrs of Malaysia's independence....it gave me hope of signs of 'real democracy' being in practice for the first time in Malaysia as Malaysian elections are well known for their vote rigging and shady practices which consistently ensure that the government comes back to power.

Many reasons have been forwarded for the election devastation for the government but the single most agreed on reason is that the government lost the support of Chinese and Indian minorities (whom form 32% whilst malays make up 60% of the population)....I was very proud of Malaysia until late last yr when it suddenly hit me that Malaysia had really racist policies, and the minorities voted in protest against these racist policies which priviledge the Malay majority over the minorities.. u see, many people would say, how can i just realise that these policies are unfair when i knew and heard complaints about them before already? Well, the thing is, the policies never affected me or my family or indeed many of my relatives and friends...i led quite a semi-expat life in Penang and after leaving, obviously the racist policies wouldn't affect me cos i only went bck for holidays....my schoolmates were all expats or malaysians with money and foreign connections and so obviously it didn't affect them, my family was middle class and so like most malaysian chinese could afford to send their children to private colleges or overseas, my mother's friends were mostly rich(this is a slight diversion, but i got to visit their rich huge bungalows again during this CNY period for open-house, omg, its great to be rich!!), sending their children overseas for studies and being able to buy property without the 7% discount which is awarded to ALL Malays regardless of their economic status and denied to ALL ethnic Chinese and Indians again regardless of whether they were poor or otherwise...and my father's income is from overseas so once again the NEP policies of giving all government contracts to Malay businesses and quotas for Malay ownership in private business doesn't affect my dad....

But last yr, I started to hear about the Lina Joy controversy, the Indian-Muslim controversy, the Lingam controversy and the Indian mass rallies and it sort of jolted me from my rosy view of the place, Malaysia, which i called home....haha, u can see my August post last yr and it was still all rosy and complimentary of Malaysia (the Independence/Merdeka post i did in Aug 2007-check the archives) but then within a couple of mths i became very anti-BN and the racist NEP Malay Preferential policy which is simply Apartheid-Version 2008!!

Malaysians would be familiar with this policy but for those who don't, it would come as a huge shock to you that the lovely tourist destination of Malaysia is actually a nation under an apartheid system, ala updated for the new millenium. This means there is an OFFICIAL policy of positive discrimination for the MAJORITY race, being the Malays, and negative discrimination against the MINORITY races, being made up of mainly Chinese and Indians. This means there is an official government policy of giving 7% discounts on all property purchases to Malays, none for Chinese and Indians regardless of if u r dirt poor...quotas for places in university meaning entry to university is not based on merit in malaysia but on racial skin colour with disproportionately huge quotas reserved for malays meaning many chinese and indians either have to fork out money to attend private institutions or leave to study overseas, i;ve heard and my mother personally knows someone's relative who marks university entrance exams and being told to 'add marks' for students of Malay ethnicity to ensure they don't fail subjects or have enough marks to get into a particular course...for instance, the chinese press oftens prints stories of how chinese students with 7 As in their final entrance exams don't get a place in uni (or get places in not well sought degrees ie. agriculture) whilst Malay students with 4 As get a place in medicine at some university...this is why you see disproportionate numbers of Malays at campuses across Malaysia which do not reflect their 60% makeup in real society...and then there is the issue of govt jobs where there is the unwritten policy of ONLY hiring Malays which again explains why all government servants and departments as well as the police force are made up of 80% and over Malays when they only make up 60% of the population! Sounds like apartheid in S.Africa where only whites were employed by the public sector anyone?

"Malaysia is a nation under Apartheid, albeit, an updated version of it..."

Further, it is common knowledge that although the government funds all the Malay schools, it only pays for half of the costs of Chinese and Indian language schools expecting the Chinese and Indian minority communities to come up with the other half which means you see many Malay colleges, highschools, primary schools with new paints or new buildings, whilst Chinese and Indian schools are run down,etc, apparently, even funding for Chinese and Indian teachers are limited and the government regularly posts Malay teachers to Chinese and Indian schools as they don't want to spend much money on producing Chinese and Indian teachers which will only help to maintain Chinese and Indian culture...doesn't that sound like the racist policies of the West in the 50s and 60s where minorities were expected to assimilate and 'forget' about their own culture, their own roots??? And i heard from sources that Chinese and Indian heritage sites are not well-funded by the government or heavily promoted in the tourism campaigns of Malaysia as it only wants to promote Malay heritage buildings and Malay culture...further, one of the most potent reasons for the Indian rallies last yr was because there is an unwritten policy of not granting any new permits to erect new Indian and Chinese places of worship whilst actively dismantling illegal (illegal only cos new permits are never given) Indian and Chinese temples...at the same time putting in lavish amts of money renovating all the nice mosques u see around Malaysia...

"In one word: Its Chinese Taxes Paying for Malay Development".

And anyone whom marries a Malay person must BY LAW become a Muslim, its a CRIMINAL OFFENCE, READ THAT, INDICTABLE OFFENSE, to not convert to Islam if you decide to marry an ethnic Malay, which is what happened to this poor Indian lady whom was muslim by birth and converted to Hindu when she married her Hindu husband...she was arrested and put in this 'faith reconciliation and healing' 'centre' (more like a detention camp for spiritual prisoners if u ask me!!) and her baby was taken away from her as the baby must grow up a Muslim...this was reported on AlJazeera and it was the very first time i was truly ashamed of my country and the first step towards recognising the shameful nature of malaysia's religious and race policies. The camp was to 'heal' her of her 'wayward ways' and so she would 'see the light' and become 'muslim' again....it reminds me of the horrible christian camps they have in the States whereby single mothers, gay people,etc are put in them to 'correct' their 'deviant behavior' and make them 'born-again Christians'....but in Malaysia, it is sanctioned and supported by the government whilst in America, these christian camps are privately funded. This is again similar to Apartheid whereby the races are discouraged from inter-marrying and if u do, u must give up ur ethnic identity and 'become Malay/Muslim'.

And if u think minorities have a hard time, well Malays dun have it easy too! A person of Malay ethnicity is 'born' Muslim meaning if u r a Malay, u are legally a Muslim upon birth and you have NO CHOICE to become Christian or Buddhist or even an atheist! This means all Malays in Malaysia are Muslims legally and thus cannot eat pork, etc...there is no choice, its the law, it also means Malay women must follow Islamic law too, they cannot choose to become non-Muslim and come under the Civil Law which is arguably more pro-women than the backwards Islamic family laws...

" It is an offence, a criminal offense, for a Malay to choose otherwise from being a Muslim. And so is it an offense for a non-Muslim to marry a Malay and not convert to Islam..."

Anyways, the minorities have shown their dissatisfaction in the present elections and even 5% of Malays switched camps this time and voted for the Opposition, mainly as a result of dissatisfactions with widespread corruption, croynism, and lack of independence of the judiciary in the Malaysian govt. The Opposition have already said they will scale down and reduce the NEP racist policies in the states they govern meaning that from now on, Chinese and Indian poor will be helped as well and that unfair policies helping the malays will be scaled bck (not eradicated as it is still sensitive to talk about abolishing the NEP as many malays are still unwilling to give up priviledges which are beneficial to them similar to the mentality of whites under Apartheid in S.Africa)...Lets hope for the better!!

8 comments:

Michael said...

I used to have many Chinese-Malaysian classmates back in "pre-college" in Taipei. And I couldn't comprehend how they were always being discriminated against (e.g., not being able to enter into university because of the quota) and still be proud of "their country".

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

michael: Well, I can understand how they feel its 'their country' just like i still feel Malaysia is 'my' home despite all the racist policies...just like the Phillipines will always have a special place in ur heart rite, even if one day they discriminated against chinese there as well??
But its the deeds of the government and a section of the population which is hideous:)

aimlesswanderer said...

Yeah, lots of dodgy stuff going on in Malaysia. Back in my uni days I did an essay on the rigged system - what I found was not encouraging. It was just entrenched inequality and discrimination, and was an unfortunate example of what happens when the majority decides to shaft everyone else.

The original intent was good (the Malays were dirt poor and the Chinese and colonials had the vast majority of wealth at the time of independence), but how it ended up....

Not to mention the corruption, cronyism, nepotism and just strange stuff which happens when a country is essentially a one party state. I was surprised that in previous elections there wasn't a bigger anti BN vote, but I guess the happiness over the good economic growth and better living conditions is being overridden by the concern over discrimination, corruption and general dodgyness.

I don't think the BN will be able to change itself (or its policies-much easier to get started, extremely hard to get rid of), and things could get ugly if they decide that they are going to stay in power no matter what - cue arrests, media intimidation and the usual.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

aimlesswanderer: Yeah...but then again, without the NEP, the Malays would be even poorer than they are now and it could create further frictions and racial riots like May 1969 or the anti-Chinese riots in 1998 in Indonesia...so its a kinda no-win situation both ways....

And yeah, actualy all the stuff you mentioned about oppression and all has already been in place since decades ago and that was the surprising thing with this elections...it seemed that democracy, though still tainted and corrupt, broke thru and the opposition made such huge gains...i heard the media was TOTALLY pro-govt before the elections and didn't even give any media coverage to the opposition but since the big election upset, apparently, now front page as well as special articles are devoted to the opposition's policies and leaders..quite and improvement and utterly unthinkable just two weeks ago!! So its not all bad...its improving, the situation:)

aimlesswanderer said...

Yes, the aims of the NEP were laudable, but putting them into practise without creating a really dodgy system (and a big problem for the future) is extremely challenging. It could have been worse I guess. Perhaps the Chinese and the other communities could integrate and spend more time with each other. Some things I have read suggest that they have minimal contact with each other, which would certainly not lead to greater understanding. The government though seems to be failing the poorest bumis, who need help the most. They're dirt poor, and then they see all these filthy rich Chinese flaunting their wealth, no wonder they get upset. Perhaps the govt is too focussed on the other, richer bumis, those who are 'in the know' and can milk/rort the system.

I hope that Malaysia is slowly changing for the better - especially politically, it would be healthy for the BN to lose power, which would show that the system truly works (ie that it's not a 1 party state), and so that other parties can have a go at fixing some of the problems.

The media turnaround may well be a change for the better, but whether it is long term is the question. The BN may well still be in shock and may not have gotten their crud back together. Once they have time to regroup they may well get nasty. After all, there are massive benefits to being in power, and there are a vast number of dubious things that would come out if they lost government. One hopes that they don't adopt a 'hang onto power at any cost mentality', which would stuff the country up big time.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

aimlesswanderer: Yes, the races indeed dun really mix in Malaysia..even in schools they don't really mix and many go to race-specific schools such as chinese highschools or indian highschools where the emphasis in on speaking mandarin or tamil despite following the national Bahasa Malaysia curriculum. We, Malaysians, should indeed mix more.

Actually, the NEP has created alot of rich bumis and the poor bumis are also disenchantised by them..they can see all these rich bumis, especially in KL and Selangor, which is one explanation for them turning against the govt as the urban malays can see the rich/poor gap very clearly even between themselves...and as for media, i think things will last long-term as the BN has always wanted to be in power which explains the elections and media coverage being rigged for the past 50 yrs...but something happened these elections, and the govt knows now that if it doesn't improve its act, it can suffer at the elections.

aimlesswanderer said...

Its stupid to segregate people's educations so much, but then again that's happening (to a much lesser extent so far, thank goodness) here too. That can only lead to bad bad things.

Let's hope that the govt tries to improve its performance, and doesn't instead try and cling onto power. Yeah, the numbers being what they are, a fair few bumis need to vote for the opposition as well as nearly all the Chinese and Indians if the govt was to be voted out. Next election it'll be interesting to see what happens.

There are alot of problems with Malaysia, it will be a challenge to stop things developing into a bigger mess.

You wanna meet for lunch or something on sun or mon? Email me if so.

hcpen 彭皓全 said...

aimlesswanderer: Yep, I've replied your email:)