Malaysia’s Chicken & Egg Story


(Long before the illusive 1Malaysia came along, Malaysia already been a multi racial, multi cultural country. We had our differences but we don’t see our fellow Malaysians as threats. Image source: http://ajinbgagah.blogspot.com)

It has been in everyone’s mind but no one dared to say or do the obvious…

Aizuddin Danian of VOI posted something that worth our serious consideration:-

He (Dr M) implies that the DAP, by promoting “meritocracy” is actually promoting a non-Malay domination of the society because its a foregone conclusion that the best Malaysians, in terms of education, business or any other field, are non-Malays.

That’s an interesting perspective on things and something i’ve never considered before.

Is “meritocracy” a very clever smokescreen for “racism”? The way Tun puts it does seem convincing. I think i understand his concerns — he realizes that Malays, left on their own without help from the Government, would take years to become competitive in a level playing field.

The Chinese have been forced to be competitive for the last 50 years of Independence, and its arguable than even a poorly-performing Chinese is better than an above average performing Malay.

Read the rest for an interesting insight on how things have been maintained to ensure stability in the country but at the same time, crippling enough for us not able to make the right leap to a developed nation.

Any way, let’s forget about the notion that one race in Malaysia trying to dominate another race. Let’s forget what Dr M is trying hard to achieve here – no doubt he is great statesman but he is not right all the time.  He is not a saint, he is after all just a politician. The explanation on the meritocracy may just be his means to the end and may be political in nature. So, let’s leave anything that is racial, religion or political in nature aside – track record have shown that no one had never been united under these three aspects.

Let’s look from the nation’s point of view – although we have multi race, multi culture, and multi religion groups in the country but at the end of the day, we are all Malaysians. So why is this fear against fellow Malaysians? Is it a big crime to be competitive? What if there is no other choice?

Let’s go back to the very start when it was “deemed” that Malays would not be able to compete without some kind of affirmative action? Who determined this – by some foreign educated politicians sitting in a luxury bungalow? What were the criteria used?

Perhaps historically, the non Malays have been competitive from the very first day they put their foot on this country. After all, with their families struggling back in India or China, it was a break or make for these early non Malays. If they were able to work hard and made good fortunes in business, there is a chance for them to remit back some money to their families back home and in some cases; to bring their families to new home called Malaya.

Perhaps it was the case of May 13 which the ruling politicians often cite when talking about affirmative actions. But recent revelations of what really happen on May 13th seem to be distancing the excuse of unequal opportunity with the tragedy (If you have time, read The Real Cause of May 13 Riots or Raja Petra’s 3 Parts post titled “The Real Story of May 13” – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 )

Whatever the reason may be – affirmative actions seems to be not working to the early aspiration which is to create level playing field for all Malaysians. It has been grossly abused and sadly, highly laced with political, corruption and self interest.

Zaid Ibrahim said:-

“Many Malays want meritocracy for very good reasons. They want their applications for contracts and projects to be given fair consideration by the authorities. They do not want only those who are politically connected to have the upper hand. They want a level playing field.

“They believe that they can succeed on merit if only they get a fair chance. They want to succeed with their pride intact; and at the same time they want to tell their children that Malays who work hard and with the right attitude can succeed, like everybody else,” he said.

Zaid said many Malays wanted meritocracy so that they could get their dues like promotion and higher positions by working hard.

“They want to be judged fairly and not lose their position or seniority because some one else has the right political cable. They want a promotion system that is transparent and free of interference.

“They want to say that they have succeeded because they did it the hard way. Why does Mahathir have to belittle these Malays? Why must the Malays be scrapped off their self-respect just to prove that Umno is responsible for everything in this country?” he added.

I still recall when we were still young, the competition on who got better marks among my cousins so stiff that it caused long term frictions among the families. Achieving a 99% mark was not acceptable (we used to get good whack of the cane from my mum when our marks went down below 95%).

Lack of scholarships means my dad going into overdrive at his workplace and trying to juggle multiple jobs to cover the college fees. Lack of places at the local universities means students like me to adapt to new environment and studies faster than the rest (I was interested in science but had to switch to law when there was no place at the local university). And since we know that our parents are practically sweating blood to cover our fees, failure was not an option. There was never second chance – it is do or die.

The policy makers will therefore be back at the starting point where once again the Malays (those who been untouched by the affirmative actions because they lack the right “cables”) find themselves facing with non Malays who remained competitive (perhaps at many times fold now compared to those non Malays in the 1950s). Enforcement of even more affirmative actions therefore is not going to solve the problem of uneven level of playing – it will only drive the other group to go another level of competitiveness (wonder why some Chinese schools have classes 7 days a week and have a very high bar of excellence?). Mind you that at an age of globalization, the world had become smaller and Malaysians are also competing with the rest of the world.

Affirmative action is fine if it was implemented for a short period but if continued on a long terms, it will not achieve the purpose of creating highly competitive society – why should they when the Government clears away obstacles for some and not for others.

The solution is to open up the arena and let everyone compete for the available places (the Government can create more places if they want more to fall in). The Government seems to be having this notion of the Malays being incapable of competing without their help. They are dead wrong. Never underestimate those who determined to make it into the top. Yes, in the beginning there will be some be left out on the competition but eventually they will bridge the gap. I have seen my fellow Malay brothers who had worked wonders through their sheer determinations and hard work.

Aizuddin rightfully ended his post with this remarks and I could not agree more:-

53 years of independence is not a long time. But i think it’s long enough to start believing in ourselves. It’ll be a painful journey, sure. However, unless we take it, Malaysia will not be able to make that leap from developing to developed. That goal should transcend all others.

It is time to work as one nation, not as competing groups within the same home. It is time to be competitive as a nation. It is time to pick the best of the best for anything that we do. It is time be Malaysians.

Read Also

Art Harun’s excellent Eh, Tun Dah Lupa?

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