Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dangerous Precedent?

I got this gem e-mail from my buddy, Walski of MyAsylum, pertaining to my post of the 'extremist', Suqiu:

When it comes to racism, no one particular ethnic group or party can claim innocence of not playing the race card at some point in time or other. Our entire political system is based on race, and until that changes, race will be an important issue, no matter how much anyone tries to avoid it. Our personality, as Malaysians, are race-based. I can't count the number of times the first thing uttered by someone I'm meeting for the first time has been "You Malay ah?" or "You Indian ah?" (I am rather dark-skinned and don't " look/act typically Malay" - whatever the f**k that means). Even back in the days when I used to IRC and ICQ - the second most popular question after A/S/L was what race I am.

It's only a matter of time when Malaysians, of all colors, creeds and religions, have to decide once and for all, whether it's race or country that's more important, because the sand in the hourglass is trickling whether we like it or not. And that hourglass is called globalization. I made the choice a long time ago, and it's for country. The fact remains that there are economic inequalities between ethnicities, but 30+ years of carte blanche race quota-based affirmative action has not gotten us where we want to be. There is a growing gaps between upper-income and middle-class, as well as middle-class and low-income. It's time that affirmative action be based on need, regardless of race.

One after another Merdeka Celebration as it approches, we hear the same thing, again and again. Here, this year alone, see how many times this 'Bangsa Malaysia' has been discussed by the mainstream media, regardless of how brainwashing are they:

1. As early as February the 20th, NST ran a story "Unity- Reality or Illusion"

Datuk Khoo Kay Kim, one of the architects of the Rukun Negara after the riots of May 13, 1969, is clearly unhappy with the fabric of racial unity today. The Professor Emeritus at Universiti Malaya's History Department has just cause to sound depressed after nearly a lifetime of championing racial unity. He points to lacklustre achievements in racial unity as proof that communal ties are at their most delicate in nearly four decades.

The root of the problem, as he sees it, lies in:

* a national school system that has become more communal despite its supposed non-ethnic and non-religious status;

* the participation of political parties in national unity committees; and,

* Malaysians ignoring the fifth tenet of Rukun Negara: good behaviour and morality.

He blames the education system which has become more communal despite its supposed non-ethnic and non-religious status for the growing division between the races.

Khoo, 69, says politicians planned their strategies according to the actual situation and hence fed on the problem.

"They feel that if they strengthen the position of the Malays, the Malays will think as one, and then they will always get votes from the Malays," he said.

This takes him to the second reason behind the problem: politicians who worsen the situation through their participation in national unity panels.

"Each political representative always feels he must fight for his own party. Since we have mostly ethnic parties, they are fighting for their own ethnic groups. It is very difficult to achieve any kind of consensus. For ethnic champions to survive, society must always be in a state of flux. "If you don't do anything positive, things will get worse and worse. You have to address the problem."

Read more from Doc Mave's blog. That photo above also curi from him one. :P

And guess what? Just last Sunday, NST reported that the Government is spending (yet another) RM 100 million to develop what could be the world's first computerised early-warning system on racial conflict. Also, read here. (A heads-up by ShadowFox, who has been very vocal in my blog nowadays, actually).

Nice. Bagai ketam mengajar anak berjalan lurus.

2. Next, on the March 20th, Baradan Kuppusamy of Inter Press Service News Agency presented an independent survey by Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research. I think it was reported by NST also.

In a nation that claims to be a 'melting pot', only 11 percent of the respondents said they had eaten often with friends from other races in the previous three months, and 34 percent said they had never had a meal with people of other races.

About 42 percent do not consider themselves Malaysian first, and 46 percent said ethnicity was important in voting; 55 percent blamed politicians for racial problems and 70 percent would help their own ethnic group first.

According to the survey, 58 percent of Malays, 63 percent of Chinese and 43 percent of Indians polled agreed with the survey item that 'in general, most Malays are lazy'.

Meanwhile, 71 percent of Malays, 60 percent of Chinese and 47 percent of Indians agreed with the generalisation that 'in general, most Chinese are greedy'. About 64 percent of Malays, 58 percent of Chinese and 20 percent of Indians agreed that 'in general, most Indians cannot be trusted'.


3. Then, on May the 16th, we have Jonathan Kent of Beebs telling the whole wide world that Malaysia is not as lovey-dovey as it seems on those 'Malaysia Truly Asia' billboards.

Excerpt from the last 4 paragraphs:

It must be noted that the man who many non-Muslims put their faith in to protect their rights is Umno's leader Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi; both a Malay and a devout Muslim.

"I believe that the rights of non-Muslims are actually expanding under the Prime Minister's liberal leadership," says Reverend Wong Kim Kong, head of the National Evangelical Christian Fellowship.

While Mr Abdullah's predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, maintained the balance between Malaysia's communities with an iron fist, the consensual Mr Abdullah has avoided a showdown over these religious issues.

Many who value Malaysia's multiculturalism will be hoping that the soft spoken approach of a leader often dubbed "Mr Nice" won't be taken for weakness.

4. Next, on 1st of June, never ever before by the mainstream media, Jacky Surin of theSun wrote an open letter to the Prime Minister. Again, excerpts from the last 4 paragraphs:

Really, I don't need to be a Muslim or a Malay to have a stake in this country. But even that might be delegitimised because in more ways than one, I'm a minority.

And I'm constantly reminded that my views and concerns must give way to the privileges and rights of the dominant race, and a specific interpretation of the faith they profess.

But really what I want to ask you is this: Why do I have to constantly feel afraid in my own country? Why am I continuously told I have less rights to discuss important issues affecting my community?

You promised to be prime minister for all Malaysians. We hope you will remember that promise.

Sob. Touching indeed.

5. And just 4 days ago, on the 21st of July, we have yet another survey by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, reported by NST in the midst of the SKP 2004 Hubungan Etnik seditious book and the UPM mob fracas which bears some racial undertone.

The Malays, for example, were more likely to join organisations and community activities such as gotong-royong, but were less acquainted with information on issues and politics.

When it came to youth and news, the survey found that about 30 per cent followed world politics and issues closely, while 43 per cent of them were interested in local news and politics. Most young people are hooked on entertainment (65 per cent) and sports (72 per cent).

However, this does not mean they do not have their own opinions about politics and Government, as a significant number of youth in the focus groups feel that "politicians only showed interest when elections were near or if some programme they were promoting benefited them".

"They think democracy is ideal but they view politics as dirty. They realise the Government needs check and balance and the majority want public oversight over government actions," Ibrahim said.

Lavinia Kathilingam, 28, said most youth probably do not register for elections because they felt "the system was a little biased anyway".

"But to be honest, looking at the results I think that it is a case of being young and just thinking about yourself, not looking so far into the future," she said.

The 'system' includes you mainstream media, my dear.

Okay, I admit. The above is not is not quite related to the Bangsa Malaysia topic here but still I would like to bring it up to focus on the socio-political apathy of some people.

6. And just yesterday, we have theSun reporting on a research by KJ's alma mater, University of Oxford, more precisely by the Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE):

Study: NEP reduced ethnic inequalities but economic disparity worsened
Giam Say Khoon

BANGI: The comprehensive implementation of the New Economic Policy (NEP) effectively reduced ethnic inequalities between 1970 and 2005, but economic disparity between states has worsened over the same period.

A study by Oxford University's Centre for Research on Inequality, Human Security and Ethnicity (CRISE) found that while in 1970 about 20% of national income had to be realigned for the average income within each ethnic group to be the same, that figure dropped to 12.3% in 1985 because of the NEP.

CRISE research officer Dr Graham Brown said the figure rose again to about 14% in the early 1990s but fell to 11.1% last year (2005) after the implementation of the National Development Plan, which replaced the NEP in 1991.

Conversely, he said regional inequality has worsened.

"Based on income data from the Statistics Department, the disparity between states is far worse and the gap has widened after the 1997 economic crisis," Brown said during his talk "Dimensions of Inequality in Malaysia: Individual, Regional and Ethnic" at an Institute of Malaysian and International Studies (Ikmas) seminar in Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia last Thursday (July 20, 2006).

For example, he noted that the latest data from the Statistics Department showed that while the mean household income in Kuala Lumpur had a measurement of 1.66, Penang 1.27 and Johor 1.07, Kelantan's was 0.53, Perlis 0.58, Pahang 0.6 and Terengganu 0.65.

Brown said even though Terengganu has an incredibly high gross domestic product because of its oil, it also has a very high poverty rate, and its experience resembles that of Aceh and Papua.

He said the study also found that the budget allocation for development to states currently appeared to be driven more by ethnic and political considerations than by development needs.

"It may be appropritate for the country now to adopt a regionally-based development policy looking at the inequality between states rather than ethnic inequalities.

"But access to employment remains more ethnically-skewed, so pro-bumiputra employment policies may still be relevant at the national level," he added.

Brown noted that development was a multi-dimensional concept and income was only one indicator of well-being.

He added that migration from rural to urban areas has intensified since the 1970s, and that the NEP improved the status of Malays as they migrated and underwent modernisation such as in Kuala Lumpur and Penang.

More NEP yer, KJ? Your boss punya keris doing fine har?

Wonder if he had stepped a foot before in the centre?

In fact, there are many publications published by the CRISE pertaining to Malaysia's inequalities. You can check it out here.

I remembered when I told my Brit colleagues, not just once, that there's positive discrimination and affirmative actions in Malaysia, he/she was in disbelieve. "Such things still happen in this (modern) world?" they said. Please pardon their naivety.

Due to the sensitive manner of this topic, again, the comment section is disabled. As usual, feel free to email me your thoughts on this issue. Cheers.