MGG: Racial discrimination: Now you see, now you don't ...
By M.G.G. Pillai
25/3/2002 3:18 pm Mon
The deputy prime minister, Dato' Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, now
says it: The National Union of the Teaching Profession (NUTP)
must apologise for alleging racial discrimination in primary
schools. A government-appointed committee of retired worthies in
education found none, but suggested, in its quick-fix report, how
to prevent it. If there is none, why? As usual, the government
looks for someone to damn for raising an embarrassing reality.
Would an NUTP apology end this insiduous and inherent racism in
schools, when it officially exists at every level of
administration and community life.
Non-Malays in every facet of Malaysian life experiences it:
to buy a house, he pays 12 per cent more than a Malay; if he
joins the civil service, he faces a glass ceiling, where a quota
decides how high he would go; even then, there are small groups
in each department who act to cut them down even further. One
highly regarded non-Malay civil servant had to wait until his
retirement before he was appointed a dato': the quote for his
race was used up when his turn came. Do you, a non-Malay, want a
scholarship to study? A quote applies, no matter how qualified
When institutionalised racism is hijacked, as now, by a
small group of Malays to reduce what is allowed even further, and
no one in government, Dato' Seri Abdullah Badawi and deputy
education minister Dato' Aziz Shamsuddin included, raises a
whimper, it is a sign from top to bottom that it is allowed.
So, one is not surprised at what led this committee to affirm
there is no racial discrimination in schools. Every non-Malay
parent knows the allegations to be true. What they expected from
this committee was to accept it and suggest ways to ameliorate
it. Instead, they are told there is none, and the NUTP is
ordered to apologise for what is a way of life in Malaysian
schools. What this means is that the racial discriminators have
won. They are now, in fact, told officially to do their worst.
It is not only in schools. The Royal Customs Academy of
malaysia (Akmal) in Malacca, after writing to the former finance
minister, Tun Tan Siew Sin's widow of its intention to remove his
name from its hall because he is no longer alive, wriggles out of
it. The letter should not have been sent, a spokesman avers.
How did she get it? Who sent it? Perhaps she is mistaken. The
name had been removed once when the hall was being repainted.
It may be to that she is upset? Whether the letter was sent is
not what we question. How and why was it sent if what happened
was in the course of an administrative chore? This is but one
more incident in a continuing move to reduce the impact and
importance of the non-Malays in public life. The Ipoh city
council recently removed a road name for a Malaysian hero because
he was a non-Malay. In the furore that followed, it was renamed.
This now reaches the schools. The six-year-old non-Malay
pupil is shown by example that he is a lesser animal, that he
must accept that he be treated with the contempt he deserves,
that his place in an institution where Islam and Malayness are
the only acceptable worldview is honour enough, and he should not
mistake, like hired help, his irrelevant place in the society he
lives in. The Malaysian Formula One racing driver Alex Yoong got
Malaysian sponsorship only after his father became a Muslim;
now it is on him to turn Muslim to continue. One of Malaysia's
best motor rally drivers, a Sikh driving for Proton, was forced
to sell cars for a living until BMW and a few other motor
companies wanted him to drive for them.
I know of several senior officers, retired and in service,
who were bluntly told to convert to Islam if they wanted more
promotions. One highly qualified medical specialist chose to
return to Malaysia than accept an offer as associate professor of
medicine at the Harvard Medical School. What he was promised was
never met, despite the intervention of the minister, and it has
been made quite clear to him it is because he is not Malay. It
is not policy, of course, but the civil servants find creative
ways to delay. He has been here for more than two years, and he
is an acknowledged medical specialist in his field. He is not
alone. Often they lose out. And after a decent interval return
to pick up their lives from whence they came.
So, it is not, as the deputy prime minister avers, that
there is no racial discrimination. There is. The non-Malays
accept it as a way of life, the price for being in a minority.
Now they face a battering: what few rights they have is further
reduced by informal but well-organised Malay Ku Klux Klanners.
When they start in primary schools, is it any wonder that many
non-Malays seriously look to migrate, and those who leave are
those Malaysia cannot afford to lose. I asked a few who left
why. Yes, we know there is a glass ceiling beyond which they
could not aspire to. But you could rise as high as you want to
on your merit, while enjoying all the benefits of citizenship.
That is, however you look at it, not available here. Their
rights are circumscribed that they end up with less than they
should. When this begins in the primary schools, the rot is