Discrimination in Malaysia through New Economic Policy (NEP)

It's quite interesting to see one's own country being discussed in what I've always considered a quite US/UK-centric forum. It's probably best to start with a short history of Malaysia (By Malaysia, I mean Peninsular Malaysia - it dominates Malaysian politics):

The Malays generally are considered to have settled in Malaysia long before most of the immigrant Chinese/Indian population [there are actually even earlier inhabitants, called the Orang Asli, or Aborigines]. The Malaccan sultanate in the 1400s had supported a small Chinese/Indian population as a result from trading. Over time this Chinese population melded into the general populace, while still keeping some aspects of their culture intact - they're called Peranakan now.

The 'trouble' only really begun in the 1800s when colonialisation by the Brits occured [I note that I do not consider this a wholly negative thing]. Eager to exploit tin, and needing labour for the new rubber plantations, the Brits brought in loads of Chinese and Indian labourers. The Chinese were primarily brought to develop the tin mining sector, while the Indian labourers were mainly confined to the rubber plantations.

Over time, an economic imbalance started to appear. Due to the policies at the time, the Malays were confined to their old traditional activities - that is, fishing, agriculture, gathering small amounts of timber, etc. etc... and this continued right up to independence. At independence, the Malays were greatly disadvantaged economically compared to the other races (for example, the Chinese owned a disproportionate size of the economy at independence, much of it because of their association with the tin mining sector - of course, the Brits controlled the majority stake at independence).

As such, during the Reid Commission that led to the Malayan Constitution (which then was amended to become the Malaysian Constitution later in 1963) added a provision, the infamous Article 153 of the Malaysian Constitution, which iirc was recommended by the Commission to be temporary granting the ability to implement affirmative action for the Malays. In 1963, upon the formation of Malaysia, the more inclusive term 'Bumiputera' was adopted instead to include the natives of Sabah/Sarawak (Borneo).

It was in 1969 that the current system of affirmative action/discrimination was implemented (called the NEP). In the elections of 1969, the opposition parties had made huge gains and led a parade through the capital, Kuala Lumpur. The Alliance (as they were known at the time) led a counter parade the next day, and race riots occured. The official government line pointed to economic imbalances between the races which led to these riots (at least that's what I was taught in the history books).

And yes, that's where you get things like the minimum % Bumiputera equity stakes if a company wanted to get listed on the local stock exchange, the discounts on houses for Bumiputeras only, etc, etc. The NEP died just under 20 years ago, but it still lives on under various names today. 

 It doesn't help either that the mass media in Malaysia isn't free; virtually all the largest newspapers/free TV stations are linked, one way or another to the political parties that make up the Malaysian Government today (as it has been since independence), so what you get is only the views of one side advocating the continuation of the NEP, blocking alternative views from being aired. I note however that this has changed a lot since blogs and online journalism took off in a big way in Malaysia (it could probably be dated to sometime in June 2007).

It is also the modus operandi of the local UMNO idiot to declare any point of view which is against his (I'm generalising a little too much, but it's quite a good approximation of reality) as 'seditious, threatening the peace and harmony of the country 1', and yes, there have been arrests of people with 'alternative' views.

It is not however, as bad as has been portrayed by blackspoon. It is understandable why most Malaysians fear saying things they believe in - because they've been told for years upon years that this is bad for the nation, and they've seen plenty of opposition politicians get thrown into jail for it, using the ISA (somewhat similar to the Patriot Act/28 day legislation in the UK), but you could probably get away saying some things, as long your audience doesn't get too large. I've known plenty of people who have spoken in public about their views (and that includes me) which would perhaps be considered seditious to some members of the Malay press (linked to the UMNO party mentioned above). I note that I've skipped over many things that many of the non-Bumiputeras are unhappy with the NEP, but that's mainly because I don't have much time with me right now

 It is my belief that UMNO is now starting to play the race card (which is very dangerous in Malaysia - see 1969 riots. Also I note that they've always played it during elections, but it's been heightened for the past 2 years or so) because they've lost tons of support in the past year or so amongst voters (the BN alliance recently lost their 2/3rds super majority allowing them to amend the Constitution to their will in the recent 2008 elections). Anyone who questions the policies of the NEP in public are quickly dogpiled by Utusan, screaming that Malay power is being eroded, that people have already started questioning Malay rights, and thus are endangering the stability of the country. You can quickly see why many consider it discrimination.

As to how the NEP is implemented: Well it's shit. The thing that probably infuriates the non-Bumis the most (especially the Chinese) is the allocation of quotas for entry into public universities, or overseas scholarships. Every year you hear stories of Chinese top achievers in public examinations turned down, and then you hear about a Malay kid who fared pretty badly relative to the Chinese kid getting the place. Competition is especially fierce if you go into the 'high status' courses such as medicine.

Oh, did I mention that UMNO (and their lackeys in BN) also happens to be an extremely corrupt party? There is now a section of Malay 'elites/cronies' that basically live off no-bid contracts given by the government, making shitloads of money (there are also equivalent Chinese/Indian 'cronies'). The NEP in the past 2 decades has instead widened the rich-poor gap amongst the Malays (while I do not have data, I find it highly unlikely that it would've done that in the first 15 years or so of the policy), making it even more unattractive for most people seeing it as an affirmative action policy. But that debate's been clouded over by the government linked press that basically uses the racial line to forward, and pretty much control the line of debate over the past 2-3 decades, playing on the fears of the Malay majority that if a non-Bumiputera ever gains power, they'll lose their final bargaining chip in Malaysia: political power, since their share of the economy is already pretty small. This is starting to change with the rise of the online media, but I fear there'll always be a large section of the voting population that'll never get exposed to these other views.

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