Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Second-class Malaysians Forever?

Written by johnleemk on 4:27:50 am Apr 3, 2007.
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A long time ago, one of my favourite things to rant about was the total inequality we see in this country when it comes to some of the most fundamental things. People often focus on the bread and butter aspects of equality and inequality.

For example, the main impetus behind the controversial New Economic Policy, and the almost as controversial constitutional provisions for pro-Malay policies was never the idea that Malays are innately superior to other Malaysians and deserve special treatment. The idea then was that they deserved aid to catch up with the rest of the Malaysian communities in terms of economic development.

Today, of course, we all know how that has worked out. A select few Malays have become immensely well off thanks to the government's policies, while the majority are left to scrounge for the scraps. Meanwhile, the non-Malays have become more and more frustrated.

From a young age, we are treated differently. When applying for a place in the selective boarding schools after primary school, the Malays have a clear and obvious advantage (although this is better than the time when non-Bumiputras were completely barred from applying). When applying for places in public universities, in matriculation programmes, scholarships — the system is totally tilted in favour of the Malays.

In the business world, it gets worse. Malays get at minimum a 3% discount on new home purchases, and I think the more typical figure is in the area of 5%. (And this applies for all homes, even luxurious mansions.) Malays are allocated discounted shares in special government-run lotteries. For non-Malay entrepreneurs looking to participate in the lucrative government contracting business, they have to secure a Malay partner for the sake of appearances.

But to my immense good fortune, I have never had to suffer through these ordeals that many non-Malays are forced to undergo. I have led a life sheltered from such inequalities, from such obvious and blatant unfair treatment. But I am just as jaded and bitter as the average non-Malay, if not more.

Despite the blatant unfairness of these government policies, it would be two completely different things for their intent to be to assist disadvantaged Malaysians, and for their intent to be to lord it over non-Malays. And although their original purpose was the former, it is becoming clear that our present leaders very much prefer the latter interpretation of things. As one waste of oxygen said:

[Bangsa Malaysia is] about everything being equal and this does not capture the hearts of Malaysians. Therefore, regardless of whatever name is given, the concept is similar [to "Malaysian Malaysia"] and this is against idea kenegaraan (the idea of nationhood) which we have inherited.

Directly from the horse's mouth, we are told that we are not equal Malaysians. We are not seen as helping our fellow Malaysian brethren. We are seen as submitting to the will of the supreme Malay overlords. We are an underclass, an untermenschen.

These views would have been difficult to justify ten or even five years ago. But today, it's crystal clear that our government has decided to junk the idea of an equal and united Malaysian nation altogether. Instead, it has chosen to adopt the idea of ketuanan Melayu — Malay supremacy — and enforce an implicit system of first- and second-class citizenship.

I have debated with apologists for Malay supremacy in the past. They are not wicked — just horribly misguided, and sadly, incorrigible for the most part. Many of them honestly believe that not a single non-Malay has died for this country (conveniently ignoring the fact that even government mouthpieces such as the New Straits Times have run stories on fallen non-Malay Malaysian heroes).

The greatest irony of all is that when frustrated and fed up non-Malays declare that they themselves will never die for this country, the Malays see it fit to lambast them for their disloyalty. Then they seize on this as an excuse to deny us the equal rights we seek — the simple right to be recognised as first-class Malaysian citizens. The simple right to not be denigrated as pendatang asing — foreign migrants.

I pose a question to all the apologists for ketuanan Melayu and Malay supremacy out there. If I, a non-Malay, had a thousand lives to give for my country, and gave them all, would I ever be an equal Malaysian to the drug addict who is somehow a first-class citizen because he happened to be born a Malay? Would I be finally deserving of the title "a true Malaysian"? Would I be no longer denigrated as a "pendatang asing"? Would my descendants not be told to "balik tongsan"?

I think we all know the answer. Even if I could die a thousand times for this country, I would not. And that is not because I don't love this country, but because I know that even if I die a patriot, my patriotism is wasted. I will never be acknowledged as a patriot. Till kingdom come, I will always be a second-class citizen in my homeland, a mere pendatang asing. I will not be recognised as a patriot. My contributions to my country, if they are recognised at all, will be labeled as the mere work of a cannon fodder coolie.

I will never be as Malaysian as that Malay drug addict. And that is why it is so terribly frustrating thinking of yourself as a Malaysian when you are a non-Malay. Because you are never recognised as a Malaysian — because by an accident of birth, you are always relegated to second-class status in the hearts of your countrymen. Even though this is your country, your homeland, your tanah air, you feel no point in dying for it — because you are told in no uncertain terms that it is not your country, not your homeland, and not your tanah air.


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Infernal Ramblings is a Malaysian website focusing on current events and sociopolitical issues. Its articles run the gamut from economics to society to education.

Infernal Ramblings is run by John Lee. For more, see the About section. If you have any questions or comments, do drop him a line.


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