, , , , , ,

Institutionalised racial discrimination in Malaysia is a festering carbuncle that keeps erupting at regular intervals. It erupted again following discussions in parliament about the composition of the civil service. According to the minister for special functions Abd latiff Ahamad, the civil service is now overwhelmingly monoracial.

Of the total number of civil servants, 987,322 were Malays, 94,000 Sabah Bumiputeras, 73,190 Chinese, 60,031 Sarawak Bumiputeras, 47,994 Indians, 2,414 Orang Asli and 8,656 others. As for the top posts (super scale), 3,300 are Malays, 388 Chinese, 243 Indians, 74 Sabah Bumiputeras, 53 Sarawak Bumiputeras, three Orang Asli, and 42 others.[1]

The racial composition of the civil service should come as no surprise; that’s been obvious for a long time. What is startling, however, is his claim that recruitment was purely on the basis of merit. “All recruitment by the Public Services Commission is based on merit and competency. This is to ensure only the best and quality candidates are chosen as civil servants”, he said.[2] In other words, most non-Malays who applied did not qualify.  

For years we’ve heard these same people argue that non-Malays were not patriotic enough to serve their country or that they were only interested in making money. Former defence minister Zahid Hamidi, for example, once said that non-Malays don’t join the armed forces because they are non-patriotic, were only interested in making money and can’t stand the rigors of armed forces training.[3] Now they insult non-Malays with risible assertion that non-Malays are not intelligent enough to qualify for the civil service. 

It’s pure hogwash, of course, an invention of Ketuanan Melayu apologists seeking to justify blatantly racist policies. As I noted in my recent book Paradise Lost: Mahathir & the End of Hope,[4] in the first 15 or so years after independence, non-Malays were well represented in the civil service, the armed forces and police as well as in other national institutions. They served with distinction and honour. They fought and died alongside their Malay comrades in defence of the nation. Without a doubt, their contributions and sacrifices helped propel Malaysia to the forefront of developing nations. 

May 13th changed all that. Fearful of losing power, Ketuanan Melayu ideologues sought to consolidate their hold over the country on the basis of racial narratives. Along with the New Economic Policy, a deliberate move was made to drastically reduce non-Malay representation in all national institutions. As a result, from 1973 onwards, recruitment of non-Malays into the civil service and uniform services dropped precipitously while the advancement of non-Malays to the upper echelons of the various institutions of government were curtailed.

No surprise then, that after several decades of race-based recruitment, all national institutions have become largely monoracial with just enough non-Malays left to maintain the façade of racial diversity. Even Sabahans and Sarawakians – Bumiputeras supposedly – have been sacrificed on the altar of Ketuanan-Melayuism.

When pressed on the issue, they offer all sorts of excuses but the reality is that this is exactly the system they created and are intent on maintaining. In their own mind it is entirely justified because “Malaysia is for Malays”, as one speaker at the Malay Dignity Congress unabashedly proclaimed.[5]

 And if that is not enough, we have political leaders like Hadi Awang who invoke religion to justify the further exclusion of non-Muslims from senior government and political positions. If Hadi and his ilk have their way, non-Muslims would be stripped of their remaining rights as citizens.

At every turn, it is now acceptable to discriminate against non-Malays and non-Muslims. Over 200 straight-A Indian students, for example, were recently denied entry into matriculation programmes.[6]

 It is about to get worse. Non-Malay festivals, cultures and religious events are being increasingly fenced in because ethno-religious fascists have decided that it is not compatible with their religious or political agenda.  

Having gained control of the powerful religious affairs portfolio, PAS now appears to be waging war against diversity, targeting festivals that Malaysians have long been a mainstay of of the Malaysian social and cultural scene. Bon Odori, the Japanese harvest festival, was suddenly found to contain “elements of another religion” and deemed incompatible with Islam.[7] Thankfully, HRH the Sultan of Selangor intervened and the festival proceeded without incident.  

Now PAS wants to ban Oktoberfest with the religious affairs minister insisting that it is not compatible with “the rules and laws of Malaysia which are based on Islam…” and that it is capable of  “affecting harmony, tranquillity, and public security.”[8] Make no mistake, if PAS is allowed to dictate such matters, the end of Malaysia as we know it is at hand.

Whatever it is, institutionalised discrimination is one of the gravest threats to Malaysia. It poisons our social fabric and undermines national cohesion. It is driving some of our brightest and best abroad. It has brought to the fore a cabal of narrow-minded, corrupt and incompetent leaders. It has focused our energies on all the wrong things. We simply cannot go on this way.

Malaysia deserves better – a better more professional, more representative public service, an end to all forms of racial and religious discrimination, a focus on good governance and helping all who are in need irrespective of their racial or religious background. Until it happens, Malaysia will never be able to realize its full potential or take its place as one of the most unique nations in the world. We must cure this cancer of bigotry once and for all or it will destroy us all.

[Dennis Ignatius | Kuala Lumpur | 5th August 2022]

[1] 90% of civil servants Bumiputeras, no quota involved, says minister | Free Malaysia Today | 19 July 2022

[2] Ibid

[3] Chinese and Indians ‘not patriotic enough’ | Malaysiakini | 09 November 2010

[4] Chapter 10, The Unpatriotic Non-Malay, Paradise Lost: Mahathir & the End of Hope, Dennis Ignatius, DJI Publications, 2021

[5] Malaysia is for Malays? PM says he didn’t hear that said at congress | Malaysiakini |6 October 2019

[6] MP calls for figures on those given matriculation places |FMT | 30 July 2022

[7] Muslims advised not to participate in Bon Odori Festival – Idris | Bernama | 6 June 2022

[8] Religious affairs minister warns Oktoberfest could ‘compromise safety of community’ if open to public | Malay Mail |30 July 2022