Last year, I wrote an article on the defeatism of the Malaysian youth and how they need to break free from that mentality to create change in Malaysia. I depicted a rather depressing image of an entire generation of people that felt hopeless and weak to do anything about the problems that surrounded them. I am now happy to say that as of last month, my previous assumption is wrong.
The youth had not only pulled through in GE14 in terms of voter turnout but it also resulted in a historical shock election win for the opposition, marking the first time in Malaysia’s 61 years of independence. Johor, the state that had long been the stronghold for the ruling party, actually flipped spectacularly that I personally believe the shock, awe and amazement of it could even be compared to that of the Americans when PA flipped conservative. Such a drastic change simply could not have even been imagined in the minds of most Malaysians who were used to the doldrums of daily life under a government that appeared to be undoing every good the previous administrations have done. The infamous 1MDB scandal, the Scorpene submarine, the murder of Altantuya, the rampant abuse of race and religion in politics and the gradual death of freedom of press and speech; nothing seemed to lead towards the tremendous upheaval seen in this years’s election.
Is this the fabled Malay Tsunami that some have predicted will happen? According to some others, it would be more accurate to label this a ‘Youth Tsunami’ instead due to the majority of the voters being men and women between the age of 21-35. As a member of such a youth myself studying abroad, it feels surreal to be returning to a different Malaysia from the one I left a year ago. Even during the night of the election itself, I never really found myself being interested in the processions of the fateful day until after I received a message from my parents. PH had won.
While I am grateful that my fellow youths are not as steeped into defeatism as I once thought they are–and all the more reason for me to feel a rejuvenation of my patriotic pride, some of the recent developments that have arisen within this month since the change of government are worrying. The flaring up of racial issues over the opening of UITM to non-Bumis and non-Malays; the dispute over the PM’s choice of the new Attorney-General; the new revelations of the true extent of the corruption of the previous government, all of which pose serious challenges to the newly elected PH government. Though, I feel it would be more accurate to simply call them the Malaysian government now due to the ethnically diverse lineup of ministers in the Cabinet (and none of them are chosen through affirmative action!).
However, if the previous administration was a case of myself being ashamed by the Government and standing with rakyat, the negativity in social media surrounding needlessly racial issues is beginning to convince me of the other way around. Following the news that UITM is going to be opened up to more non-Bumis, online petitions and rallies pop out of the woodworks decrying the injustice of it all. How the special rights of the Malays will be threatened by this new influx of non-Malays. Oh no! God forbid having to actually compete against them!
Sarcasm aside, even as a Malay (though I often fall back to my Jawa heritage whenever some idiocy involving Malays come about), I fail to see how allowing a larger number of other races into an institution can negatively affect the Malays special rights.
Will adversely affect our right to state-sanctioned land? No.
Will it kill our chances at attaining governmental jobs and positions? That seems a bit too far-fetched.
Will it reduce our granted privilege of receiving more scholarships than non-Bumis? No, and I believe that, if anything, everyone should have a right to receiving scholarships based on merit or financial background to help those coming from the lower strata of society to uplift them. No matter what race.
Will studying with more non-Malays affect our ability to receive government aid in pursuing economic endeavors? Not at all. Heck, I firmly believe that by competing with other people, we can actually improve our overall capabilities in capitilising on that aid given to us by the government as we’d learn how to interact with people of varying cultures and backgrounds thus building up a potential network that we can tap into later on should we wish to expand our interests.
Finally, will it affect the protection of these rights under the Agong? Certainly not. While I do acknowledge that there is discrimination against the Malays by other races, the most oft cited anecdote being the language requirement for a job, we have to remember that a right protected by the Constitution is nowhere near the same as a language requirement. For starters, you cannot actually learn how to get special rights whereas you can probably learn Chinese or Tamil well enough given three to five months of intensive study and practice.
We also need to remember several factors regarding issues like these, the first one being that false information spreads faster than truth nowadays. I’d even argue that we probably know more lies than truths by this point. Opinions touted as truths are a close second as well so it pays the average citizen well to be vigilant about where he or she gets their info from. Secondly, there is no clear evidence that it will fully open up to non-Bumis. Chances are it’s probably going to be a bump up in the acceptance quota but I would not be personally opposed to a full opening of it.
Why would I? People have been complaining about vernacular schools for years if not decades for most of the non-Bumis inability to speak the national language and/or creating this separation between the races. Bodies like Dong Zong are usually blamed for making the Chinese in particular be ‘unpatriotic’ to their country especially with their championing of the UEC. However, when we lock them out of public tertiary education, where else are they going to turn to? How hypocritical would we be to demand the closure of vernacular schools when we openly show our propensity to keep to ourselves? Sure, the public state schools exist but I would be lying if I were to say that they are usually the optimal environment for a non-Malay. Some are more of a religious institution than a public all-inclusive school. Therefore, by making this first step into increasing the acceptance quota of non-Malays, we can gradually foster a natural bond between ourselves as Malaysians. The unified, harmonious Malaysia that our Father of Independence had envision 61 years ago.
Of course, this is not to say that nothing good has come out of this new change in government for the good, I’d reckon, outweighs the bad. Most of the promises made in the new government’s manifesto are being fulfilled, the media has become liberated though I do not claim to know by how much, Malaysia is once again centre stage in the international theatre but for good reasons this time and, at the time of writing, the ringgit has dropped to 3.99 to the US dollar. Our 4th PM-turned-7th PM is currently in the process of revisiting his famous ‘Look East Policy’ that put us at the forefront of Asian economy back in the 80s and 90s so that will be interesting to look forward to. We also have a woman as Deputy PM so that’s something we can add to our list of prominent women in the country later down the line. Her husband, Anwar Ibrahim, who was sent to jail and recently bailed out of it by our current PM, is set to be the 8th Prime Minister once Tun Dr Mahathir steps after his projected 2-year term.
Heck, all of this and more will be interesting to look forward to! This is the first time in history that Malaysia has seen a change in government so falling back on old predictions cannot be the way to go anymore. Everything I say might even be invalidated in a few years time, who knows? It’s only been a little over a month since the installation of this new gov.
Here’s to an interesting year ahead in Malaysian politics!
Disclaimer: This article represents the opinions and thoughts of the author and is by no means academic material.