Anwar must answer where’s affirmative action if rich Malay kids can gain entry into matriculation courses

IT IS not benign generosity on the part of Prime Minister Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim to give priority to the importance of both English and Malay languages in the national schools.

As the national language, the question of not giving importance to Malay does not arise at all in the first place.

But whether Anwar likes it or not, English is the language of international communication and the language of science and technology.

It is just that the government is a bit too late in giving due recognition to the English language in school and universities.

Of course, Anwar is politically careful in emphasising the importance of Malay so as not to alienate the Malay nationalists.

Anwar in his speech had touched on the lack of meritocracy in admissions to pre-university and public university programmes.

He defended the admissions programmes by saying that they cannot be at the expense of rural students who cannot gain admissions under circumstances of poverty and underdevelopment.

Rural vs urban Malays

Anwar even admitted that there are qualified Indian students who cannot gain admissions to matriculation programmes and public university courses. At the same time, a large number of qualified Malay students especially from the rural areas failed to get admission.

However, Anwar’s sweeping inaccurate remarks are not consistent with the facts on admissions to matriculation and public university programmes.

He cannot be blind to the glaring fact that student intake into the public matriculation programme is based on the ethnic quota of 90:10 (Indian intake inevitably is minuscule).

The question is whether the 90% intake of Malay/Bumiputera students are those better qualified than those non-Malays who obtained and not obtain admission.

Even in the intake of Malay and Bumiputera students, to what extent are they from the rural areas? Was there weightage given to Malay/Bumiputra students from rural areas compared to the ones from urban areas?

If admissions into matriculation programmes are based on racial quota, how can Anwar differentiate between the merit and non-merit criterion?

In other words, is Anwar willing to admit that the admission of students into matriculation and university programmes are based on the comparison between Malay/Bumiputra and non-Malay students?

This means that there is no comparison between wealthy and politically-connected Malay/Bumiputra and those economically disadvantaged. This would itself lend credence that the argument in favour of affirmative action policy is hollow.

Recent statistics reveal that the non-Malay intake into public universities is around 19% to 20%. A further differentiation would easily reveal that the strategic programmes in public universities especially in science and technology are overwhelmingly Malay/Bumiputra in composition.

Rich Malay kids

It is quite easy to make passing remarks comparing Indians students with those rural Bumiputera students in remote villages such as Kapit in Sarawak.

Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy

Anwar should have compared the rural Malay/Bumiputera students with those coming from well-to-do class backgrounds.

Class comparisons cannot be reduced to comparisons between Malay/Bumiputera students from rural backgrounds with non-Malay students.

How come the Malay/Bumiputera students from wealthy and politically connected families are given a free rein? Why are they are not compared to students coming from Kapit?

The more Anwar justifies the racially biased educational system, the more awkward his defence becomes. As they say in Tamil, it is like camouflaging a huge pumpkin under heaps of rice for him to defend the unjust racially biased educational system.

As the PM, Anwar should not defend the educational system that is archaic and moribund. Whatever happened to the reforms promised before Anwar became the PM?

Has he forgotten because power has muddled his thinking? – Jan 4, 2023


Former DAP stalwart and Penang chief minister II Prof Ramasamy Palanisamy is chairman of the Urimai (United Rights of Malaysian Party) Interim Council.

The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.

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