‘Meritocracy’ is a dirty word in Malaysia; scholar calls for change to quota system

GENERATIONS of Malaysians have had to live with the quota system accepting it as part and parcel of life. But one young man decided to highlight this issue in a powerful speech at his convocation.

Nahvin Muthusamamy who was honoured with the prestigious Royal Education Award during the Universiti Teknikal Malaysia Melaka (UTeM) 19th convocation ceremony used the opportunity to emphasise the significance of providing equal opportunities to students irrespective of their family, social and racial backgrounds.

“We need to prioritise meritocracy in the education system instead of the quota system introduced by the political parties that divides us as a nation,” the Bachelor of Computer Science graduate implored passionately.

“I’ve worked hard to be a voice for the silenced and I hope the Higher Education Ministry hears our call for a fair Malaysia,” he also wrote on Instagram while sharing a video of his convocation speech.


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A post shared by Nahvin Muthusamy (@nah.vin)

“(I’m) representing not just my story but the shared narrative of minorities. I dare to express what was considered unspeakable even if it meant courting controversy because I believe in a greater cause,” he bravely stated in the national language.

Nahvin also pointed to his humble background as spurring him to achieve greater things – in particular the efforts of his mother, Vasuntha Devi. The 55-year old matriarch who works as a rubber tapper has been the sole bread winner since her husband suffered a stroke five years ago.

“Without her efforts and sacrifices, I definitely would not be here,” acknowledged the 23-year-old who hails from Bahau, Negri Sembilan.

“My mother’s wisdom resonates deeply with me. It’s evident that many aspects of life in Malaysia are unjust. Despite being raised to accept this without resistance, I’ve chosen a different path.

“Instead of passivity, I prefer attempting to make a difference even if it means facing failure. The true defeat lies in ceasing efforts and I am determined not to stop.”

Brave words indeed from a young man who seems determined to break the cycle of poverty and also challenge the status quo.

For decades, the powers-that-be have manipulated the idea of “meritocracy” into some sort of dirty word.

Oft referred to as the “Singapore system”, they sought to tarnish the word by alluding that it is a concept that seeks to deny Bumiputera of opportunities instead of for what it actually is – to be judged on one’s abilities regardless of ethnic or religious background.

Nahvin’s brave words certainly marks him out as a potential leader of tomorrow. For now, he should be applauded for daring to speak out against an inherent unjust quota system that is failing the nation in producing bright scholars who can compete on a global stage.

Interestingly, netizen tosiak_opisel opined that UTeM should withhold Nahvin’s degree over his speech which contained 3R (race, religion and royalty) elements when he should have been more sensitive to the agreed upon social contract instead of voicing his view in a partisan and inciteful manner”. – Nov 23, 2023

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