Racism in sports is nothing new under “Ketuanan” rule

By Mariam Mokhtar


WHEN I took part in a Bersih rally, a few university students confided that they were very good at sports during their secondary school days, but their coach said that their inclusion in the school teams would exceed the quota meant for their particular race.

It appears that the excuse given for rejecting the students concerned despite excellence in their chosen sport was that the race quota has been met.

Affirmative action policies will create mistrust and anger when talent is not recognised. Why do we divide our students in this sickening and discriminatory manner?

And who authorised this unwritten policy? Few people in the authority will want to admit it exists.

Teenagers who juggle their training with their studies and work hard – both physically and mentally – just to be the best in a sporting field will be thoroughly demoralised when in the end they lose out to politics.

I wrote an article in January about this. The responses I received from various civil servants are:

  1. You are incorrect to claim that there is Ketuanan racial discrimination in school sports.
  2. How do you know it exists?
  3. How can you say there is discrimination? Many of the top players representing Malaysia are non-Malay like Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Datuk Nicol David. They received much support from the Government.

To these former civil servants and current civil servants, I say:

  • Which school head who practices Ketuanan Melayu is going to advertise this fact? Most people at the top either know about it and close both eyes, or at worst, are not told anything by their aides.
  • Do you think any student will dare to complain? There will be repercussions.
  • Do you think any teacher who disagrees with the Ketuanan policy will also complain? He/she will be out of a job or transferred at the earliest opportunity.
  • Any parent who complains on behalf of their child will face repercussions.
  • The culture of fear and hate in Malaysia starts in schools. Racism is the curse of Malaysia.
  • The presence of Lee Chong Wei or Nicol David does NOT mean that there is no racism in school sports.

Just think! If we have no Ketuanan policies – and allowed talent to thrive and excel – we could nurture more international quality sporting stars, not just mediocre athletes, who qualify only because they are from one race.

To the civil servants and people who think there is no racism in school sports, read the excerpt from a news piece below:

SMK Dato’ Bentara Luar listed the racist and sexist criteria for the registration of co-curricular activities in student sports.

  1. Football and sepak takraw club which are open for Malay males only.
  2. Basketball club: Only for Chinese males and females.
  3. Hockey: Only for students living in dorms.
  4. Netball: Only for Malay girls.
  5. Handball, bowling, petanque and badminton are open to all.

First Cop-out: The school’s principal Abdul Razak Hamid claimed that the “conditions” were necessary because of the lack of sporting facilities for the students.

Second Cop-out:  Free Malaysia Today contacted the Johor exco for education, information, culture and heritage, Mazlan Bujang. He declined to comment and told the press to contact the Education Minister instead.

One school was exposed. However, the school reversed its racial segregation policy after a public backlash.

But how many are still silently promoting Ketuanan racism and sexism in sports? I wonder. – April 18, 2021


Mariam Mokhtar is a socio-political commentator.

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


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