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RPK – Malaysian Apartheid

November 19, 2008


Completely and exactly what I would have liked to write about on the Malaysian Apartheid. Though unlike RPK I have a bit more reservations about all that faith in Anwar Ibrahim. He’s made his fair share of promises – and has broken a fair share too. But I still respect him a thousand times more than a certain Prime Minister and Deputy PM. And RPK I respect most of all in this entire conflagration.

You know what, I’ll talk more about the Malaysian Apartheid after all. Even if I’ve half sworn off political posts. But meh.

Since this isn’t exactly a professional blog, I’m going to quote bits of Wikipedia’s Apartheid article (only the Introduction part though) and compare it to the truth, personally known and experienced by myself in Malaysia.

Apartheid legislation classified inhabitants and visitors into racial groups (black, white, coloured, and Indian or Asian).

You know, students from primary school and high school taking official examinations are forced to register their races on the examination slip. Melayu ( Malay), Cina ( Chinese), India ( Indian), Lain – Lain ( et cetera). The classic Malaysian four-class paradigm that we must fill up in just about every single official document. For what purpose? I’ve heard rumors for the matter of the Malaysian examination system but I don’t know if they’re true so I won’t repeat them.

The government segregated education, medical care, and other public services; black people ended up with services greatly inferior to those of whites, and, to a lesser extent, to those of Indians and coloureds.

Interestingly, most of the general public education system sucks so much that the Chinese and Indian races essentially self-segregate by sending their children to Chinese, Indian or private schools. Same goes with medical services, those who can afford it usually go for superior private hospitals or clinics rather than the public health system. I think there are a number of “Chinese” private hospitals as well but I’m very sure they don’t actually refuse or dissuade anyone from any race from coming to their hospital. And I think they conduct all business in English, as most private hospitals do.

And look at this.

There was a deliberate policy in “white South Africa” of making services for black people inferior to those of whites, to try to “encourage” black people to move into the black homelands.

Ah, another classic. Not really the “services” part, but the “encouragement” part. We get at this at least 3 to 5 times a year. Ultra-Malay UMNO politicians are so fond of telling the Chinese and Indians to (paraphrasing) “go back to China/ India if you don’t like it here”.

One of the more recent ones ( which quite ticked me off) called Malaysian Chinese “immigrants” and he got off with barely even a slap on the wrist (maybe a little tickle?), and a nationally owned (English language!) newspaper reported that he was given a “hero’s welcome” in an UMNO meeting not too long ago.

The biggest problem I have here is that at least 90% (personal estimation, not backed up) of the Malaysian Chinese and Indian people were born in Malaysia and have lived there all their lives. Why are they judged any less Malaysian if their parents or grandparents weren’t born in Malaysia? Aren’t they 100% Malaysian if they were born and raised 100% in Malaysia and don’t step foot away from the country unless for holidays? I mean, don’t the Malay people live in the same way too? And what about the “Lain – Lain” – they deserve so much more than that label; among them are Orang Asli: the true natives of Malaysia with ancestral lines and culture for hundreds if not thousands of years on Malaysian soil. How can they be less Malaysian than any other? Yet they are among the most marginalized of all Malaysians, practically the poorest and least economically well off compared to the general population.

The system of apartheid sparked significant internal resistance.[3] The government responded to a series of popular uprisings and protests with police brutality, which in turn increased local support for the armed resistance struggle.

BERSIH, HINDRAF and the March 2008 elections, anybody?

In response to popular and political resistance, the apartheid government resorted to detentions without trial, torture, censorship, and the banning of political opposition from organisations such as the African National Congress, the Black Consciousness Movement, the Azanian People’s Organisation, the Pan Africanist Congress, and the United Democratic Front, which were popularly considered liberation movements. Despite suffering extreme repression and exile, these organisations maintained popular support for the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa and forged connections with the international anti-apartheid movement during this period.[5][6]

HINDRAF is banned in Malaysia, by the way. And on detention without trial – one word: ISA. Torture? ISA. Censorship? Look at this, this, this, this and this. Now how do we get the international movements to come in and make a ruckus?

White South Africa became increasingly militarised, embarking on the so-called border war with the covert support of the USA, fighting Cuban and MPLA forces based in Angola, and later sending the South African Defence Force into townships.

There have been reports of politicians – yes, politicians and some extremely famous/ high-up ones have done it before – publicly pledging to uphold Malaydom ( that’s not a word, I’m just making it up but it’s the right flavor) while kissing and waving the keris around. Keris. Those are ancient Malay dagger-swords. They are weapons. What do you think these politicians were implying? How is it different from this? Looking at what they say about the non-Malay races, is it any wonder that this happened?

Now, I have to say right now that I have absolutely nothing against Malay people in general. I think they are the same as any other person: generally decent and ultimately just trying to live their lives as we all do. The injustice here is not in the race – if I were here to slam all Malays, then I would be no different from that Melayu-Ultra UMNO dude I mentioned up there.

The true injustice is embedded in the system – and that is what must change. How can we ever begin to take a step towards true multiculturalism when racism is embedded into the laws of our country? Ask yourself this, the next time you stand at a polling booth. Ask yourself if you want to live in a country that eerily mirrors South Africa of the 1960s. Have we ever moved forward from 1969? I would like to believe that we have. But as long as discrimination legally exists in our Constitution, we will remain shackled. So what to do?


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  1. Well, what HINDRAF refuse to understand is that their parents and leaders agreed to the ‘social contract’ and related constitution wholeheartedly before the independence was granted. If they have anyone to blame, if should be the people and Indian leaders during the period.


  2. True, but whether they accept it or not may be somewhat irrelevant to their cause, since as I understand it, they are protesting the situation of Indians here and now ( and as I understand it, justly so).

    Of course, if they did acknowledge it, that might lend more credibility to the movement… so yeah.

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