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As Long as We Remember...

April 2, 2014

Keep The Bumiputra Policy

Tom McLaughlin

Kuching, Malaysian Borneo – Forty years ago, when I was here in Malaysia, the government had announced the implementation of the Bumiputra Policy. This is where the Malays were given special treatment by the rulers of the country.


At that time, the Bumis were considered to be "sons of the soil." They were the majority of people who had not participated in the economic growth of the country. Their birth rate was high, but so was their death rate. Very few children made it to the age of two. Life expectancy, among the Malays and natives (I hate that word but for lack of a better translation) was about 45. The hospitals were non-existent except in towns and they were over worked.


The educational system was rigged against them. They could not enter because all of the classes were in English. One could not speak Malay and then suddenly transform themselves to English overnight. Therefore Malay schools were set up to at least the 8th grade level. They eventually moved forward until all the classes were in Malay.


Jobs in government were reserved for the Bumis. They could not find employment in the private sector, so employment opportunities were created in the public sector. Parallel to this, the oil industry boomed and jobs were reserved for them.


It is now 40 years later. Three and half 12-year segments have gone through the school system. Many have dropped out in the eighth grade, not able to pass the tests required for further study. Several have gone on to pass the 12th grade exam, while others have proceeded onward to higher degrees.


Schools and hospitals have been built. The national language has flowed throughout the system. History has become a required subject, and, in 2016, English will once again become standard. The twin towers have been created, the national highway constructed and two Penang bridges have been erected.


The cost has been striking, especially on the Peninsula. The Malays and the Chinese have been further divided, their schools split in two. Before, everyone went to the same school. Now the Chinese have their own schools, divided to engage the students in English. From there, they will go abroad to further their education.


The question is – and remains – does the nation need to continue the Bumiputra Policy?


When the Malay has been suppressed by the British for as long as they have, the Bumiputra Policy needs to remain intact.


The teachers in the schools need to be trained, smaller classes should be encouraged and more schools need to be built. There are still not enough quality classrooms available. Students must also be able to speak in English, a necessary fact. Too much of the world is rushing upon them and that world speaks English.


The economic policy needs to be addressed. There has been some progress on the monetary front, but the vast amount of the funds is still held by the Chinese. The graduates of the universities need a place to work and the only place is in government service. When and if the Chinese stranglehold of the economy lifts, then the Malays will be able to move in beside the Chinese.


It will be a long time, if ever, when the Bumiputra Policy can be expunged.


...Life is good. . . . .


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