The survey mentioned in the following article confirms what most Malaysians know for a fact - there is no such thing as The Malaysian.
I am surprised, though, of all the ethnic groups surveyed, the Indians came out the most integrated. 75% saw themselves as Malaysians first and only 22% of them think that they should help their own race first before others. I am very impressed by this finding of the Indian community considering the fact that the vast majority of the Indian population in Malaysia has such a small share of the economic pie.
I am sure many of us have our theories/reasons as to why Malaysians, in general, cannot identify themselves as Malaysians first before their religion or race.
The main reason that comes to mind is the race preferential policies (or put negatively, government endorsed racial discriminatory policies) of the government. It cannot be denied that there are quotas given, or lack thereof, to each ethnic group when it comes to government jobs, scholarships, government contracts, low cost housing, university admisssions and the list goes on. You and I know who the full beneficiaries are.
It is virtually impossible to remove race preferential policies once they are in place. You would think that in a country like America, such a policy would not exist but you would be so wrong! Affirmative action, put in place to help the minority groups in America, has become a political football. The term "minority" is misleading in the context of affirmative action in America. Asians, eventhough a minority group, does not get to enjoy the benefits of affirmative action. Anyway, long story for another time.
Just how does a government detemine when the playing field is level? The NEP's objective was to have at least 30% bumiputra participation in the economy, and 35 years on, just how much has been achieved? At this rate the NEP, by whatever name, will never become obsolete. The government can remove whatever hurdle to help a particular race achieve economic success, but government intervention can backfire leading to economic inefficiencies, increase in national debt, increase in poverty levels of other racial groups etc.
What is the point of this whole diatribe, one might ask? That as long as there is inequality between the races, inequality that is endorsed and advanced by the government, a true Malaysian identity is not going to happen anytime soon.
The Star Online > By DHARMENDER SINGH
Friday July 21, 2006
PETALING JAYA: A national survey has found that racial integration is still not yet a reality.
The survey, conducted by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research, found that the majority of respondents still identified themselves according to their race and religion.
When asked what they considered themselves to be first, 61% of the Malays surveyed gave their religion as the answer, while 28% said Malaysian. Interestingly, only 5% gave ethnicity as the answer.
As for the Chinese, 47% gave their ethnicity as the answer while 44% answered Malaysian. Only 5% gave their religion as the answer.
Of the Indians surveyed, 75% saw themselves as Malaysians, 14% by their ethnicity and 5% by their religion.
The survey, entitled National Youth Opinion Poll on Civic Engagement, involved 1,505 Malaysians aged between 18 and 32.
Of those surveyed, 52% were Malays, 20% Chinese, 8% Indians, 8% natives of Sabah and Sarawak and 2% others. There were 748 male and 757 female respondents.
The answers were obtained via telephone interviews over a one-month period.
When presented the statement "One's responsibility should first begin by helping members of one's ethnic group before helping others in society", 63% of the Malay respondents agreed, as did 44% of the Chinese and 22% of the Indian respondents.
However, on questions related to the future of Malaysian society, the survey found that the majority felt that Malaysians of various ethnic backgrounds were "coming closer together" rather than moving apart.
When asked specifically what their expectations of Malaysian society were, 43% said they desired a society where the various races and cultures were treated equally, 27% wanted a more democratic society, 18% wanted a society where Islam played a bigger role and 6% said they wanted a Malay-dominant society.
On the issue of morality, 62% said they wanted the Government to regulate it.
In terms of ethnic breakdown, 73% of Malays and 67% of Indians wanted morality. As for the Chinese, the majority surveyed favoured morality being self-regulated or by the family.
The survey also found that Malaysian youth were also not as uncaring as assumed to be.
When asked whether they were concerned about the problems in their immediate community, 71% said they were.
This, however, did not necessarily translate to action because 59% of the respondents had never taken part in any community service or any volunteer activity.
Announcing the results of the survey yesterday, Merdeka Centre programmes director Ibrahim Suffian said the organisation conducted the survey to understand the perception of young Malaysians of society and how they related to issues and concerns affecting the country.
P.S. Malaysian newspapers do not make their articles available online after a number of days, therefore I have chosen to quote whole cloth articles I use in my entries.