Bumiputra

This article describes Bumiputra in terms of Malaysia. For the legal definition of Bumiputera as defined in Brunei, please see Bumiputera


Bumiputra or Bumiputera (Malay, from Sanskrit Bhumiputra; translated literally, it means "son of the soil"), is an official definition widely used in Malaysia, embracing ethnic Malays as well as other indigenous ethnic groups such as the Orang Asli in Peninsular Malaysia and the tribal peoples in Sabah and Sarawak. Economic policies designed to favour Bumiputras (including affirmative action in public education) were implemented in the 1970s in order to defuse inter-ethnic tensions following the May 13 Incident in 1969, but these have not been fully effective in eradicating poverty among rural bumiputras and have further caused a backlash of resentment on the part of non-bumi ethnic groups.

Definition

The idea of Bumiputra in Malaysia is based on the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, in particular Article 153. However the constitution did not explicitly define the term "bumiputra". It only contains the definitions of "Malay" and "aborigine" (Article 160(2))[1], "natives" of Sarawak (161A(6)(a))[2], and "natives" of Sabah (Article 161A(6)(b))<ref name="FC" />. Thus, the definition of "bumiputra" may vary in different institutions, organizations or other government departments and agencies.

According to the book entitled "Buku Panduan Kemasukan ke Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Awam, Program Pengajian Lepasan SPM/Setaraf Sesi Akademik 2007/2008" (Guidebook for entry into public higher learning institutions for SPM/equivalent graduates for academic year 2007/2008), by Student Entry Management under Management Department of Higher Education Institution, Malaysian Higher Education Ministry, the definition of Bumiputra are as follows:
  1. Peninsular Malaysia
  2. *"If one of the parent are Muslim Malay or Orang Asli as stated in Article 160 (2) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus the child is considered as a Bumiputra"
  3. Sabah
  4. *"If a father is a Muslim Malay or indigenous native of Sabah as stated in Article 160A (6)(a) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus his child is considered as a Bumiputra"
  5. Sarawak
  6. *"If both of the parent are indigenous native of Sarawak as stated in Article 160A (6)(b) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus their child is considered as a Bumiputra"

History

In Malaysia, by convention, it is generally considered that all Malays are Bumiputras and many consider that all Bumiputras are Malay, but in Sabah, it is well understood that Bumiputras need not be Malay. However, as the definitions above indicate there are cases of non-Malays declared as Bumiputra, and similarly of non-Muslim Malays who are considered Bumiputra. Other indigenous groups are included as Bumiputra including the Iban and other Bornean groups. However, the definition of Bumiputra appears to also include Muslim Indians, Sino-native and some Kristang people.

This confusion is compounded by the fact that different ministries of the government may have different definitions themselves. What is not obscure is that preferential treatment of Bumiputras versus other races is built into the Malaysian Constitution.

Bumiputras were given special rights in the constitution after the Malays agreed to share political power with minorities, including the Chinese, in what is termed the social contract, as a prerequisite to gaining independence from British rule. Many of the non-Malays at that time were first and second generation migrants who had been brought by the British to fill colonial manpower needs as indentured labourers, a form of limited-term post-emancipation slavery, and the Malays were facing a situation where they were close to a minority in their own country. Article 153 of the Constitution states that:

It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and natives of any of the States of Sabah and Sarawak and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article.


Article 160 defines a Malay as being one who "professes the religion of Islam, habitually speaks the Malay language, conforms to Malay customs and is the child of at least one parent who was born within the Federation of Malaysia before independence of Malaya on the 31st of August 1957".

The term of this special position has been disputed; the Reid Commission which drafted the Constitution initially proposed that Article 153 expire after 15 years unless renewed by Parliament. This was later struck from the final draft. After the May 13 Incident in 1969, there was an argument within the government concerning whether the special position of the Bumiputras ought to have a sunset clause. Ismail Abdul Rahman argued that "the question be left to the Malays themselves because ... as more and more Malays became educated and gained self-confidence, they themselves would do away with this 'special position'." Ismail himself viewed the special position as "a slur on the ability of the Malays".[3] In 1970, however, one member of the Cabinet pronounced that Malay special rights would remain for "hundreds of years to come".[4]

The word "Bumiputra" was first used in Parliament in 1965 during the debate of the act which would create the Majlis Amanah Rakyat (MARA), a government agency formed to preserve Bumiputra interests.[5]

Policy

Enlarge picture
Some institutes of higher learning, such as the Open University Malaysia, have enacted admission policies favouring Bumiputra students.


Certain pro-bumiputra policies known as the Bumiputra Laws exist as a means of affirmative action for bumiputras. Such policies include quotas for the following: admission to government educational institutions, qualification for public scholarships, positions in government and ownership in business. Most of them were established in the Malaysian New Economic Policy (NEP). Many of them focus on establishing a Bumiputra share of corporate equity comprising at least 30% of the total. This target was originally proposed by Ismail Abdul Rahman, after the government was unable to agree on a suitable policy goal.[3]

Examples of such policies include:
  • Companies listed on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (Bursa Saham Kuala Lumpur) must find Bumiputras to take up a minimum 30% of equity to satisfy listing requirements. MSC status companies listed on MESDAQ (Malaysia's latest stock exchange, modelled on the NASDAQ and other 'tech' stock exchanges) are not subject to this requirement.
  • A certain percentage of new housing in any development has to be sold to Bumiputra owners. Housing developers are required to provide a minimum 7% discount to Bumiputra buyers of these lots. There is no bumiputra discount on established housing.
  • A basket of government guaranteed and run mutual funds are available for purchase by Bumiputra buyers only.
  • Many government tendered projects require that companies submitting tenders be bumiputra owned. This requirement has led to non-Bumiputras teaming up with Bumiputra companies to obtain projects in a practice known as "Ali Baba" where Ali (the Bumiputra) exists solely to satisfy this requirement and Baba (the non Bumiputra) gives Ali a certain sum in exchange.
  • Projects were earmarked for Malay contractors to gain expertise in various fields. Often these projects would be sold as the bidders were not interested in the work, only in the gains that could be made from winning such a tender.
  • Approved Permits (APs) for automobiles preferentially allow Bumiputra to import vehicles. Automotive companies wishing to bring in cars need to have an AP to do so. APs were originally created to allow Bumiputra participation in the automotive industry since they were issued to companies with at least 70% Bumiputra ownership. In 2004, the Edge (a business newspaper) estimated that APs were worth approximately RM 35,000 a piece. They also estimated that Nasimuddin Amin, chairman of the Naza group received 6,387 for 2003, making him the largest recipient of APs. 12,234 APs were issued in 2003. In addition to APs, foreign car marquees are required to pay between 140% to 300% as an import duty.
Most of these advantages only exist in public policy. Private sector implementation is often to satisfy legal requirements and is considered by some to be mere tokenism.

In addition to the above economic advantages, Bumiputras previously received other privileges in public tertiary education, such as ethnic quotas. In 2004, Dr. Shafie Salleh, the newly appointed Higher Education Minister, stated that he "will ensure the quota of Malay students' entry into universities is always higher". This was demonstrated in 2004 when Non-Bumiputra students who scored 5As in the STPM (the highest possible grade) were denied admission to their first choice of study in public universities while Bumiputra students with lesser grades were nonetheless admitted.

Since 2000, the Government has discussed phasing out certain advantages, and reinstating a "meritocracy". The eventual result was the system of "Malaysian model meritocracy" begun in 2003. In the implementation, admission to public universities was not based upon a common examination like the SAT or A-Levels but rather upon two parallel systems of a one-year matriculation course and a two-year STPM (literally translated as "Malaysian Higher School Certificate") programme. Bumiputras compose an overwhelming majority of entrants to the matriculation programme, leading to some complaints from the public, as the public university entry requirements are suggested to be easier for matriculation students.

Quotas also exist for Public Services Department (JPA) scholarships, which are full scholarships offered to students to study in leading universities worldwide. These scholarships are given on the basis of SPM (translated as "Malaysian Education Certificate", the equivalent of O-Levels) results, race and certain quotas. The JPA scholars then are sent to selected pre-university programmes offered by the government — from there, they apply to universities.

The laws and rules favouring bumiputras are present in every level. For example, in the secondary school level English Language Debate, at least one of the three active speakers must be a bumiputra. Any team which does not follow this rule is disqualified.

Legitimacy of special rights

Bumiputra privileges and quotas are based on article 153 of the constitution which states that : 'It shall be the responsibility of the Yang di Pertuan Agong to safeguard the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interests of other communities in accordance with the provisions of this Article'. Malaysia is a constitutional monarchy hence the responsibilities of the YDP are regarded as the responsibilities of the state.

Clause 5 of article 153 specifically reaffirms article 136 of the constitution which states: 'All persons of whatever race in the same grade in the service of the Federation shall, subject to the terms and conditions of their employment, be treated impartially.'

Clause 9 of article 153 states 'Nothing in this Article shall empower Parliament to restrict business or trade solely for the purpose of reservations for Malays.'

Article 8 of the constitution (clause 2) states: 'Except as expressly authorised by this Constitution, there shall be no discrimination against citizens on the ground only of religion, race, descent or place of birth in any law or in the appointment to any office or employment under a public authority or in the administration of any law relating to the acquisition, holding or disposition of property or the establishing or carrying on of any trade, business, profession, vocation or employment.'

Controversy

The Bumiputra laws stand out as an unusual public policy where preferential actions benefit the majority race of a country, and some argue that the advantages afforded to bumiputras border on outright racism. Others argue that the Malaysian situation at the time the policy was introduced — where a minority ethnic group widely regarded as non-native controlled most of the locally-owned sector of the economy, due in no small part to colonial legacies which had assisted Chinese migrants to become dominant in the business sector to the point that Malays were largely excluded from economic life, other than as subsistence farmers, small-scale fishermen, and laborers — was an unusual and deeply unstable situation. The government also argues that the legal and economic advantages are necessary for Malaysia to reduce ethnic conflict. The NEP, in particular, was spurred by large racial riots on May 13, 1969.

Another controversial aspect is that the Orang Asli of peninsular Malaysia are not considered Bumiputra under the Federal constitution. As their settlement predates that of the Malays, this is considered unfair by many, especially as they are also much worse off than the Malays. As such, various groups including SUHAKAM, the Malaysian Commission of Human Rights have called for the government to recognise Orang Asli as Bumiputra[6] Others argue that the Orang Asli are in fact considered bumiputera.[7]

Early debate

In the 1965 session of Parliament, Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (who was also a Member of that Parliament) questioned the implementation of Malay rights as proposed. Lee asked, "How does the Malay in the kampong find his way out into this modernised civil society? By becoming servants of the 0.3 per cent who would have the money to hire them to clean their shoe, open their motorcar doors?" and "How does telling a Malay bus driver that he should support the party of his Malay director (UMNO) and the Chinese bus conductor to join another party of his Chinese director (MCA) — how does that improve the standards of the Malay bus driver and the Chinese bus conductor who are both workers in the same company?"

Lee closed with "Meanwhile, whenever there is a failure of economic, social and educational policies, you come back and say, oh, these wicked Chinese, Indian and others opposing Malay rights. They don't oppose Malay rights. They, the Malay, have the right as Malaysian citizens to go up to the level of training and education that the more competitive societies, the non-Malay society, has produced. That is what must be done, isn't it? Not to feed them with this obscurantist doctrine that all they have got to do is to get Malay rights for the few special Malays and their problem has been resolved."

It soon became clear that the PAP's campaign for a Malaysian Malaysia under the Malaysian Solidarity Convention as an indirect challenge against the racial policies was not well received by the ruling Alliance, led by the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). Amidst the escalating communal issues in the state of Singapore, and the problems regarding the persistent neglect of the Federal Government concerning the economy of Singapore, Lee announced Singapore's separation from Malaysia on 9 August 1965, hours after the Malaysian Prime Minister made a similar announcement in the Malaysian Parliament.

Education

In 2004, Mohd. Johari Baharum, parliamentary secretary of the Prime Minister's Department, stated that the PSD scholarships would remain quota based. He added that there were no plans to convert this to a merit based system, and that the total value of the PSD scholarship since 1996 was 2.4 billion Ringgit.[8] There have been reported cases of students who failed to get PSD scholarships, but were later admitted to leading universities.

In an autobiographical book, "A Malaysian Journey", by Rehman Rashid, the author claims that the teachers are pressured in the universities to give favorable grades to the bumiputra students, even if they have inferior answers compared to the non-bumiputra students. He also suggests that the grants given by private corporations to students may in fact be unofficially earmarked to bumiputra.

Public questioning of rights

At the 55th annual general assembly of the largest political party in Malaysia, the United Malays National Organisation, the deputy chairperson Badruddin Amiruldin cautioned against questioning the Bumiputra's special rights, and was met with approval from the delegates: "Let no one from the other races ever question the rights of Malays on this land. Don’t question the religion because this is my right on this land."

Present condition of the Bumiputra

Former Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohammad has bemoaned the extreme reliance of Bumiputras on their privileges: "We have tried to tell them if you depend on subsidies, you are going to be very weak. But they don’t seem to understand. We tell them if you use crutches, you will not be able to stand up. Throw away the crutches, stand up straight because you still have the capacity. I have talked about this thing and as a doctor I know very well the meaning of crutches but somehow or rather they want the easy way out. If I get an AP and I sell it and make some money, it’s all right, they say."

Mahathir (who was also education minister previously) also said in 2004 that Malay graduates tend to have low employment rates because "the Chinese graduates choose the right subjects so they are employable. We find that the Malay graduates, especially those from the Malay stream, can’t speak English at all. No matter how much value you put on a certificate, the fact remains that an employer wants somebody with whom he can communicate. The employer is not Malay, he is a foreigner. And if he’s not going to be able to communicate with you, he will not take you."

Furthermore, the Malay students, with Government-issued scholarships and study loans, tend to take up subjects like Syariah Law, Islamic History and other Islam-related subjects. Instead of choosing to learn English and taking up subjects that are of more secular tangible benefits (e.g. Engineering, Medicine, etc.) some have gone to great lengths to further their studies in Middle Eastern countries, learning Arabic in the process. The results of this stunning lack of pragmatism is unfortunate - in June 2006, it was revealed that a batch of 169 students sent to the Al-Azhar University in Cairo had difficulties with the Arabic language, resulting in only 5 students making it through their course.[9] The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, had strongly criticized this trend among Malay students to choose "simple subjects" which are worthless in the job market.

The current (2006) Minister of Higher Education, Mustapa Mohamad, has stated that that he wants public universities to recruit more non-bumiputra academic staff in order to "strive for world-class institutions", which may signal a move toward less racial profiling in academia.

See also

Notes and references

1. ^ Part XII: General and Miscellaneous, Constitution of Malaysia (Articles 152 - 160), helplinelaw.com. Accessed May 30, 2007.
2. ^ Part XIIA: Additional Protections for States of Sabah and Sarawak, Constitution of Malaysia (Articles 161 - 161h), helplinelaw. Accessed May 30, 2007.
3. ^ "Snag in policy implementation", pp. 8–9. (Dec. 31, 2006). New Straits Times.
4. ^ Lim, Kit Siang (1978). Time Bombs in Malaysia, p. 218 (2nd ed.). Democratic Action Party. No ISBN available.
5. ^ Tan, Chee Koon & Vasil, Raj (ed., 1984). Without Fear or Favour, p. 10. Eastern Universities Press. ISBN 967-908-051-X.
6. ^ suhakam.org.my (PDF)
7. ^ temiar.com
8. ^ malaysiakini.com
9. ^ Only Five Students Complete Course. Bernama. June 5 2006.

Other references

[1] [2] [3]





[4] [5] [6]
Bumiputera as a member of the following seven races:
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The May 13 Incident is a term for the Sino-Malay race riots in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which began on May 13, 1969. These riots continued for a substantial period of time, leading the government to declare a state of national emergency and suspend Parliament until 1971.
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Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) responsibility for safeguarding the rights and privileges of the Malay and other indigenous peoples of Malaysia, collectively referred to as Bumiputra.
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Malaya or Peninsular Malaysia (Malay: Semenanjung Malaysia) is the part of Malaysia which lies on the Malay Peninsula, and shares a land border with Thailand in the north. To the south is the island of Singapore.
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Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia grants the Yang di-Pertuan Agong (King of Malaysia) responsibility for safeguarding the rights and privileges of the Malay and other indigenous peoples of Malaysia, collectively referred to as Bumiputra.
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Article 160 of the Constitution of Malaysia defines various terms used in the Constitution. It has an important impact on Islam in Malaysia and the Malay people due to its definition of a Malay person under clause 2.
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