Racial Unity: Where We Fail

A consideration on where Malaysia and her citizens have failed when it comes to racial unity.

Photo by Adam Lee

Photo by Adam Lee

Malaysia Negara Masyarakat Majmuk?

The current call by our Prime Minister for 1Malaysia is facing hiccups from its management and not forgetting the public whom are looking at it as something new. It is obviously a hard boat to ride.

Though the media is widely used for the implementation of this idea, the light at the end of the tunnel does not seem to be visible. He who proposed this idea probably did not consult his office or at least forced them to agree. Seems like he doesn’t have the iron fist that Dr. M had.

Leaving that behind, I remember during the 90′s when I was in primary school, we used to read and hear people saying Malaysia Negara Masyarakat Majmuk. We used to be proud of it, somehow or rather our essays relating to Malaysia would always espouse that element. However, it has been years since I have heard that maxim from anyone.

Dr. M’s Islamic country

We failed when we refused to voice out our disagreement when Dr. M made a public statement that Malaysia is an “Islamic country” solely to gain Malay support for the election. I do not want to go further on all the other damages he has inflicted upon our country during his dictatorship.

Mr. Lim voiced out – but there was nothing much he could do. The Constitution says Islam is the main religion of the country and that we are free to profess our own religion. Never has it said that Malaysia is an Islamic country. These politicians use the name of religion and race to fulfill their agenda, and sadly it seems like we are blinded.

There is not one, but a series of mistakes we have been a part of since independence. We can’t change a person overnight, what more an entire nation. It has to be instilled from the very beginning.

Vernacular schools

Having single vernacular schools is where we failed in the first place. The British formulated this for us, in line with their main agenda of divide and rule. But we got together, fought and obtained our independence – these single vernacular schools should have been abolished then. But the BN government to their avail did not, simply because BN adopted the same method of divide and rule.

We have gotten so used to this lifestyle and refuse change. Some arguing that it is “our right to learn our mother tongue.” I respect those who have such love for their mother tongue. However, growing children spend more time in school compared to any other single place. So schools are an important place to start building unity.

Singapore although small, seems to have had a bigger vision. I was informed that it is a must for all students to take up their mother tongue as a compulsory subject there. Their education system can’t be denied as obviously better then ours.

Children should be allowed to mix with all races and religion – this should not be a matter choice but a must. To achieve this, single vernacular schools should be abolished and all schools should be National Schools. By growing up and studying in such an environment, these children grow up to eventually disregard the differences among them. They would understand each other’s culture well and learn to respect them as well. They would then grow up in a healthy race unity mindset.

This cannot be achieved by putting up advertisements and jingles in the radio. This cannot be achieved by giving speeches or by organising events and camps. Implementing National Schools will be a slow process but one that would yield positive results. What we need is proper education. Fight for that rather then dividing the future generations.

1 Malaysian Gimmick

This 1Malaysia campaign is a political gimmick that has failed. These dictators cannot be rid off without us being united first. Lets us not let our future generation suffer due to our fixed mindset. Realise the fact that we are being divided since the very beginning.

We don’t need race based parties to protect our rights. We don’t need single vernacular schools to safeguard our mother tongue or proper education. We are Masyarakat Majmuk Malaysia. All we need is Racial Unity and there would not be any May 13 incident, church arson incident, nor cow head incident… and most certainly no Perkasa!

LB: N.G. Vinod from Johor Bahru is an LLB Hons graduate from Multimedia University. The second out of three siblings, he received his early education in SRK Masai and Secondary education in SMK Dato Jaafar Johor Bahru. This fresh practicing lawyer is often described as “crazy” by his friends with his constant out of the norm comments and views – but it never stopped him from voicing them out. An immense interest in Political Science and Human Psychology made him a person who feels that changes are not possible without revolution, and a revolution is not possible without realisation.


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Posted on 2 September 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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18 Responses to Racial Unity: Where We Fail

  1. hew

    hi vinod,

    we have failed on racial unity because there was 30 years of race based policies implemented by a corrupt govt for their own benefit. and as u have pointed out, there is not one step, but many many steps that took us here.

    all other facets of public life is colored in the context of these 30 years. u made a comparison of singapore's education system. is this a realistic comparison? there, the chinese language was taught alongside a national sylabus. and it was made compulsory. were there protests? i do not know. BUT there, the population had a choice of evaluation- is the govt trustworthy? will they maintain a high std of education? will the stds be high enough for international acceptance?? and the end results are clear to all.

    ask these same questions here and you shd understand the vehement protests. these protests are not necessarily racist – what standards does the msian govt hold on education?? a record of Universities slipping out of the TOP 500? lowering pass grades? racist allocations of scholarships? racist headmistresses? and you expect parents to support such a system?? i encourage you to put on a thinking hat of a parent.

    conversely look at the growth of private education in msia – this is a high growth sector. and based on?? teaching in the english medium!!

    the learning of mandarin, english is driven by the perception that these languages make students marketable internationally. – so you must understd why singaporeans accept their educational system. – you never hear of asian immigrants to the USA or canada or australia fighting the national education system do you?

    a govt that has never demonstrated an ability to cater to a multi racial nation does not get any respect – so you must expect groups to fight for their ability to plan for their futures. obviously, this msian govt does not.

  2. People will choose by their preference what kind of school to send to. It is not the government's place to decide anything. If the vernacular, national or religious schools are overcrowded, then extend or build more. But you cannot rubber stamp any into oblivion. The government's role is just to ensure there are enough facilities to CATER to the Rakyat's preferences, not enforce the oblivion of any particular type of school via laws that do not respect freedom of choice and disregard the Human Rights Article 23(3)

    Article 26(3) Parents have a prior right to choose the kind of education that shall be given to their children.

    This also applies to 'Sex Education' which parents should have a right to decide if their children should or should not be allowed to attend.

    The citizen must come first, do not advocate any system as if the choice was not the voter's to begin with and that the Education Ministry which is run by CIVIL-SERVANTS imposes it's will like a GOD instead of SERVING by ensuring everyone gets the system they want. That is the problem with BN or even Pakatan or any cooalition. They think their word is absolute while there are only CIVIL-SERVANTS to deluver what the people want. In retrospect, it is even not impossible that 3 types of schooling systems be available in a single school building as well, so do not TAKE AWAY freedom of choice from the Rakyat but try to liberalise and be flexible about the way things are run as in the below link's example :

    http://img825.imageshack.us/img825/1378/gambier1….

    So lets have a system full of choices to cater to everyone and not rubberstamp and impose on the voters so inconsiderately.

  3. shan

    N.G. Vinod on 3 September, 2010 at 9:16 am

    Dear all, i wish to clarify a point here. It is my opinion that by abolishing single vernacular schools and converting them into national school would help to enhance unity.

    It is a gradual process which tackles this social problem from the root. It is a suggestion, if there is any other suggestion which would yield positive results please enlighten me.

    As i have said earlier we can’t change those racist out there overnight. Once you are one you are forever one. This virus has to be killed in the very beginning.

    My 1cent…

    Mr Vinod,

    Racial unity can be only achieved if the powerful and majority race(malays) who use the race party system to their advantage can comprise with the minorities.

    Making this a islamic country and creating 121(1a) has created a lot of unhappiness among the non malays.As you mention that the non malays should agree to abolishe single vernacular schools and converting them into national school would help to enhance unity.This will only wipe out whatever little identity the indians and chinese have in this country.As you very well know that religious freedom is only applied to the non malays and this is further strenghtened with the dual legal system.Syariah law to protect the muslims from converting out of islam.Non muslims think the vernicular school are important to impart some religious and cultural knowledge so that their children will not be easily influnced to convert to other religion.Movever The malaysian goverment actively encourage other races to convert to islam. Therefore what will be the soloution? Maybe the Malaysian goverment should follow Indonesia or Turkey where religion is your personal bussiness.This will make the minrioty eventually accept the national school .

  4. Qama Gill

    Jacques,

    how should your expected "genius" will clean things up if you are not voting the ruling party out? "silence is bliss," the wise one says. by not doing anything, your frustration merely goes down the drain inevitably. we are hoping more aware citizens to voice out on the ballot. i believe you are one of those people that see the current mishaps. thus, it will be a waste by not doing anything to change it. hope you think thoroughly on this since 1 vote means a lot

  5. charleskiwi

    National unity is only a dream and it will never happen !

    The Ketunan Melayu's on wheel chair mentality is in their gene and stopping fooling

    yourself that unity will happen some day.

    They just don't walk to work for anything but given on the strength that they were the sons of the soil. They may have been here years before the non Malays but the Orang Asli and it means they are the Original People of Malaya and nothing less.

    Even shenanigan Mahathir has openly admitted that the Malays were, like the Brits, who colonised Australia for their prisoners is now claiming to be Australians. Is now claiming to be sons of the soil when the original sons of the soil are the Orang Asli and the Head Hunters despite being given the name of different Malays to justify their conquest of Malaya by the pirates. What a bloody shame ! Even during the Orang Asli recent protest in K.L. the Orang Asli protested to be called MALAY and also why are they not given the benefits of the NEP and still struggling to make ends meet ?

  6. Joe

    Would like to share something with you guys out there…… I was a teacher for 14 years in the Government service before i quit for reasons known to me…FRUSTRATION ! During my tenure as a teacher starting way back in the 80's and experiencing it with my children at school, you would be surprised what some racist headmasters in a national school can do…… They group all the good malay students in the A & B classes and put all the best non malay students in the C class citing reasons that it would be easier to conduct agama/moral classes. So what happens…..the best attention is given to the A & B classes and the C, D….classes are just ignored. So, this could one of the things which you need to be aware in a national school……?

  7. Jacques

    Dear Qama Gill,

    Thank you for your advice but i think you missed out my points ‘why i decided not to vote’ back there: 1)the crap being made by the politicians.2)i dun even trust any political party in malaysia.

    the ‘genius’ is not in the ruling party/1 side only…..

  8. fong

    "Racial polarisation in the country is not caused by the country's vernacular school system but more by the government political, education and economic discriminative policies." – an educationist said today.

    The prime minister and all the Umno ministers will never admit that polarisation arises more out of the race-based policies and privileges one race gets over another.

    Similarly, there are other areas of our daily lives where terminologies used have made us view certain practices as privileges rather than sacrifices. For instance, the bumi discount for houses.

    The total sale value to the developer is still the same. It is just that the non-malay buyer is likely to be required to pay for some of the discount given to the malays.

    But the longer the NEP policies continue and the greater the vehemence with which Umno politicians issue threats, terminologies will change and more people will talk about these practices or policies in words that may not sound as pleasing to the ears of the beneficiaries.

    Obviously, at that point we shall probably see a new round of discriminations and disagreements. Unfortunately, as long as only weak people take on leadership roles within Umno, threats will continue, NEP policies will be sustained and corruption will prevail.

    That unfortunately is the legacy we have as Malaysians.

    The basic building blocks of unity, whether you are uniting different ethnic groups in a country or trying to re-engineer a corporation of differing cultural values, are the same.

    The principal parties have to be treated as equals – nor special privileges no favours that would favour one group over another. Any privilege that is given should be given to all on the same basis – for example, special privilege given to the financially poor regardless of race or ethnic origin.

    It is only on this equitable footing that you can foster true nationalism and build lasting unity, since each component group will have the same stake in the nation and has equal likelihood in reaping the rewards or suffering the consequences.

    My recommendation to the government, not simply as a businessman but also based on pragmatism, is not to waste any more taxpayer ringgit on nationalism programmes until it has established the pre-conditions for its success.

    What is sad is that, after almost five decades of independence, we have been unable in Malaysia, to bring globally-vision leaders to the forefront – leaders who can see beyond racial boundaries to recognise the immense sociological and economic potential that can benefit all Malaysians.

  9. N.G. Vinod

    M.Nazmi you are a living example who benefited from national school as how i am. I am happy for you bro.

  10. M.Nazmi

    I come from a truly majmuk family, with Chinese, Indian and Malay members from different religions. Attending national school further added to the comfort I feel hanging out with and getting along with all races. This level of ease and comfort shared by my schoolmates was something (at the time) I felt was shared by most Malaysians.

    As I entered university and was exposed to students from different types of schools I noticed a difference in the interaction between races. It wasn’t that they did not want to mingle, most did try hard to get along. It was the comfort level that was the barrier. People tend to stick with what they are familiar with. If you have attended a school with a one race majority most of your life, the tendency to continue staying in that comfort zone would be higher. This is the same for vernacular schools as well as Malay majority boarding schools. We ex-national school ones are stuck mediating between them.

    Also, years of mixing with other races helps a person build up their racial understanding.. through observation, mistakes, trial and error, as children/teenagers we learn and aren’t already set in our ways.

    Surely there is a way to have only national schools and not let quality education of the mother tongue disappear?

  11. Jacques

    Nice job, vinod. May God bless you.

    i'm proud and thankful for being a malaysian. but what a shame, malaysia being hajack by greedy capitalist+sellfish people+rascist politician! i'm eligible to vote for the next election, but i chose not to vote at all bcoz of the crap being made by the politicians.And i dun even trust any political party in mlaysia.In simpler words, i have become an anarchist.I won't cast my vote until those 'genius' clear up all the mess.

    It's politics that tear us apart…

  12. N.G. Vinod

    Dear all, i wish to clarify a point here. It is my opinion that by abolishing single vernacular schools and converting them into national school would help to enhance unity.

    It is a gradual process which tackles this social problem from the root. It is a suggestion, if there is any other suggestion which would yield positive results please enlighten me.

    As i have said earlier we can’t change those racist out there overnight. Once you are one you are forever one. This virus has to be killed in the very beginning.

    My 1cent…

  13. Monjin

    To say vernacular school as a source of dis-unity is truly myopic, which is also a cheap platform by certain quarters to gain political mileage. The root cause of “dis-unity” lies on refusal to accept and recognise the roles of other races in the development of the nation and the belief of the supremacy of one race over the other.

    Having vernacular school (in actual terms) benefited the country, no where in the planet you would have 6 year old children speaking in 3 languages.

  14. kok

    The truth is that the ability of education to bring people together is limited. On top of that, education – at least secular one – is about the pursuit of knowledge and truth, and hence whatever is taught in schools should be based on the reality and truth in order to unite the students.

    But when our society is already polarised by the law and other economic realities, and we tell our children otherwise in school, its likely that the unity lessons will never stick for long or even worse result in a backlash.

    What is more distressing is the fact that national education policy is only meant for the masses while our political leaders send their children overseas. Can we believe they have faith in our own educational facilities and that they are sincere in wanting the best for us?

    In Malaysia, unfairness is institutionalised. For example, it is alright for certain schools or universities like the Universiti Institut Teknologi Mara to bar non-malays.

    So it piques me to hear some blaming vernacular schools for racial tensions. Vernacular schools have never barred malays from enrolling into them unlike Mara educational institutions. If vernacular schools are to be blamed, so too must the Mara institutions.

    A minister responsible for higher education who can make such inflammatory statements confirms that the so-called meritocracy system of university entrance is a sham, since he is able to promise that the percentage for malay applicants will never fall below the previous quota percentage.

    Is he suggesting that we should rejoice over our poor education? Please do not confuse quality with quantity.

    I cannot help but think that the politicians have an ulterior motive. If so, please be honest and brave enough to admit it.

    With such narrow-minded people in charge, it is difficult to have confidence in any of their suggestions.

    When it came to choosing a career, I avoided public services for the fear of being excluded from promotions just like how I was excluded from matriculation etc. Many employers are also very racially defined.

    Now, as much as I miss hanging out with people of other races, I end up being with people of my own race.

    Looking back, I don’t think our primary vernacular system is the cause of disunity. On the contrary, it enriches our Malaysia heritage. The real problems are with the uneven playing fields that split malays and non-malays from secondary school onwards.

    Another examples are the Chinese Indonesians. Most of them don’t even speak their mother tongue, nor do they even carry Chinese names anymore, yet come any major political turmoil, they are targeted by the majority. Is this due to vernacular education?

    The government should be aware of the fact that the number of Chinese schools has not increased over the past 30 years despite the need for them due to increased demand from both Chinese and non-Chinese students.

    The diversity of education methods in the country is a national treasure and should be upheld. Unity will come from mutual respect and fair treatment for all – not necessarily from a uniform education.

    Whether they will take concrete steps to address the imbalance is another matter for, while I am optimistic about the people of Malaysia, I have very little faith in politicians.

  15. jodie

    Is the language diversity in our educational system a stumbling block to so-called national unity? Despite the insistence of this idea by the self-interested ruling elite, it is simply wrong.

    And the common use of English did not stop Americans from fighting Britons in the War of Independence. And let us not forget the American Civil War – both sides spoke English.

    And to the contrary, we see Europeans of different mother tongues coming together in a democratic manner to forge a united continent in the form of the multilingual European Union with common standards of human rights, governance and democracy.

    English-speaking people with different mother tongues are also now living peacefully in five different sovereign and independent countries namely the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

    It is time for the Malaysia ruling elite and their ideologues to stop spreading the voodoo of that language diversity hampers national unity.

    The root cause of national disunity is none other than the existence of race-based political parties like Umno, MIC and MCA, which perpetuate race-based affirmative action policies and which only benefit the upper class BN gangs and their sons, daughters and cronies.

  16. HR.

    Way to go, Vinod!

  17. Ivan. C

    The dream of unity and change in system is a far cry when there are still corrupted politicians who uses racial elements as a weapon to gain support or to intimidate a certain group of people. Most Malaysians forgets that there is racial difference between them and their neighbor or friends, until they are reminded by someone, which happens to be our Politicians.

    Our beloved Malaysia has not been able to stand on her most wealthiest powers. I mean Malaysia has not been able to show her true power in education, economy, technology, sports, etc. This all criteria has chain reaction which is holding down another criteria.When dirty Politics is introduced into sports… look at our football quality.

    Let us all unite and use your voting rights wisely :) and lets question politicians for their wrongful acts… But freedom of speech and human rights in Malaysia ! Salam 1Malaysia :)

  18. Steven

    What have happened to our country torn apart by those selfish politicians past and present who cared only their own greedy agenda is really a curse to many generations to come by which time these bastards would have died or migrated living lavishly overseas while we rot and still fighting each other over every small issues – in conclusion we are stupid enough to be fooled for decades by these smarter beings.We are the suckers really and our kids will pay for it.Everybody from top to bottom is guilty for our elegant super silence whenever those racists/extremists/pretenders are at work and we did nothing,we didn’t insist to get them punished,we become apologists for them,we kept even quieter when threatened again,we dare not speak up….these are the making of a failed nation.No great nations were ever built on all the above negative values.