Thursday, June 21, 2007

Singapore and Malaysia: Countries of Elitism and Racism

Malaysian Chinese have always viewed Singapore as a country of meritocracy and non-discriminatory. At least that is what its Prime Minister and Senior Minister proclaim. The imaging and ,multiracial "promotion" attempts by the ruling government PAP make Singapore look tolerant and harmonious from the "face" perspective.

However, going "underneath the skin", deeper research and consensus proved otherwise. Michael D. Barr wrote an essay in Far Eastern Economic Review titled The Charade Of Meritocracy.

Both Malaysia and Singapore share the same issue of elitism and racism . The difference lies with which race is the victim of marginalisation. In Malaysia, some claim the Non-Malays are disadvantaged. In Singapore, the Malays are the victims.

Let's take an excerpt from The Charade Of Meritocracy on Singapore:
" Yet the selection of scholars does not depend purely on objective results like exam scores. In the internal processes of awarding scholarships after matriculation results are released, there are plenty of opportunities to exercise subtle forms of discrimination. Extracurricular activities (as recorded in one’s school record), “character” and performance in an interview are also considered. This makes the selection process much more subjective than one would expect in a system that claims to be a meritocracy, and it creates ample opportunity for racial and other prejudices to operate with relative freedom. "

The writer further added:
" Is there evidence that such biases operate at this level? Unsurprisingly, the answer to this question is “yes.” Take for instance a 2004 promotional supplement in the country’s main newspaper used to recruit applicants for scholarships. The advertorial articles accompanying the paid advertisements featured only one non-Chinese scholar (a Malay on a lowly “local” scholarship) amongst 28 Chinese on prestigious overseas scholarships. Even more disturbing for what they reveal about the prejudices of those offering the scholarships were the paid advertisements placed by government ministries, statutory boards and GLCs. Of the 30 scholars who were both prominent and can be racially identified by their photographs or their names without any doubt as to accuracy, every one of them was Chinese. "

An anonymous writer wrote a letter to Jeff Ooi regarding racism in Malaysia. Below is the excerpt:
" I read about the Malay newspaper editors attacking the private sector for not appointing enough Malays to senior management level, whilst insisting that the government always ensure that Malays dominate anything government-related.

I read about UMNO Youth attacking the so-called meritocracy system because there are less than 60% of Malay students in law and pharmacy, whilst conveniently keeping silent about the fact that 90% of overseas scholarship recipients are Malays and that Malays form the vast majority in courses like medicine, accountancy and engineering at local universities.

I read about UMNO Youth accusing Chinese schools of being detrimental to racial integration, while demanding that Mara Junior Science Colleges and other residential schools be kept only for Malays.

I read about the Higher Education Minister promising that non-bumiputera Malaysians will never ever step foot into UiTM.

While Malaysia looks more aggressive in its approach, the method adopted by Singapore is certainly more refined. The root of discrimination in Malaysia is obviously rooted in its administrative policies and rules whereas the Singapore system work in multi-layered cloak of disguise.

In terms of elitism, I am sure those interested in Malaysian affairs would know the terms "crony capitalism" and "Ali Baba business". Both these terms are used to describe businesses and awarding of projects to a selected few well-connected to ruling figures.

Michael D. Barr and Zlatko Skrbiš provides evidence in their book "Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethnicity and the Nation-Building Project" on their claim:
" Singapore’s administrative and its political elites—especially the younger ones who have come through school in the last 20 or so years—are not the cream of Singapore’s talent as they claim, but are merely a dominant social class, resting on systemic biases to perpetuate regime regeneration based on gender, class and race. "

That makes Singapore not much different from Malaysia in the racial sense. Different approach, same outcome.

I was in Singapore last weekend to shop. I had used the Keretapi Tanah Melayu (KTM) train Senandung Malam service from Malaysia and managed to take a Singaporean cab. Despite hearing rumours from Malaysia that Singaporeans look down on Malaysians, I had a good chat with the driver on our way to the hotel. We passed through one of the places where an old building was being demolished to make way for a new one. He informed me about it and gave this remark in a slightly not pleasant tone "So much has changed in Singapore but why doesn't our government change !". Another Singaporean friend who acted as a tour guide made comments of similar colour.

Surfing through the net will make you notice numerous Malaysian-owned blogs complaining profusely about the incompetent government and its shortcomings.

The National Economic Policy (NEP) which was supposed to expire last year was prolonged indefinitely. It's original intention of being meant to eradicate poverty is now a myth. Only those well-connected are advantaged by it. Perhaps, Singapore's meritocracy is a hoax, according to Michael D. Barr.

These days, leaders of both countries have been capitalising on racial sentiments to garner support and stay afloat politically. Lee Kuan Yew mentioned that Chinese were marginalised while the Malays in Singapore are victims. As for Malaysia, leaders brandish May 13 books and waving keris while shouting "Malay Supremacy" in general assemblies.

Why? The people starts to wake up to what they have been promised but deprived.

I refer to a Malaysia Kini letter Malay-Chinese antagonism won’t serve either side. Perhaps Malays and Chinese in both nations should think properly for the prosperity of both Malaysia and Singapore. Racism and Elitism is a killer to the nation. We have seen it happen in United States that led to a massive civil war. Let's not let it happen again.

Let us lead the way of Martin Luther King's dream and realise it in our context.

1 comment:

Rauff said...

I have been championing the cause for years. Even when I was in Uni. Telling the people inside that it actually make a race weak to segregate education. But mostly live in denial.