By Global News Digest

The Electric New Paper — Singapore
Posted April 29, 2008

Almost 50 percent of the young Chinese and Indian Malaysians say they feel discriminated against, racially, in their country. This is the conclusion of a recent survey conducted, between July and August 2007, by the Centre for Public Policy Studies (CPPS) and the National Young Lawyers Council (NYLC).

Malaysia is a multi-ethnic nation that got its independence from Britain in 1957. Indigenous ethnic Malays and other Malayan peoples (bumiputera or “sons of the soil”) comprise 59 percent of the country’s population. Ethnic Chinese account for 26 percent of the population, while ethnic Indians make up about 7 percent. The remaining 8 percent is made up of Small numbers of Indonesians, Thai, Europeans, and Australians.

In the survey — which was conducted across the urban and rural areas of Peninsula Malaysia — 1,000 people between the ages of 18 and 35 were interviewed. It found that 75 per cent of Malays feel they have never been treated unfairly due to their race, but of the Indian and Chinese populations, only 49 and 45 per cent, respectively, feel the same way.

According to Tricia Yeoh, the CPPS managing director, the Chinese, who dominate Malaysia’s economy, feel most dissatisfied and unfairly treated. They feel that they have significantly less ownership of the country compared to other races. The Chinese gave ‘significantly negative responses’ to economic policy issues. They complain that government policies favor Malays.

Almost all ethnic Malays and over 50 percent of Malaysia are Muslims. Most Chinese are Buddhists, while most Indians practice Hinduism. Christianity dominates among the indigenous peoples of Sabah and Sarawak. Islam is the country’s official religion.

Even though there are constitutional guarantees of freedom of religion, religious and racial tensions persist. The other religions raise alarm over what they see as ‘Islamisation’ of the country.

The survey also concluded that the racial and religious tensions are polarising the nation’s youths along racial lines. Young Malaysians of today prefer “to mix within groups of their own race, due to lack of interaction between the races in schools and universities.”

The survey’s authors also say that the long-standing dissatisfaction and anger felt by Chinese and Indians is responsible for the ruling coalition government’s poor showing in the March 8, 2008 elections. Voters threw their support more to the opposition this time, thus depriving the Muslim Malay-majority government of a two-thirds majority in parliament and gave control of five states to the opposition.

Britain gained gradual control of Peninsular Malaysia between the late 18th and early 19th centuries. At the same time the British imported ethnic Chinese and Indians laborers to work in Malaysia’s tin and rubber industries. Those early migrant workers are the basis of the current Chinese and Indian population of Malaysia. Ethnic tensions, especially between Chinese and Malays, are nothing new in Malaysian politics and economy. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.