Thursday, January 31, 2013

Bumiputra and Scholarship Privileges

As the General Election gets nearer, more and more nasty and dirty issues being dug by both the Opposition and the Government. Nasty remarks and perhaps false accusations are thrown at each other, hoping some of the rakyat might just believe them without thinking much. This is dirty politic. Too bad the politics in Malaysia is not something I can be proud of but nevertheless, it is still much better than other 3rd world countries and I am grateful for it. We have violent remarks but not violent physical resistance. "Malay is a soft race", that's what my mother says.

One of the issues that have always been a hot topic for debate is the privileges Bumiputras get, and since the majority of the Bumiputras are Malays, it became "the privileges of the Malays". "Bumiputra" is actually a very vague term. How do we really define it? I don't even know. My father is not a Bumiputra because he wasn't born in Malaysia and his parents are not Malaysians, my mother on the other hand is a Bumiputra despite being a pure 100% Chinese. She reverted to Islam when she was in her teens and have been living in a Malay community since, adapting the Malay culture lifestyle and for that, she can apply for the ASB while my father's application was rejected. That left me in a huge identity crisis, am I a Bumiputra or am I not? I should be one actually, because my mother is. But I dare not put my stake on it, which is why I dare not apply for MARA scholarship but chosen JPA instead.

At face value, I am a Malay. On paper, I am not. I can't be a Malay when neither of my parents is, can I?
"Bumiputra" status is not written anywhere on your birth certificate or IC details so no one can really say that I am for certain. But I'm sure I can buy an ASB.
But to everyone else, I am a Malay without a doubt.
And I received an overseas scholarship from a governmental body; the Public Service Department (JPA).
Somehow, people especially those who DOES NOT receive the scholarships tend to associate my "Malay Muslim" name with my scholarship, instead of the hard work I put during SPM.

During a Malaysian Study presentation in IMU, one of the private boys (in IMU, we are vaguely divided into JPA stdnts and private stdnts) pointed out that the Malays have been too spoilt with all the privileges they get that they have become incapable of achieving anything on their own. Even if they can't study well, there are lots of scholarships around being thrown at them, universities opening doors to them to complete the Bumiputra quota, and technic and vocational schools ever ready for these dependent Malays. And that got me so mad. He was indirectly implying that a Chinese or Indian who received a scholarship is more worth of acknowledgment than a Malay who received the same scholarship. He was practically dismissing my SPM results (I am not boasting neither trying to be arrogant about the result but at least, acknowledge it lah kan).

But he was talking too much at that time and time were really restricted that I didn't have the chance to refute his claim. He was stopped by our lecturer few minutes after that remark. Not because of the remark but rather he was taking other group's time too much.

Today, I read an article on The Malaysian Insider by Erna Mahyuni titled "On being called an ‘ungrateful Malay’", and all the issues regarding Bumiputras and their(our?) privileges came back to me.

Should the Bumiputras receive the privileges? Yes, they should, when Dasar Ekonomi Baru was introduced way back in 1971 by our dear PM, Tun Razak.
Should the Bumiputras continue receiving those privileges? Now? No, they should not. At least not all of the privileges that were offered back then.

It has been 30 years since these privileges were given. A young man of his 20s receiving the loan to set up his own business at that time should have been in his 50s now and should have been able to support his own family enough. A young student who received a scholarship at that time should have finished studying by now and start contributing back to our country and improve our economy.
I'm pretty sure Tun Razak's vision was that of an improved, educated and richer Bumiputras, be it the Malays, Bajaus, Kadazans, Melanaus, or the Semai, Jakun and Temiar of the orang Asli.

But what do we see now?
The rich Malays getting richer, and the orang Asli are still left in the jungle. Good news, they have one hospital in Gombak only for them. And they have missionaries; Muslim and Christians alike going to save their soul.
There are more rich Malays now compared to 30 years ago, correct.
But isn't that a given? After 30 years, surely no one will expect a country to have the same number of poor people? Unless war erupted.
The lower class Malays? The very unfortunate young girls got pregnant and out of fear went through illegal abortions or worse, dump their newborns. The unfortunate young men got stuck with drugs and loitering. I am sure many of the young Malays received help through technic and vocational colleges but the numbers that were left behind is not insignificant.

Why is this happening?
Because the Malays (unfortunately), who did not deserve the privileges continued taking the privileges and did not have any intention to help the unfortunate ones. People became greedy. I know some friends who can afford for a (or a few) tours in Europe with the whole family and yet, received JPA scholarship. You think that's fair? Yes they secured 11As in their SPM but that does not justify the scholarship. Dr Musa, a Consultant Paediatrician I looked highly upon once mentioned in his talk when he came to IMU during our Palestine week about his daughter and education. He said he can afford his daughter's education and so he won't allow his daughter receive any scholarship. His daughter is now a practising doctor having graduated from CUCMS (I think I got this fact correct).

And now PERKASA came in, led by rich Malay men, determined to uphold the Ketuanan Melayu.
Oh come on, on one side the PM is screaming "1Malaysia 1Bangsa" and there you are screaming "Ketuanan Melayu".
I wonder why is he not charged with trying to put the races in Malaysia at loggerheads.
The not so fortunate Malays that are supporting PERKASA, in hope that their lives will be improved will soon have to face the bitter truth; they won't benefit from it.
PERKASA is not fighting for the mass of Malays, they are fighting for the rich Malays.

Some people might say, Akmar dh dh la tu... If there is no quota for Bumiputra, you might not be writing this post in Manchester. There is no way your parents can even afford to send you to a 5 year Medical course in a private Malaysian university.
Yes, true.
But if there is no quota (assuming the privileges have been scraped off) because more than 50% of the Malaysians have benefited from the privileges 50 yrs back and started contributing sincerely to Malaysia, won't Malaysia be a lot richer now and be able to fund even more students overseas?
The more bright youths a country have, the more prosperous and economically stable a country should be, given that they are working to make the country better.
But oh, that's only my ideal world.

Anyway, I should get back to my study and prove to everyone that I did not rely on my Malay Muslim name to secure this scholarship. A lot of my Malay friends don't.

I'll just end with a verse from the Quran.

For each one are successive [angels] before and behind him who protect him by the decree of Allah . Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves. And when Allah intends for a people ill, there is no repelling it. And there is not for them besides Him any patron. [13:11]

Yes, He does not change your life until you change it yourself.
Privileged or not, you still have to put in your own effort :)

-Because life is a test-


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