Affirmative Actions in Malaysia
- Are Bumiputra Rights Ethical and/or Islamic?
Co-Written in 2003 with Siti Nafisah
Malaysia being one of the bastions of a multi-racial country had long advocated and implemented affirmative actions to benefit the indigenous Malay/bumputra population of the country – a race that is dominant politically, but economically weak. This paper attempts to analyse and describe the situations in Malaysia vis-à-vis ethical considerations and argues why such policy was a necessary evil and try to prescribe some policy changes to make it more socially and universally acceptable.
Keywords: Malaysia, Affirmative Actions, New Economic Policy, Ethics
TABLE OF CONTENT
2.0 HISTORY LEADING TO AFFIRMATIVE ACTION
2.1 THE AFTERMATH OF MAY 13 RIOT
2.2 HOW DID THE NEP FARE?
3.0 THE ETHICS OF NEP
3.1 DISTRIBUTIVE JUSTICE
3.2 COMPENSATORY JUSTICE
3.3 ARGUMENTS AGAINST NEP
3.4 IS THE NEP ISLAMIC?
Affirmative action is a phrase describing a range of policies to seek out, encourage, and sometimes give preferential treatment to a selected group of people.
Affirmative action is not a new phenomenon. It has been implemented in various forms by many countries and organization for many years. It has existed in many parts of the world – in totalitarian countries like the former Soviet Union and China, as well as democratic countries like India and Britain, as well as Malaysia, Nigeria, and New Zealand, to name a few.
For a start, let's select countries beyond Malaysia, which we will discuss in greater details later. India has one of the oldest affirmative action policies, created when the country gained independence in 1947. In India, for example, many universities have reserved seats for the Dalits – formerly known as the ‘untouchables’ and many of these seats remain unfilled. In Brazil, the state of Rio De Janeiro instituted racial quotas in its university system that targeted black and those with some African heritage, who were disadvantage under the country’s legacy of slavery. South Africa had instituted the 1998 Employment Equity Act to benefit the black majority.
However, even as these affirmative actions were heavy-handed, many had resorted to direct efforts to fight in equalities. Some blacks are taking property back from white farmers, who still own 80 percent of farmland, by force.
There are various reasons, and justification as to why such affirmative actions were taken by its advocates. Of course to the critics, these are merely excuses.
It is said that the most common outcome is that the benefits of affirmative action programs go only to a small minority within the group that are supposed to benefit them. This, it is said, is already the most prosperous segment of these groups. This can be seen in the case of India where the various benefits offered are actually used by sub-groups who have the money, education and other advantages that enable them to make use of preferential access to higher education or higher level job. Violence against the Dalits has escalated in view of the preferential treatment, ironically one that few Dalits are able to take advantage of.
The South African experience is similar. The Employment Equity Act had only benefited the black elite. The rest of the blacks still live in poverty, devastated by generations of oppressive apartheid policies.