Hornbill Unleashed

October 30, 2009

The Ministry of Higher Discrimination: are Sarawakians third class citizens?

By Pak Bui


Marina Undau

The mainstream Sarawak newspapers and internet blogs have been ablaze with furious comments about the marginalisation of Sarawakian students, treated as “third class” citizens.

Marina Undau, ( Photo right ) a bright teenager, has been refused entry into a pre-university matriculation programme because she is not a “Bumiputera”. Her father, Undau Liap, is an Iban civil servant, and her mother, Wong Pick Sing, is a Chinese.

Marina did well in her SPM last year, earning 9A1B. She achieved this against substantial odds, coming from a rural school, SMK Simanggang. Most schoolchildren there do not own a laptop, unlike their wealthier peers in urban schools.

She also managed this remarkable feat under her own steam. She did not bribe anyone for her results, nor pay black-market rates for exam questions.

Before Marina’s success, Marina’s sister did well, too. Marina’s sister is now in her second year at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM). Sadly, it would come as no surprise if the Ministry of Higher Education were to now revoke Marina’s sister’s USM place, because the bureaucrats had accidentally overlooked her “non-Bumiputera” status!

It amuses me that Umno’s racist policies often fail, simply because the rules have to be enforced by useless, overfed bureaucrats. And those bureaucrats are too sloppy, inept and lazy to filter out every single person who does not meet their criteria for Malay-ness or Bumiputera-hood.


The Ministry of Higher Discrimination

The Higher Education Ministry created the furore because its Student Intake Management Division (as creepy and fascist a name as any) defined Marina as “non-Bumiputera”.

According to the Ministry, a Bumiputera is someone who has:

  1. One parent a Malay Muslim or Orang Asli in Malaya,
  2. One parent a Malay Muslim or a native of Sabah, or
  3. BOTH parents natives of Sarawak.

This “Bumiputera” status is not stated anywhere in the Constitution, since the Constitution only defines Malays and aborigines (that is, natives). But Article 161A states that a native is someone who is a citizen of Sarawak, and born to parents who are both natives. So the Ministry merely adapted the rickety constitutional framework to build their grand construct of “Bumiputera”, and make it appear less arbitrary.

Sarawakians are incensed. Marina is defined as an Iban girl by the National Registration Department, because her father is Iban. Yet she has no “Bumiputera” privileges.

mixed marriageBy this same logic, a child of a Malay father and Chinese or Indian mother in Sarawak would not “qualify” as Bumiputera either. And this is not uncommon, since mixed marriages are widely accepted among Sarawakians. Race relations are far less rabid than those in West Malaysia.

Of course, you might be moved to ask: why is Sarawak so different from Sabah and Malaya? Why has the Constitution not been amended to make the definition of “native” uniform?

One reason could be that Sabah has seen a great influx of immigrants in the past 20 years. If an immigrant marries a local Sabahan Malay or native, their offspring is automatically be conferred “Bumiputera” status and privileges.

This arrangement certainly boosts Umno’s chances in Sabah elections, since newer “Bumiputera” immigrants are less likely to vote against the federal Barisan Nasional (BN), as most native and Chinese Sabahans did, when they voted for Parti Bersatu Sabah in 1985.

There must be less motivation for the federal BN to provide equivalent status for Sarawak, since there have been far fewer new migrants (and potential Umno voters) into Sarawak.

Animal farm

If we look at first principles, the “Bumiputera” classification seems to imply that human beings can be neatly subdivided into races, just as pure-bred sheep or horses might be. This arrangement ignores the fact that there is no such thing as a “pure” race in Sarawak, Malaya, Sabah, or anywhere else on earth.

If we could perform mitochondrial DNA studies on all Iban, Malays, Chinese and Indians in Malaysia, we would find a great deal of intermingling of bloodlines. It is impossible to separate Malaysians based on blood ties.

The same argument can be made for the Han Chinese and Uighurs in Xinjiang. The animosity in Xinjiang springs from politics, culture and economics, not “pure” race hatred. After all, the influx of Han Chinese into Xinjiang began during the Qing Dynasty in the 18th century. There can be precious few “pure-bred” or “unmixed” Han or Uighurs in Urumqi, after long years of living cheek by jowl.

Our reduction into “Iban” and “Malay” and “Murut” and “lain-lain” groupings, like farm animals, has little basis, if you examine it closely. The official segregation of races serves only the domination of our daily lives by the care-worn politics of race.

These stupid government policies make a mockery of PM Najib’s 1Malaysia blather, as do virtually all his other policies.

Marina’s path – the road not taken

Perhaps Marina will do better eventually if she has to compete for a place in university, instead of being given a fast-track matriculation course.

There is little doubt she has the ability to do well in STPM, instead of simply cruising through the lacklustre standards of the pre-university matriculation course.

She will qualify for any university course she chooses, without relying on her father’s “Bumiputera” status – which appears worthless to mindless bureaucrats indoctrinated in Umno-speak, in any case.

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. There is little doubt that Marina, and all those Sarawakians who are treated badly by the Ministry of Higher Discrimination in West Malaysia, will emerge stronger from their trials.

frostPerhaps one day, Marina will say, as Robert Frost did,

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence;

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Only Marina’s “wood” is a dense thicket of obtuse bureaucrats.




  1. here’s the rules:

    Peninsular Malaysia
    “If one of the parents is Muslim Malay/Orang Asli[5] as stated in Article 160 (2) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus the child is considered as a Bumiputra”

    “If one of the parents is a Muslim Malay or indigenous native of Sabah as stated in Article 160A (6)(a) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus his child is considered as a Bumiputra”

    “If both of the parent are indigenous natives of Sarawak as stated in Article 160A (6)(b) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus their child is considered as a Bumiputra”

    the rulemaker or legislators that represent sarawak must have had agree to that when they made the legistations…
    why? i dont know…probably to prevent some of the trespassing indonesians from claiming that they are malaysians…sarawak is closer to the border
    but so was thailand, yeah, but you can tell when they got a thai blood and its really hard to tell the bumiputera from the indonesian frankly…
    but any reason it be, it is still an unfair call to our true bumiputera…
    if only the bureaucrats would stop fighting for profits and actually do their job [if they are even fit for the job |8-\ ]…..if only

    Comment by yxzak — December 3, 2012 @ 11:08 AM | Reply

  2. Well indeed…

    See if Sarawakian & Sabahan can work the talk. All this while E. Msians are pure NATO (No Action Talk Only.

    Blaming game is not going to bring U anywhere…So go back to the ballot Box..!!!. Should any of U accept ‘Buot’ Vote buying during election, u got nobody 2 blame but your own (Kurap) corrupt greedy selves.(u r cheap rotten meat)

    Tell ur kakek, nenek, abang, apai, indai not to accept duit or chap apek for any vote..its primitive and immoral..rather a sin.

    Comment by Jai Burung — August 22, 2010 @ 9:17 PM | Reply

  3. Higher Education? Why stop at education…. after graduating we still need to look for job! So jangan ingat Bumi senang dapat kerja….. Semua EAST Malaysian la….

    Do you see it….. we EAST MALAYSIAN were marginalise even in getting a job both in govt and private

    For the wealth of East…. fe in the Oil and Gas sector…..used to alot of East Malaysian working in this sector and now majority of the Engineers were from the West. All HQ of the Oil and Gas related companies set up office in KL who will get the priority…. Kita jadi “Kuli Kang” saja lah….

    I was once asked by a West Malaysian guy on he rig….. “Kenapa kamu datang kerja sini…Sarawak takde kerja ka?”

    Comment by falcon — November 13, 2009 @ 7:53 PM | Reply

  4. You have so much condeming the federal constitution without paying due attention rationally to the grassroot causes of such catastrophy. How many of you out there have ever questioning seriously what have our elected leaders or representatives from Bumi Kenyalang done? Or are they qualified enough and responsible to represent everyone of us? Are they highly sensitive on what were the things that have been stipulated in the constitution like Article 161a doesnt jeopardize us one of these days? Are they totally ignorance about the laws before and after it comes to full force? Iam very pitiful and afraid that we have chosen the most ridiculous leaders. Not wholely their mistakes but at the same token reflecting the stupidity of myself and you all guys out there who never learnt a mistake. so this is the high price for you and me have to pay ultimately-more expensive than a crack of beers!! For me its a matter of survival. Iam not really care and bother whether Iam a Bumi, Polish, Finnish, Slovak, Bukitan, or Penan. But Iam more concerned with full feeling of excitement to witness the sucess of 1Malaysia in years to come rather than to witness 1Malaysia-sia-sia. after all Marina’s case or the issue of indentity could be addressed by our present and high-minded PM at anytime should he truly advocating the concept of 1Malaysia. Very certain he does..just a matter of time.! So please pointless for us to haul all kind of evil accusations against each others for the time being..

    Comment by h.thompson — November 4, 2009 @ 3:27 PM | Reply

    • Ya, betul lah Tuan h.thompson!

      Mari kita nyanyi –

      Enjit-enjit semut
      Siapa sakit naik atas,
      Enjit-enjit semut
      Siapa sakit naik atas,
      Enjit-enjit semut
      Siapa sakit naik atas,
      Enjit-enjit semut
      Siapa sakit naik atas.

      Comment by Anai-anai — November 4, 2009 @ 10:48 PM | Reply

  5. We have to get better grades when we, from Sarawak, Sabah and Labuan to squeeze in just ONE Matriculation in Labuan. Quota for each school to enter Matriculation is also being implemented. No such thing as meritocracy here. Even those Non-Bumis from West Malaysia getting fuck up result also can enter Matriculation in West Malaysia. 9A1B is in fact confirmed with a place in Matriculation.

    This is happening because we are the main contributors of seats to Barisan Najis.

    As long as we still don’t wake up and vote them out, we will never get the rights that we deserved.

    Comment by whatsoever — November 4, 2009 @ 3:07 AM | Reply

  6. What if Sarawak & Sabah were to break away from Malaysia? They have bleed us dry of our natural resources and richness, governing us with their stupid rules. I believe we, Sarawakian and Sabahan, would be much better off.

    Comment by Kaoru — November 2, 2009 @ 6:18 PM | Reply

    • Well, Kaoru, you are free to say what you think, but this is definitely not a viable option. The territorial imperative means Sarawak and Sabah will remain part of Malaysia for the foreseeable future.

      We should emphasise that a great deal of the theft of our resources and wealth has been done by our own Sarawakian and Sabahan “leaders”.

      If we want a fair share of Sarawak and Sabah’s resources, we must vote out these corrupt leeches and termites, and vote in a two-party system that can provide better checks and balances, and eventually, better leaders.

      Comment by Pak Bui — November 2, 2009 @ 8:43 PM | Reply

    • unfortunately Malaysia Agreement disallow Sabah and Sarawak to break away from the Federation. We will not win this even if we brought it to ICJ.

      Comment by Colin Ubeh — January 13, 2010 @ 12:02 AM | Reply

  7. Will the Education Minister Muhyiddin Yasin care to interprete the constitution as to why Marina Undau is not a Bumiputra? We want to hear from him. The whole country is furious, not Sarawak alone!

    Comment by Jong — October 31, 2009 @ 10:16 PM | Reply

  8. […]  Internet blog Hornbill Unleashed  headlined its part with this,”The Ministry of Higher Discrimination: are Sarawakians third class citizens?  […]

    Pingback by Muhyddin..”What next on the Application Papers..??” « Audie61’s Weblog — October 31, 2009 @ 12:06 PM | Reply

  9. If this ‘law’ is applied and applied to all, what does it make the children of some of us, that are not married to ‘natives’?
    Let’s start from our CM downwards and check. Is his wife a native, what would it make of his children?
    Having said that, did you know that even during the Rajah Brooke time, according to THE LAND ORDER 1920, no. VIII pt I, ‘”A native” means natural born subject of His Highness the Rajah’. As such even a Chinese born naturally in the country(yes, we had a King) of Sarawak is considered a native! Where do you think this put an Iban married to a naturalised Chinese? Still a native!
    What One Malaysia are we talking about here. Yes we are one people but don’t intermarry?

    Comment by Burung Gagak — October 31, 2009 @ 10:55 AM | Reply

  10. So what Marina Undau, you don’t need those crutches!

    You are better off without one. At least you can hold your head high in pride, be employable and tell the world, “I did it, all on my own!”

    Comment by Jong — October 30, 2009 @ 9:02 PM | Reply

  11. No problem for her, just contact the S’pore High Commission in KL and a Scholarship can be arrange for her. Alternatively any Sarawak’s NGOs can assist her to do that. Brain drain for Msia but gain for S’pore and her.

    Comment by Justice & Equality — October 30, 2009 @ 4:23 PM | Reply

    • yup just go to Singapore. They have better education system than Malaysia.

      Comment by Colin Ubeh — January 13, 2010 @ 12:06 AM | Reply

  12. that’s the true color of najis’ 1Malaysia … continue to vote BN as the gomen & you’ll be f**Ked!

    Comment by pinsysu — October 30, 2009 @ 4:19 PM | Reply

  13. Racial discrimination is not unique to Sabah. It is practised throughout Malaysia. Although there is no segregation, the racial discrimination in education, economics, employment and others may be properly termed apartheid.

    As discrimination is based on race and race alone, there is no affirmative action involved but pure racial discrimination based on a “master race” just like Nazi Germany.

    South Africa made itself an easy target for the international community by making racist laws but Malaysia’s apartheid policy is more cunning. The constitution, laws and policies do not overtly discriminate but its in the implementation. For eg. the NEP is written to provide affirmative action irrespective of race.

    Terms like bumiputra, Malay special rights, Ketuanan Melayu and social contract not in the constitution and unknown at independence. They were invented by Umno politicians in the 1980’s to further their apartheid policies.

    Based on racial discrimination alone, BN has no moral right to rule.

    Comment by Ken — October 30, 2009 @ 3:28 PM | Reply

    • BTW…dont forget UMNO is ruling sabah…. sekarang ni Sabah dah di jejah oleh West Malaysian….correct me if I am wrong!

      What happen to the 2 years term rolling for the CM….. guess why orang Sabah tak serik langsung… terang2 dah orang Sabah di perkecil kan…. especially the Kadazan Dusun….jadi “second class bumi ke”

      Comment by falcon — November 13, 2009 @ 9:09 PM | Reply

  14. What is the logic behind the 1 Malaysia then? To show the world how we let discrimation happened to the rural ppl?WHATEVER.

    Comment by Devillion Angel — October 30, 2009 @ 2:45 PM | Reply

  15. Essentially, this is among one of the things Jeffrey Kitingan is saying.

    After decades of being “a Malaysian” State its citizens are discriminated against!

    There has been recriminations among Sabahans that despite their indivisible rights being “Malaysians” there is a row that Azmin Ali and his tribe have kicked up over the Sabah PKR method and choice of leaders. It has been alleged that preference was for the disputed Muslim PKR leader, Thamrin.

    If there is clear understanding of governance and accountability this never need arise! It’s a mockery of “national” life!

    Swinging amongst the trees in the urban concrete jungle is never really that much different. Or is it?

    Comment by Mat Sambal — October 30, 2009 @ 10:11 AM | Reply





    Comment by CLEAR COLOUR — October 30, 2009 @ 8:50 AM | Reply

  17. 1Sarawak – that we can say with pride
    1malay-sia-sia – is exactly what the name says

    Comment by kong — October 30, 2009 @ 8:42 AM | Reply

  18. Truly 1Malaysia, isnt it? Freaking full of Discrimination and they call it 1Malaysia.

    Comment by aca — October 30, 2009 @ 12:54 AM | Reply

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