Hornbill Unleashed

April 1, 2013

A Malay’s dilemma

An Anonymous Malay

I am Malay. I went to national schools since Primary One to Form Five. I graduated from a public university.

Being a product of the national education system, I grew up believing the Malaysian ideal: a multicultural society of various races and religions, all living harmoniously despite their differences.

I remember feeling content and blessed that I was born in Malaysia, because we did not have racial wars or anything like that. My family and I would visit our non-Malay friends when they celebrate their festivities such as Chinese New Year or Deepavali, and they would visit us during Raya. In school I could talk and mingle and play with non-Malay friends.

Because of that, I thought the Malaysian Formula obviously worked. I accepted the explanation that to maintain this harmony, affirmative action for Bumiputras is necessary. I believed that we were the best example of a multi-cultural society.

But that belief began ebbing away after my Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) results came out. You see, my friends and I were excited with our results. We were excited to start pursuing the bright future our parents had hoped for us.

Yet at the same time the subject of our next step to a bright future became an awkward conversation point.

“Where are you going to further your studies?”

That question was a must back then, whether from friends, family members, teachers or the auntie from the school canteen. When talking to another Malay/Bumiputra friend or in company of just Malays and Bumiputras, answering it is not a problem. In fact, it’s a nice thing to be discussing because the future seemed so full of possibilities and we were on the verge of actually pursuing our dreams.

However, with mixed company in terms of race, things became awkward. I was accepted into a government matriculation college. But some of my Chinese and Indian friends were not. And since our results were comparable, and in some cases they did better than I did, we were acutely aware that this is due to the quota in place back then.

So that’s the whole source of the awkwardness and unease. Was I supposed to feel superior to those friends because I got in and they did not, when all that separated us may have just been our respective races?

At the same time I wonder, did they feel some resentment because of this? That they are perhaps denied the same chance I got just because of their ancestry, which they could not do anything about?

Since then I have never spoken to those friends without feeling shameful and a little apologetic inside.

Yes, special rights and aid to Malays are enshrined in the Constitution. I am thankful for the doors it has opened for me because today I have a university degree, a stable job, and a relatively comfortable life. I imagine many other Malays can and will say the same.

Yes, we are grateful. But deep down the feeling of unease remains.

Am I where I am today because of my capabilities and hard work? Or is my accomplishments to-date thanks to what’s written in the race section of my IC?

I believe it’s somewhere in between. Being Malay gave me opportunities that were not available to my non-Malay friends, but I also believe I made the most of those opportunities through hard work. But that’s also the problem — did those opportunities come at my non-Malay friends’ expense?

That thought haunts me whenever I read sob stories of high-fliers being denied entry into universities allegedly due to their race.

Sometimes I wonder if I unwittingly denied a bright future to someone who achieved more than I did for SPM because I’m Bumiputra and that someone was not. Sometimes I wonder if the non-Malay man or woman I see while walking to work, apparently not doing as well as I am, would’ve been where I am today but for some quota denying them one single chance to pursue their dreams.

Sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever know how far my own capabilities would’ve taken me without quotas and affirmative action helping me. Maybe, sadly, not.



  1. i am a student from UITM Kedah,i use bedong road to travel sometime’s and i found there is no road lights provided.It seems the road condition also poor.Many said Barisan Nasional should take over,but i my heart says it’s not the mistake of PAS because they don’t have sufficient of money to repair and provide good infrastructure for the people .BN never help Kedah but they only despite opposition parties.If this time there is massive changes as like back in 2008,sure all the problem’s facing by the people will be resolve.All i want is BN to step down and giving a chance to other’s.Everyone should take turn’s and do the best for the people.
    I am irritated with the advertisement in television which keep on showing what the Government have done for the people.If you have done best for the people then why you keep on telling it?
    BN damaging my ear-drum’s by keep on repeating what they have done for the people?
    Why BERSIH rally organised?

    Comment by prem — April 6, 2013 @ 8:16 PM | Reply

  2. I am a non-Malay being another victim of the quota. I am thankful in a way that I am a victim. Being rejected by all 8 courses in local universities, I was accepted in the National University of Singapore with full scholarship. Have I ever looked back since and think it is a pity I could not get into Malaysian University? Never. In fact I am thankful I was offered Environmental Engineering at UM (which wasn’t in my 8 choices) then I wouldn’t have a hard time deciding to serve or to leave my country and venture elsewhere.

    Comment by celia — April 3, 2013 @ 10:52 PM | Reply

  3. In 1985, I sat for my SPM in Sekolah Dato’ Sri Amar DiRaja Muar. I got best result in the school. I applied for UTM but unsucessful. Many poorer result Malay school mates got into local universities. Some even got scholarship to go overseas.
    I had to sit for STPM in same school. Among my classmate was Elaine Ng Ee Ling, she got 10A1 in SPM. Her result was recognised as best in Malaysia of 1985 SPM.
    During one of the Monday assembly, the then headmaster Haji Shukor asked the student “Masuklah universiti, jangan buang masa dekat sini!!”. The remarks was like loud thunder in shiny day to me. I still remembered vividly even though 28 years had passed.
    Since then I never believe in BN regime.
    I never step into the school again after completing my STPM.

    Comment by Tan Bee Leng — April 3, 2013 @ 6:19 PM | Reply

  4. Nothing to feel uneasy about.
    A govt that cares will give a helping hand to its less fortunate citizens.

    The thing is that this should be done to ALL CITIZENS who need a helping hand.
    And this is what a PR govt guided by the principles of social democracy will do !

    Comment by Phua Kai Lit — April 2, 2013 @ 1:55 PM | Reply

  5. Dear Malay in Kedah, pls don’t vote for PAS because you didn’t get that durian runtuh you expected from BN. Pls vote for PAS for the sake of a better future for your kids, better governance, a country free from corruption, better education system….(the list goes on). I am a middle class Chinese and I know I will get no durian runtuh from either PAS nor BN. But I will still vote for PAS as I know if PR wins, at least the tax I pay every year won’t be someone’s durian runtuh but will be for the betterment of our society. Sorry if I offended you, but we should pray hard for a PR to save the country and not for durian runtuh for one’s self.

    Comment by Middle class Chinese — April 2, 2013 @ 1:02 AM | Reply

  6. I am a Malay in Kedah.
    My dilemma is why Johor malays got Felda to frow kelapa sawit for durian runtuh?

    My family banting tulang everyday to grow padi, BUT where is the durian runtuh from BN?

    Therefore my family will vote for PAS.

    Mukhriz can try harder!

    Comment by Diman — April 1, 2013 @ 6:20 PM | Reply

  7. Already kuku / gila … just go to hell, and stop disturbing the peace

    Comment by tigeryk — April 1, 2013 @ 11:26 AM | Reply

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