THE two articles by June H.L. Wong (“Rebooting Our Racial Quota”, May 22, and “The Pain of Pebbles in Our Shoes”, May 29) have prompted me to highlight one point which I feel has alleviated racial division in our beloved country to its present worrying level.
The best of friends are friends that we met and bonded with from our childhood. Unfortunately, young Malaysians have been deprived of this opportunity because our education system allows parents to send their children to different schools – in our case, the vernacular schools.
School is where the real mixing of society occurs. If we add curricular activities, extra classes, waiting and travelling time spent before and after school, in a month, school represents about 24 active days for a child. That’s 80% of their active time being spent together with their school friends!
But in the current system, since early childhood, a Malay, a Chinese, or an Indian might not have a “real” contact with friends from the other races because he goes to kindergarten, then to primary school, then secondary school – all schools of “his own kind”. Once they enter campus life, the racial division has become so deep that they naturally just pool with “their own kind” again.
This brings us to a most fundamental barrier to unity – we have more and more people who cannot speak the national language properly and also are not well-versed about the culture or values of the other races.
Trust begins with perception. Over the years, the lack of bonding that connects the different races led to an absence of trust between us.
Unbalanced representation in the Malaysian workforce in the public sector is a fact. Nobody can deny it and, yes, something has to be done to rectify it. But this is not restricted to the public sector. It is happening widely in the private sector as well. I strongly feel this has more to do with a collective lack of trust during the recruitment phase rather than government policy (which many believe is the cause).
While the Malay lad is more likely to be an officer in the government sector, the Chinese or the Indian lad is likely to be an officer in the private sector.
Through time and experience, they will eventually climb to positions important enough to chair interviews to recruit new talents to be brought into the system. With the absence of trust and with prejudice running deep, each of them will likely let “their own kind” pass through.
This scenario of imbalance is made possible because, cumulatively, thousands of young Malays grow up to be decision makers in the government sector while at the same time, thousands of young Chinese and Indians grow up and become decision makers in the private sector. They pool with and protect the interests of “their own kind”, each one doing the same thing, recruitment after recruitment. So, slowly but surely, the cycle of evil continues.
Going back to the quota issue, short-term measures and policies can only dictate what “should be done”. How well or how sincere the implementation depends on the “implementers”, the people in-charge – but sadly in our case – people who have been psychologically and physically divided since early childhood. It just won’t work.
There were attempts to do away with vernacular schools in the early 1990s but nothing came of it due to strong objections particularly from the elite group of Dong Zhong.
I think it failed because the suggestion to abolish such schools came from the government, the “Malay” government. If it came from the Chinese and Indian communities, such groups might be more open to it.
But this is one major sacrifice that we have to make in order to achieve national unity. There is no two-ways about it. Everybody knows that most of us will not be going anywhere else. Every day, all of us are stuck facing each other in this house called Malaysia.
With one education system, we can start the process of integration for our children – through language bonding, in one complete schooling cycle (12 years).
It is a long shot but this is our only real chance of having a really potent cure. After all, we have not reached a critical state yet so there’s still hope.