CPPS is pleased to bring to you its “CPPS Policy Fact Sheet” on national unity. In this factsheet, we will look at government policies which affect national unity and explore their effects on social cohesion and integrity in Malaysia. BACKGROUND Malaysia is one of the most plural and heterogeneous countries in the world, with three major ethnic groups — Malay, Chinese, and Indian — plus several other indigenous tribes. It has a checkered history, having been under four different colonial powers at one time or another since the 16th century. This ethnic and cultural diversity is reflected in the wide variety of languages spoken and religions practiced in Malaysia; even within the same ethnic group, various traditions prevail. Modern Malaysia is increasingly forced to confront the tensions arising from this fount of diversity, and the politics of race and religion. Malaysia has been free of ethnic bloodshed, but there remains much room for Malaysians to understand one another and to see each other as equal parts of an indivisible nation. National unity is a key target of government policy; the Department of National Unity is tasked with promoting greater integration amongst the country’s various communities. However, numerous government policies and laws differentiate between Malaysians on the basis of ethnic background, to the point that many feel they have been the target of discrimination. Overall Malaysians are pleased with the progress the country has made in coming to terms with its plural and diverse nature. Yet, there is still significant room for improvement and ensuring that every Malaysian believes there is a place for them under the Malaysian sun.
The Department of National Unity defines national unity as "a situation in which all citizens from the various ethnic groups, religions, and states live in peace as one united nationality, giving full commitment to national identity based upon the Federal Constitution and the Rukunegara." Wawasan 2020 (Vision 2020), a government policy targeting developed status for Malaysia by the year 2020, names national unity as a key component of a developed country. The “Bangsa Malaysia” (Malaysian Nation) policy emphasises "people being able to identify themselves with the country, speak Bahasa Malaysia (the Malay language) and accept the Constitution." Prior to Bangsa Malaysia, the government’s main thrust towards national unity was the National Culture Policy implemented in 1971, which defined the “indigenous culture” and Islam as two important bases for the national culture. The 2006 National Education Blueprint targets racial polarisation in the school system, aiming to use classes on the Constitution and other such activities to bring students together, while promoting Mandarin and Tamil classes in national schools. In 2008, the government announced new quotas for government scholarships, with 55% allocated to the bumiputra and 45% for non-bumiputra; previously the quota stood at 90% to 10%. The old ethnic quota system in university admissions was abolished in 2004. The National Service programme which commenced in 2003 is meant to address racial polarisation and encourage national unity by bringing youths from a variety of backgrounds together in one setting. The New Economic Policy and other associated affirmative action programmes have helped dampen Malay fears of falling behind the rest of the nation socioeconomically, but also led to concerns of government-backed discrimination amongst the non -Malay communities.
BASIC STATISTICS and FACTS
Malays and other bumiputra comprise 65% of the population; Chinese make up 26%, and the Indians 8%. (2000 census) 60.4% of Malaysians are Muslim, 19.2% are Buddhist, 9.1% are Christian, 6.3% are Hindu, 2.6% follow Confucianism/Taoism/ another traditional Chinese faith, and 2.4% practice other faiths. (2000 census) 93% of Malays attend national schools, 90% of Chinese...