Whither Thou Goest, Singapore Malays?
Even though many Malays are successful, the overall statistics are not in their favour. In education, the Malays, who accounted for about 14 per cent of the 4.2 million population -- lag far behind from the Chinese and Indians.
According to the General Household Survey 2005 published in June, the percentage of Malays, who received polytechnic or university education, risen to 8.6 per cent last year compared to 4.9 per cent in 2000. These figures when compared to the Chinese had increased to 27 per cent from 20 per cent and Indians to 31 per cent from 20 per cent.
The income gap among the races had also widened. Statistics showed the Malays' monthly income rose to S$3,400 last year from S$3,200 while that of the Chinese to S$5,600 from S$5,200 and the Indians to S$5,200 from S$4,600.
"All indications are that the situation will worsen over time," said Association of Muslim Professionals chairman Imram Mohamed. The Malays need to find ways to reverse the trend "if we are not to end up as a largely under-class community, having to depend on handouts from others," he said at the association's 15th anniversary celebrations recently.
The media also reported that a significant number of Malays in prisons and drug rehabilitation centres were low-income earners and problematic Malay youths.
Imram indicated the reasons for the Malays' fate in the republic.
"Our community has not responded well to the new economy and they're not geared to meet the challenges of globalisation and stiff competition," The Straits Times quoted him as saying. It is true that Singapore had moved at a feverish pace into the mainstream of global economy. According to the A.T. Kearney Report/Foreign Policy Magazine Globalisation Index 2005, Singapore was the most globalised nation, outpacing Ireland, Switzerland and the United States.
Imram wanted the Malays to change their mindset to be more competitive and urged the government to raise the wages of low-income workers so that they could absorb the impacts of globalisation.
Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, however, said wage increases and protection from competition were not the solution. "The long-term solution remains more education and creating more professionals," he said.
He said the Malay-Muslims could move faster by seizing the opportunities available. "In order for a minority community to do well in a multiracial and globalised environment, we need to engage with other communities and we need to integrate with the mainstream of social life... that's where you can successfully compete," he was quoted by the daily.
The issue drew attention from the Malay analysts and social activists. Among them are Ramli Puteh who said most of the unemployed among the low-skilled were the Malays. "We should be more proactive -- seek solutions to issues before they become a problem," he wrote in Berita Harian. Efforts made so far, he said, were more towards rehabilitating those who had plunged into problems. Many Malay associations, concerned over the Malays' fate, had organised various programmes to help the community face the competition.
Dr Vivian was confident and had seen the proof that the Malays could also succeed with the emergence of many Malay professionals. "You have achieved what you have achieved on your own merit... without affirmative action, without quotas, without special rules," he added.
-- By Jackson Sawatan (BERNAMA)
***** Right there in that report lies a great lesson for the Malays here in Malaysia. Don't wait to learn the hard way. Take a leaf out of the Singapore Malay experience. Think seriously of the importance of the points highlighted - change of mindset in a globalised age, seize the opportunities that arise, protection from competition is NOT the solution but education is, engage with other communities and integrate with the mainstream of social life, implying the need to eschew the sikap 'katak dibawah tempurung.' The alternative is to be swept away by the forces of globalisation and no one, not even the government can save you.
Labels: Malays - General