End Malaysian “apartheid” policies now

Anwar’s justification for maintaining the apartheid-like quota system is deeply flawed. His argument that the political coalition would lose votes if the status quo were changed underscores a troubling prioritisation of political power over principles of equality and meritocracy.

Focus Malaysia

MALAYSIA’S recent controversy surrounding the Universiti Teknologi MARA (UiTM) cardiothoracic surgery programme has reignited the national discussion on the country’s apartheid policies.

UiTM, historically reserved for only “Bumiputera” (literally “sons of the soil”) students, has faced criticism for its exclusionary policies, which many argue perpetuate racial inequality.

The introduction of a new cardiothoracic surgery programme, which does not require a medical examination for entry, has further highlighted the disparities in educational opportunities between Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera students.

Malaysia is unique in the world in its practice of apartheid, where decades-old, outdated policies favouring the majority Malay population, known as Bumiputera, deeply disadvantage minority ethnic groups such as Malaysian Chinese, Indians, and other minority groups.

These aggressively-biased policies, especially the 1970 Malaysia New Economic Policy (NEP), were initially aimed at reducing economic disparities.

However, these policies have devolved into mechanisms that systematically disadvantage non-Malay ethnic groups, particularly the Chinese and Indian communities.

This form of racial discrimination is still evident in various sectors, including education, where non-Bumiputera students face significant barriers to accessing quality higher education and scholarships.

Government policies of positive discrimination favour the Malay majority and Bumiputera status, particularly in areas such as education.

Bumiputera students receive heavily subsidised education in local universities and dominate these institutions, both in terms of student population and employment opportunities.

Non-Bumiputera students often find it challenging to secure scholarships and placements in public universities, leading to a significant disparity in educational opportunities.

The recent attack by UMNO Youth chief Akmal Saleh on journalist Andrew Sia for his opinion article titled “Apartheid Academy” is a stark reminder of the resistance to change within certain political circles.

Sia’s article, which criticised the racial exclusivity of UiTM, was met with hostility from Akmal, who angrily defended the status quo, and demanded that Sia retract the article and apologise.

This overreaction highlights the deep-seated reluctance of Malaysian elites to address and rectify racial inequalities in Malaysia. Instead of silencing critics, political leaders should engage in constructive dialogue to find solutions that promote inclusivity and equality.

Read more here