Malaysian students sitting for exam.
Malaysian students sitting for exam.

Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad has finally admitted that Bersatu and Pakatan Harapan (PH) are playing the racial card when he defended Education Minister Dr Mazlee Malik’s announcement on the increased intake of matriculation students from 25,000 to 40,000 out of 42,000 public universities places available.

The excuse given for this was apparently because of the Mandarin language requirement for certain jobs in the private sector. I cannot resist such a cachinnate guffaw here.

The PH government has once again shown its true colours – they do not walk their talk, but also blatantly make U-turns and do the opposite. The
PH government, especially the DAP promised to apply meritocracy in governance and implement need-based policies before coming into power.

Contrary to their promise to Malaysian voters who supported a change of government for a new era in Malaysia, we are back to the 1980s – with archaic race-based policies from old Malaysia. Although the New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced post the May 13 racial riots to appease the Malays with an agenda to reduce the wealth gap between the Malays and Non-Malays, it was Dr Mahathir who had skewed, redefined and deepened Bumiputera empowerment policies in his 22-year first term as Prime Minister. This, he did to enrich the elites and cronies, amid accusations of nepotism by his strongest critics, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, Lim Kit Siang and the likes.

Dr Mahathir and Tun Daim have successfully created a generation of Bumiputeras who are wealthy beyond their means and dependent and addicted to government aid and handouts. But let us not focus on this for now.

The issue before us now is to expand the matriculation quota which looks perfectly innocent based on the fact that there will be only an additional 15,000 new placements above the old allocation of 25,000. However the affirmative Bumiputra policies meant to create a fair, equitable opportunity for Bumiputras under affirmative actions is now creating an unfair advantage and a monopoly by Bumiputras in public universities.

This is grossly inequitable and unconscionable by an Islamic scholar who holds out to have the virtues of “fairness” in Islam but turned out to be just another “racist” politician.

Collectively, the 40,000 who will enter Malaysian public universities for the academic years to come which offers only 41,573 places as of last year. This means the matriculation cohort will take up nearly 90% of placements in public universities, thus outnumbering the Bumiputera demography of 67.4% in Malaysia, including East Malaysian natives.

What Mazlee had deliberately ignored was when he expanded the matriculation cohort from 25,000 to 40,000, there will be a cohort of 40,000 entering public universities whose placements cannot expand by 60% overnight – which means 40,000 matriculation students will take up 96.22% of public university placements leaving just 1,573 placements for the STPM cohort of 42,849 students of all ethnic backgrounds. This means only 3.67% of STPM students will enter public universities.

There are already structural problems originating from the increase of matriculation quota by 15,000 students.

Key questions are:

  1. Infrastructure. Can MARA or other matriculation colleges even accommodate this 60% increase physically? Are there enough classrooms?
  2. Manpower. Are there enough teachers? Or does the Education Minister propose to increase the student:teacher ratio?
  3. Quality. Will the quality of teaching be sacrificed because of larger classes? There are already issues with current graduates as employers say many local graduates are not of the quality they expect.
  4. Jobs. According to the Statistics Department, the total number of unemployed Malaysians with tertiary education in 2017 is 174,100. Tertiary-educated Malaysians accounted for 34.6% of the 463,700 unemployed Malaysians in 2017. Increasing the matriculation quota will have a serious implication and negative impact here.
  5. Funding. Can PTPTN or the government fund the 60% growth in matriculation students? PTPTN needs to collect RM4 billion a year to continue providing loans to new and existing students but is now only collecting between RM150 million to RM180 million each month or about RM1.8 million a year. Where will students find loans to study if PTPTN cannot continue to provide education loans?

Going back to the university placements, it does seem unfair that there are just 1,573 placements for the STPM cohort of 42,849 students. We must remember that the STPM cohort are in effect the best and brightest among the SPM cohort and denying these young sparks the opportunity of studying in our public universities means they will have to look elsewhere, especially Singapore, which will gladly absorb these talents so they have the best and brightest to drive innovation to power Singapore as a First World economy.

This brain drain is the chief cause of Malaysia’s economy being far less competitive, innovative or productive when compared with Singapore. Do we want to continue to see this brain drain which has already set Malaysia back for the past 20 years?

Mazlee, are you trying to “poison”, “destroy” or cripple Malaysia intentionally?

For Dr Mahathir to support Mazlee’s race based political rhetorics is again against PKR and DAP’s loud shout of “No Race” politics that won them urban intelligent voters who are lethargic and bored with Mahathir’s race based, and not need base prescription for a modern, progressive Malaysia.

For Anwar and Kit Siang to turn into mice with not even a whimper is sad. Coincidentally, both are backbenchers (not Ministers) whose roles are to check on the government.

Dr Mahathir has never been an advocate of meritocracy and his book, The Malay Dilemma, tells all about his political mission towards uplifting Malays.

There is nothing wrong with this if such assistance was facilitated through needs based rather than race-based. Granted Bumiputeras need help, it cannot be at the expense of those poor Chinese or Indians, while rich Bumiputeras – those children of highly paid civil servants – enjoy scholarship and patronage.

That is so wrong and not in line with the spirit and intent of Article 153 of the Constitution.

Mazlee wants to link the matriculation quota revision to take into account the existance of unfair employment for Bumiputeras in the private sector, but the private sector has never been discriminatory based on race. If there was a language requirement, it was because of the job scope and the private sector has always looked out for the best and the brightest to stay ahead of the competition.

Mazlee should instead look at why the Malaysian education system cannot produce enough Malay entrepreneurs to enhance success stories in the SME sector, hence, facilitating a virtuous circle for employment of more Bumiputera graduates. If Mazlee wants to compare race-based employment in the private sector, allow me to highlight that as of December 2014, the ethnic composition of the civil service workforce of 1.6 million was 90% Bumiputera, 5.2% Chinese, 4.1% Indians, and others at 0.7%.

According to the Department of Statistics, in 2017, there were 8.438 million Bumiputeras, 3.206 million Chinese, 929,700 Indians and 104,200 other races in Malaysia’s total workforce of 12.678 million. This means, in the private sector, the employment ratio was 66.56% Bumiputeras, 25.29% Chinese, 7.33% Indian and 0.82 others. How can Mazlee state that the private sector is discriminatory?

Now, I wish to ask Mazlee, is the PH government prepared to increase the intake of Non-Bumiputeras in the civil service, based on this data?

Senator Dato Sri Ti Lian Ker is Chairman of Institute for Strategic Analysis and Policy Researching (INSAP)

The views expressed here are entirely the writer’s own.

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