I came across this excellent paper by Geoff Wade on the evolution of ethnocracy in Malaysia. A must read for those following Malaysia. The paper is available here.


It is very strange today that in the diverse, multi-ethnic polity of Malaysia, a single ethnic group completely controls and occupies virtually all positions in the judiciary, public administrative organs, the police, the armed forces as well as universities.

While Malays constitute a majority of the population of this nation, their presence in all these spheres of power far exceeds their ratio within the general population.

How did this situation emerge and how has it evolved is what this paper is concerned about. It is argued that the injustices currently observed in Malaysia together with the ethnic streaming derive essentially from the 1948 constitution which was created by the British in alliance with UMNO following the breakdown of the 1946 Malayan Union structure, partly on the basis of British Cold War fears of the Chinese.

The constitutionally mandated special place for the Malays provided for in the 1948 Constitution and subsequently in the 1957 Constitution has been used as a basis for all manner of exclusionist and discriminatory policies which have become increasingly socially encompassing.

This in its turn has created a situation where non-Malay members of Malaysian society feel themselves excluded and thereby ignored in terms of access to public facilities, funds and opportunities.

This paper deals with the history of ethnocracy in Malay/Malaysia from 1942. From the beginning of the Japanese invasion and occupation of Malay and Singapore, over the period 1941-45 it was obvious to the British and others that there would need to be a real reassessment of the British role in the peninsula and Borneo post-war.

Planning for the post war period of reoccupation and readjustment began almost as soon as the Japanese occupation had begun.

Results of the study show the following:

  • all discriminations are actually mandated by the Malaysian Constitution, and UMNO has used these provision to consolidate Malay power through control of all state institutions
  • the ethnocracy which has been slowly developed in Malaysia particularly since 1957 has excluded from full participation in the country the non-Malay people of the land
  • through economic and social policies, non-Malay people have been deprived of education, employment, political and other opportunities as a cost of the development and consolidation of Malay supremacy and the economic aspects of the NEP.