When trawling cyberspace, it is surprising to find a significant amount of “documentation’ on racial discrimination in Malaysia, that are contributed by various interests groups. There are even several wiki entries on discrimination in Malaysia (read here). However, these documents seldom find their way into official discourse. Therefore, several questions come to mind.
- Are these documents reliable?
- How do we value the information and/or analysis of these documents?
- Should the government or academia have a responsibility to prove or disprove these claims?
- Should this information, if found to be true, inform policymaking?
Take, for instance, the information from the following websites (read here, here and here). It provides extensive and shocking statistics on how the UMNO-led government has discriminated against non-Malays, especially Malaysian Chinese. If the statistics are true, then without doubt there is a systematic strategy by the UMNO-led government to ensure Malay control over all aspects of Malaysia and erase any trace of contributions from other races in the country. These statistics have found their way into chain mails that pass through to millions of Malaysians, raising questions among readers. To date (four years on), this information is still being reproduced (as I have done here) but has yet to be proven true or false.
Then there is the website, Malaysian Indians Today, which provides startling statistics on the dismal state of Malaysian Indians (read here), which contradict official statistics. This follows the better established HINDRAF , who have time-and-time again come out with publications on discrimination against Malaysian Indians, which the government have taken great pains to deny but have never been able to disprove. Some of these publications make very strong claims such as with the explosive “50 years of violations of the federal constitution by the UMNO led BN government” (read here and please email me if you want the softcopy of the document). Furthermore, the new Human Rights Party, formed by P. Uthayakumar, comes out with an annual report that catalogues discrimination against Indians in Malaysia (AR2008 and AR2009).
It appears that the Malaysian government prefers to use muscles over brains to address the information published on the net – i.e. instead of addressing the data or allegations intellectually, it uses its considerable coercive strength. In the case of HINDRAF, the Malaysian government first demonised the leaders. When this failed, they were arrested under the Internal Security Act (read here). Now, it uses its diplomatic channels to counter these reports but have yet to actually address the data directly.
Another glaring example is the ASLI study on corporate equity distribution which demonstrated that the New Economic Policy objective of 30% equity ownership for the Malay community had been achieved (read here). The government rubbished it, then provided contradictory figures, and then finally put pressure that the institute retract its report (read here). All of the above have only encouraged Malaysians to increasingly believe what they read on the internet.
How then should the Malaysian government address information about racial discrimination on the internet when public confidence in the government is at its lowest ebb?
Update 2 (31 March 2010): Malays screwing Malays – a posting on what is common knowledge in Malaysia – how well connected Malays (cronies) sell out on the not so connected Malays and by extension all Malaysians.
Update 3 (7 April 2010): Minorities cry foul – Al Jazeera