Tomorrow, Malaysia will celebrate its 50th independence anniversary.
Countloon prompted me to this recent independent survey commissioned by the New Straits Times, supported by the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, and was conducted by the Merdeka Centre for Opinion Research.
The telephone survey of about 1,200 Malaysians also found that the majority of the various races find comfort and security in their respective ethnicity and not in a common ‘Malaysian’ identity. The survey also found that negative racial stereotyping was deeply entrenched. For example, minority Chinese and Indians see the majority Malays, who make up 60 percent of the population of 25 million people, as lazy.
Chinese and Indians make up 26 percent and 8.0 percent of the population respectively.
It found that more than half the population does not trust each other. For a nation that claims to be a ‘melting pot’, only eleven percent of the respondents said they had eaten often with friends from other races in the past three months. Thirty four percent said they have never had a meal with people of other races.
The survey found that 42 percent do not consider themselves Malaysian first, 46 percent say ethnicity is important in voting, 55 percent blame politicians for racial problems and 70 percent would help their own ethnic group first.
According to the survey, 58 percent of Malays, 63 percent of Chinese and 43 percent of Indians polled agreed that ”in general, most Malays are lazy.”
Meanwhile, 71 percent of Malays, 60 percent of Chinese and 47 percent of Indians agree that ”in general, most Chinese are greedy.” Sixty-four percent of Malays, 58 percent of Chinese and 20 percent of Indians agreed that ”in general, most Indians cannot be trusted.”
Hari Raya Puasa was wrongly perceived as the Malay New Year by 32 per cent of Malays, 84 per cent of Chinese and 45 per cent of Indians –when the festival actually marks the culmination of Ramadan, the holy month of fasting.
Similarly, the Chinese New Year was thought to be a religious festival by 57 percent of Malays, 53 percent of Indians and a whopping 62 percent of Chinese respondents.
Despite the lack of unity, the country has enjoyed long periods of peace except for one race riot in 1969.
And unlike in some neighbouring countries where uniformity is enforced, Malaysia’s minorities are not restricted and are free to practice their own cultures and religions and enjoy a vernacular education.
So, where will we be 50 years from now?
Muhibbah? Hopefully always. Front bending: James. Center row: Angel, Lily, Poo Geok, Alvina, me, Alice, Savina, Poh Le, Moon Siew Back row: Andy Lim, Muaazam, Khor, Phang