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Formation In Malaysia

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Malaya consists of a '"plural society" which was formed by different races with various backgrounds and customs. In The Malaysian Development Experience, Changes and Challenges book that published by INTAN, states that Malaya is "a colonial creation with ethnic groups living side by side but never mixed". Many factors have caused this situation.

The first can be traced back to the "divide and rule" policy during British colonization. This kind of administration greatly limited interaction and communication among the different ethnic groups and segregated them according to their economic functions.

The Malays were known to be farmers and fishermen and lived in the rural areas or kampung. Since there were also Malays who were involved in the government sector as ordinary officers and clerks, they were perceived to be dominant in politics and the first group of people that the British negotiated with.

Most of the Chinese were involved in the commercial and mining sectors and were found mainly in urban areas. The Indians, on the other hand, worked as labourers in estates and plantations. Hence, these two races were perceived to be more dominant in the economics of the country.

The education system, as it was long before we know it today, also varied according to the different ethnic groups in terms of syllabus, curriculum and methods of dissemination. There was no such thing as a standardized education system back then.

While the Malays and Indians felt that a minimal amount of literacy was sufficient, the Chinese were vying to strengthen their bond with China through education, since most of the teachers and textbooks were imported from China. The same concept was practiced in Tamil schools.

Since these vernacular schools comprised a single race, lessons were conducted in its respective language, such as Malay, Mandarin and Tamil. Due to the inconsistencies and differences in the education system, there existed barriers and gaps among the different races in Malaya.

The Japanese occupation only widened the rift between the races, especially the Chinese and Malays. While the Malays were given better treatment by the Japanese who were in need of their support, the Chinese were tortured and brutally mistreated. This led to the formation of the Malayan Peoples' Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) to fight the Japanese.

To ward off attacks from resistance groups which comprised mainly Chinese, the Japanese instigated the anti-Chinese feeling by forming paramilitary units which consisted mainly of Malays, and thus, further widened the gap among the two races.

When the Communists began their violence in the 1948, the British were forced to declare a state of Emergency throughout Malaya. It was during this period that inter-racial relations became worse since the British had formed forces, comprising mostly Malays, to fight the guerilla groups led by the Communists, who were mainly Chinese.

All of these factors caused a great division in the Malayan society and much effort had to be taken to resolve the problem.

Efforts Towards Racial Unity

In 1949, the Inter-Racial Relations Committee (Jawatankuasa Hubungan Antara Kaum) was formed, to enable leaders of various ethnic groups to find a solution to the existing racial problems.

The committee, comprising Dato' Onn bin Jaafar, Tan Cheng Lock, E.E.C Thuraisingham and 12 other members proposed that non-Malays be involved in local politics and more opportunities be given to the Malays in the business and industrial sectors.

The committee also proposed that greater racial tolerance and understanding be fostered in the hope of achieving racial unity.

In 1951, the British government formed the Member System, with the hope of achieving racial unity. The member system was similar to the Cabinet system as we know it today, and enabled people from various ethnic groups to get involved in the administration of the government and hold portfolios in areas such as Home Affairs, Agriculture, Land, Mines and Communication, Education, Health, Forestry, and Works and Housing.

Although the more important portfolios in areas of finance and defense were still dominated by the British, the involvement of leaders of various ethnic groups enabled co-operation among the different races.

Education also played an important role in paving the way towards racial unity in Malaya. In 1949, the Central Advisory Committee took form with the main purpose of unifying the local education system and implementing it. However, the committee failed to achieve its goal and its proposal that English be made the sole medium of education in schools in the Holgate Report was vehemently opposed by the Federal Legislative Council.

Although the committee did not achieve much, it was a clear indication that the British were indeed making an effort to unify the multiracial society through education with one medium of instruction.

Another committee which was established one year later, produced the Barnes Report, which recommended in 1952, that the syllabus of all primary schools be standardized and taught in English and Malay, while secondary schools retain English as their mode of instruction.

Led by Dr W.P.Fenn and Dr Y.T. Wu, the British formed yet another committee to study the status of Chinese vernacular education in Malaya to incorporate it into a unified education system. The result was the Fenn-Wu report, which agreed to a national education system, but at the same time, proposed that Chinese medium schools be maintained.

Finally, in 1952, the Education Ordinance based on the Barnes Report was approved. The Chinese and Indians were not in the least bit happy and resisted the new ruling. However, the long-awaited decision on the national education system was only seen in the Razak Report after much deliberation and ethnic bargaining. The report was subsequently approved by the Federal Legislative Council on 16th May, 1956.

(Details of the Razak Report can be read in Chapter 6)


United Malays National Organization (UMNO)

UMNO was formed on 11th May 1946 and led by its first President, Dato' Onn bin Jaafar. Its sole purposes were, at that time, to unite the Malays and lead the opposition against the Malayan Union, to protect the interests of the Malays and to gain independence from the British.

Several years later, a conflict of interest occurred between Dato'



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