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M. Bakri Musa

Seeing Malaysia My Way

My Photo
Location: Morgan Hill, California, United States

Malaysian-born Bakri Musa writes frequently on issues affecting his native land. His essays have appeared in the Far Eastern Economic Review, Asiaweek, International Herald Tribune, Education Quarterly, SIngapore's Straits Times, and The New Straits Times. His commentary has aired on National Public Radio's Marketplace. His regular column Seeing It My Way appears in Malaysiakini. Bakri is also a regular contributor to th eSun (Malaysia). He has previously written "The Malay Dilemma Revisited: Race Dynamics in Modern Malaysia" as well as "Malaysia in the Era of Globalization," "An Education System Worthy of Malaysia," "Seeing Malaysia My Way," and "With Love, From Malaysia." Bakri's day job (and frequently night time too!) is as a surgeon in private practice in Silicon Valley, California. He and his wife Karen live on a ranch in Morgan Hill. This website is updated twice a week on Sundays and Wednesdays at 5 PM California time.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Special Privileges for Indians: Readers' Responses

Dr Bakri, Salam Sejahtera:

Below is a response to your article. I thought you might be interested to read it. While your observations are perspicuous, I think you are wrong to say that Indian-Malaysians in general are looking for special treatment. The MIC fellows do so, true, but as you rightly pointed out, they are decrepit anyway, and are increasingly being dismissed as utterly ineffective in the putting forth the community’s cause. What we want is access to decent education, scholarship, jobs, etc. This we do not quite get. Even the best among us are denied opportunities!

Case in point: Karthikeyan, who scored 13A1s in SPM recently and was recognized as one the best students in the country. His father is a security guard, and an illiterate; his mother, an occasional factory worker. Alas, he was denied scholarship by the PSD. Instead, he was offered a place in the UTM to study IT. Only after some backdoor maneuvering did he get the coveted PSD scholarship.

As I see it, many in the community are tired of the BN government’s willful neglect of Indian-Malaysian’s welfare. Government officials are never going to lift a finger on their own volition to help us. If anything comes our way, it is mostly by accident or given out grudgingly. I sincerely believe the Indian-Malaysians should build their own parallel system of help. Would that perpetuate if not aggravate racial divisions?

Finally, your views on Tamil schools are plain wrong. Enough research has been done on the effectiveness of mother language education, particularly at the primary level. Please read UNESCO’s position paper: http://portal.unesco.org/education/en/ev.php-URL_ID=12871&URL_DO=DO_TOPIC&URL_SECTION=201.html

I am aware of your take on the use of mother language as a medium of instruction. (I remember reading many years ago how your father chose to send you to an English school instead of the nearby Malay medium pondok school.) The situation in Malaysia today however does not warrant simple conclusions. Although many Tamil schools continue to exist in a derelict state, they manage to give a decent education to the poorest of the community. (The student mentioned above, Karthikeyan, is a former Tamil school student, and so am I.) These students, if they were to attend “national” schools, are less likely to get anywhere – too many impediments, despite the superior facilities. On this, the fact that the Indian leaders had not sent they kids to Tamil schools only speaks loudly of their hypocrisy.

I did not quite expect to write this much ... but, well ..:)!



Equality, Not Special Privileges, is What Indians Need
Tan Sri Ramon Navaratnam
Reprinted from Malaysiakini.com July 7, 2005

I think the good Doctor Bakri Musa has given Malaysian Indians the wrong diagnosis, and thus the wrong prescription!

While I agree with his thesis that some Malays have fallen into a “Trap of a Dependency” syndrome, I do not believe that Malaysian Indians want to “fall into the same trap,” as he puts it!

All we Indians want is fair and equal access to the basic needs provided by the government. Why for instance cannot Tamil Schools be given more assistance or Tamil be a compulsory subject for Tamil students in national schools? This way the quality and standard of education will rise significantly especially for the bottom 30 percent of the depressed and under-privileged Malaysian Indian population!

The Indians have not asked for “Special Privileges” as suggested by Doctor Bakri. The Crimea State Medical School episode throws open to question, the quality of our medical graduates from all questionable medical schools, some of which are in Iraq, Iran, and many other places around the world, some even closer to us!

Surely we should be more concerned and review the quality of all those dubious medical colleges where many Malaysians are currently studying!

In the case of the Crimea Medical School, what was wrong was not the need to review the quality of the teaching but to be fair in the Assessment of Standards. The process and procedure of de-recognition from 2006 and the announcement of the new accreditation policy also leave much to be desired!

Poverty eradication regardless of race is stipulated in the NEP, but has it been implemented as such? All that we ask is to promote equality to wipe out poverty as promised in the NEP, regardless of race!

“Modern development economics” as Dr Bakri mentioned, prescribes empowerment to enable the poor and the underprivileged of all races to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps to move forward. Is this being done equitably today?

With due respect, Dr Bakri has to come back to Malaysia to see for himself the reality on the ground and help us all create a more just and equitable society or Bangsa Malaysia that will truly promote greater national unity in our country. We who are here are trying to do our best to achieve this!

We have to be more balanced and fair in making judgments especially on other Malaysian ethnic groups, please!

Thanks and regards,

Look Who’s Riding the Indian Malaysian?
[Reprinted from Malaysiakini.com Jul 11, 2005]

I refer to M Bakri Musa’s “Indian Malaysians should avoid trap of special privileges.” As an Indian, I can assure Bakri that the community in general has never depended on privileges. Rather, the trap of the “Barisan Nasional perspective” of national issues should be avoided.

There are indeed Indian Malaysians in danger of being dependent on special privileges, but they invariably comprise the office bearers of the MIC and other sundry political parties hanging on to the BN’s sarong while claiming to represent Indians. They form a tiny minority.

The vast majority of Indians, in case Bakri is unaware, have fended for themselves against increasingly unequal odds over the past 48 years. They include the former rubber tappers and their children. They also include government servants who spent their life savings for their children’s tertiary education overseas since social engineering requires other lesser qualified students to be given preference at local universities.

In fact Bakri might be interested to know that the basic relationship between the politicians and the average Indian has not been one of the former handing out benefits to the latter, rather the other way around.

The average Indian has put a great deal more money into such black holes as the National Land Finance Society, Maika Holdings, etc. than he has received from or via Indian politicians. The politicians and political appointees managing these organizations have on the other hand become pretty comfortable financially.

In other words, Barisan Nasional Indian politicians have been having a good ride on the broad backs of several million Indian Malaysians.



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