PUTRAJAYA, Aug 24 — Demographic changes caused by the higher fertility rate of Malays compared to other ethnicities may make race politics permanent in Malaysia, Umno’s Datuk Nur Jazlan Mohamed said.
The deputy home minister also said Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim had linked the Malay culture with Islam 30 years ago during his time as deputy prime minister, leading to greater religiosity and conservatism among the predominant ethnic group.
“It's difficult for Malaysia to run away from racial politics because it's driven by demographic change,” Nur Jazlan told Malay Mail Online in a recent interview here.
“Malays are the absolute majority now in the country. That's one. Even the Chinese don't reproduce. Indians are also reproducing less. The Malays reproduce more. So therefore, the demographic change in the country will be that — Malays will dominate,” the Pulai MP added.
Last May, local daily The Star reported Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim saying 2012 records showed the Malays had a fertility rate of 2.6 children, compared to 1.6 children for ethnic Chinese and 1.5 children for ethnic Indians.
According to the Statistics Department, the number of Malays is expected to rise to 54.1 per cent of the population by 2040, followed by other Bumiputera groups at 13.4 per cent, which will make 67.5 per cent in total, a slight increase from 67.4 per cent in 2010.
Malays are not the people deemed as Bumiputera, which translates to “sons of the soil”; the category includes the indigenous tribes of the peninsula collectively called the Orang Asli, as well as the natives of Sabah and Sarawak on Borneo.
The percentage of ethnic Chinese and Indians of the Malaysian population, however, is expected to decrease to 18.4 per cent and and 5.9 per cent by 2040, from 24.6 per cent and 7.3 per cent in 2010, according to the Statistics Department.
Nur Jazlan also said the demographic change will pressure the government to retain pro-Bumiputera policies, but noted that globalisation and needed economic reforms will push for the dismantling of such policies.
“This is the fight now — demographic change against realities of the world. And which political party is going to get it right?” he asked.
Nur Jazlan said conservative Malays will choose between PAS or Umno, while the PAS splinter group Harapan Baru would not gain much traction because they align themselves with the liberals and non-Muslims.
The urban Malays who are disinclined towards race politics will also be fewer than their lower-income counterparts with traditional political views as the latter group tends to give birth to more children, he said.
The Umno lawmaker also said although younger Malays may similarly not believe in race politics, “at the end of the day, if you are forced to choose sides, you'll choose to be Malay”.