KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 13 — A retired teacher told the government today to end federal scholarships for minority students as part of moves to uplift Malay supremacy in the country ahead of the 14th general election.
Datuk Raof Husin, representing the Malaysian Association of Former Education Officers, told the Rise of the Ummah Convention here that the government was constitutionally bound to limit study aid to Bumiputra students.
Raof claimed this was also the will of six late Malay Rulers during their negotiations with British colonialists for the country's independence.
“The government must uphold Article 153 (1) of the Federal Constitution with regards to Bumiputera Special Privilege in education,” he said in his presentation on education at the convention.
“Return the exclusive right of government scholarship to Bumiputera students and do not give them to others,” he said.
Article 153 states that it is the Yang diPertuan Agong’s prerogative to reserve scholarships and civil service positions, among others, for the Bumiputera community.
Raof added that his group was also against the government issuing scholarships based on merit.
Educationalists and students activists have become more vocal in demanding equal access to public education recently as support for needs-based federal aid grew among Malaysians, including from the Bumiputera community.
The demand also became a campaign issue for Opposition leaders in the past two elections; then-Opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim previously said his party would consider dismantling race-based assistance should the opposition pact take over federal power.
Groups like Ummah, an umbrella organisation of around 300 local Muslim NGOs, have strongly opposed the idea.
Raof, during his presentation, argued that meritocracy would only hamper the Bumiputera community's progress.
“If you look at the number of Bumiputera in the critical professions, they are still very small,” he said.
He cited official figures to show the number of Bumiputera accountants and architects, among others, have either stagnated or decreased in the past three years.
“I fear that if we do not assist them, we would fall further behind,” Raof said.
While the former civil servant argued that discrimination should be permitted in the name of helping the Bumiputera, another panellist complained of allegedly prejudicial hiring practices by companies owned by minorities.
Ahmad Yazid, the chief executive of Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM), said the government must introduce anti-discrimination laws, but proposed they be applied only to minority-owned firms.
“Those signs like 'Mandarin-only' or no hijab, ban them. I say burn the signs,” Ahmad said in his presentation.
At the same time, he said government should abolish the open tender system for contract awards and instead employ what he termed as “limited tender” only for eligible Bumiputra companies.
Ummah's convention today is meant to galvanise what the Umbrella group' president Ismail Mina Ahmad described as “Islamic forces” as well as gather intellectual and theological inputs for the group's effort to form a strategy against a purported offensive against Islam and ethnic Malays.
In its press statement released last month, the group outlined the two main objectives of the convention: to increase awareness on the need for Muslim unity for the sake of the country’s stability, and to list down their demands towards authorities to ensure the legitimacy of Islam and the Malays.