The Quota system: Where would we be without the Chinese and the Indians? — Dharm Navaratnam

MAY 26 — The Quota system. Something that rears its ugly head and gets prominence every once in a while. Whether it be about Matriculation or the request for a special allocation for Bumiputra contractors to work on the ECRL. It comes up every so often.

Discussing it with a friend today, the question was asked. Disregarding history, what if the Chinese and Indians had never migrated to Malaya in search of a better life. Where would we be without the Chinese and the Indians?

An interesting question in itself and not one that is easily answered for the Malaysia we know of today was indeed formed by the blood, sweat and tears of all the races. For the sake of argument however, let’s just assume that Malaysia was never ‘infiltrated’, for lack of a better word, by the other races.

The first thing that comes to mind is that you would not have a Bumiputra classification.  Nor would there be any forms or racial classification. Or would there? Would there still be a need to segregate based on Malay, Dayak, Iban, Kadazan, Melanau and so on?

Next, political parties would be based on ideology and not race. There would be no need to scream for Ketuanan Melayu or the protection of certain religious rights. There would be no one to blame as being a threat for this. There would definitely not be any racial or religious vitriol spewed by the politicians. When politics are based on ideology, one would assume that the political situation would be far more mature than it is now.

There would be only one education system and there would be no such thing as vernacular schools.  But wait, even if you remove the Vernacular schools from the equation, you still have a myriad of different systems now.  Private Schools, International Schools, Religious Schools, Residential Schools and even MARA Junior Colleges, all in addition to the regular National Schools. So as far as education goes, we’d still be in the same quagmire.

There would be no quota system as everyone would be Bumiputra.  There would not have been a need for the NEP which had a stated goal of poverty eradication and economic restructuring so as to eliminate the identification of ethnicity with economic function.  All would be from the same ethnic group so economic and financial success would have been purely based on meritocracy. Entry to higher education would be based on merit; Job opportunities would be based on merit; bidding and allocation of contracts would be based on merit. You may however still need to be able to speak Mandarin if you wanted to bid or do work for a company from China.

What would then happen when competition becomes purely based on meritocracy with no race or religion crutch to lean on?  Would those that didn’t get entry into institutes of higher learning now cry foul?  Would those that didn’t get contracts complain and then ask for a special quota?  But a quota based on what though?  In a simplistic view, once a quota is put into place, competition is no longer the sole basis for selection. Therein lies the danger.

Because really, most institutes of higher education place an emphasis on ensuring that they take in the best students.  Most companies want high performing graduates to work for them.  Most contracts seek the best quality with the lowest price. Taking a simplistic view of football, the best team is the one that keeps on winning. This is what competition is about. Competition knows not of race and religion.

This really is the crux of the matter.  We are competing each and every day. We are not only competing with each other but we are competing on a global stage. In this day and age, if a local is not able to do the job for the best price and quality, there is someone else, somewhere in the world, that can do it. If there is no local expertise for a given job, there is an expatriate that can fill it.

Economic and financial success has never really been about race or religion. It is something that is played up and used by politicians to frighten the masses and use it as a card to stay in power. Nothing more.  The astonishing part is the number of people that actually fall for this stratagem. The amount of hate speech that one sees and hears around us, especially on social media, is proof of this.

And this is why the question of “What if the other races had not come to Malaya” is really nothing more than a moot question.  It is rather sad that after close to 62 years after Merdeka that we are still ensconced in race and religion. It is even more sad when really what we should be more worried about is the eradication of poverty for all Malaysians and how best to compete on a global scale. This is the Elephant in the room. The sooner we address this the better we will be as a Nation.

*This is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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