Herald, October 29, 2006

When minorities are marginalised

The Minister Mentor of Singapore accused the Malaysian government that it has systematically marginalised her citizens of Chinese origin. This was vehemently denied by the Malaysian government including its own Chinese Ministers in the cabinet. Since then there has been considerable debate on this issue of marginalisation.

What is marginalisation? Is it true that certain communities in the country are being marginalised as claimed? The Oxford Dictionary defines marginalisation as: (1). Relating to or a situation at or in a margin; (2) Of minor importance.

Therefore, when we say a community is marginalised it means it is pushed to the periphery and given minor importance. In accordance with this definition we can safely say marginalisation is a universal practice of the majority against the minority.

Is there marginalisation of the minority groups, in Malaysia?

A few simple facts may give us the answer.

Firstly, 40 per cent of the population is given less than 10 per cent of the jobs in civil service, police and armed forces.

Secondly, the majority of our children with maximum results in STPM examinations, even those from poor families, are denied places in public universities for critical courses.

Thirdly, the great difficulty we face in constructing places of worship, let alone getting state funds for the purpose.

If these do not indicate marginalisation, then what does?

Lee Kuan Yew said the Chinese are marginalised in Malaysia and in return the Malaysian government claims that the Malays in Singapore are marginalised. Both these may be true but what is also true is that the other minor groups, like the Orang Asli, Indians and indigenous people of Sabah and Sarawak, have been pushed out of the margins, a situation similar to elimination, which is more extreme than marginalisation.

Instead of picking a fight with Lee Kuan Yew, our leaders should look at what is happening within our country more rationally and admit that large segments of our own citizens, who have contributed so much to the development of the nation, are marginalised and living in the despair of an uncertain future for themselves and their children.

We claim that Malaysia is a multiracial and multireligious country, and truly it is. Our leaders claim we are a model nation for the world to emulate, as far as ethnic relations are concerned: sure enough it should be.

We have all the great religions in our country: Islam, Christianity, Hinduism and Buddhism. All of them are unanimous in their teachings — to share what you have, however scanty it may be, with those who are less fortunate regardless of race or creed.

Malaysia is blessed with abundant natural resources and there is plenty of wealth sufficient for all its citizens. All we need is to be true followers of our respective religions and share what we have with fellow countrymen, regardless of colour or creed.

Until and unless we get rid of our selfish desires for the enrichment of our own communities only, in accordance with our religious teachings, and accept ALL as equal citizens, we will never become a model nation for the world .

Having said that, let us at the same time get rid of this evil of marginalisation of certain people, in our own lives — our families, offices, BECs and Church.

Dr Chris Anthony

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