GHRD News

Minorities deprived from their fundamental rights in Malaysia

‘’ The Unit Pusat University (UPU) announced the Public University intake results for the academic year 20-21 on the 19th of August 2020 and once again people came face to face with the glaring truth that the minority Indian community has encore been denied of its educational rights specially when it comes to choosing a good course or even a good university!’’

Malaysia is a multi- cultural country with people of various religions, ethnicities such as Indians, Chinese[1] but as wel refugees from different parts of Asia. However, the majority of the Malaysian population consists of the Bumiputera’s[2]. Bumiputras ‘’son of the land’’ include the native groups of Malaysia which are Orang Asli, Sabah natives, Sarawak natives and the Malay, where the child is considered to be a Bumiputra if one of the parents is a Muslim Malay (a person who professes the religion of Islam and habitually speaks Malay.) The term ‘’ Bumiputra’’ can be found in federal legislation, however it is not a legal term but a policy constructed serving as a catch – all term when implementing policies that benefit the natives of Malaysia.

Even though Malaysia is a multi- cultural country, it stil sees a very high level of discrimination especially when it comes to race and religion. This discrimination is seen in every aspect of life be it employment, housing or even education. As general known to everyone education is one of the very basis human necessities and it is the responsibility of every state to ensure quality education to each and every citizen. Because education is the bedrock of progress in society.

The intensity of discrimination became stronger with the aftermath of the 1969 racial riots in Malaysia. The government introduced affirmative action policies[3] which was set promoting Bumiputra’s advancement. These affirmative actions are mainly focused on education and public-sector employment.

Examples of affirmative actions on educational spere is the reservation policy also known as the quota system, meaning that in higher educational systems a set percentage of seats will be reserved in all universities and colleges for students that can be classified as a Bumiputra, besides reservations, the Bumiputra students also enjoy the benefit of accruing scholarships. However, the quota system is not applied on the scale of the university as a whole but also on a faculty to faculty basis especially in the fields of science and technology, various secondary science schools where established for the Bumiputra’s as a key vehicle to train the Bumiputra’s. Those residential science schools are funded by the government and it is general know that they have better teachers and educational program in comparison to schools where non- Bumiputra’s get admitted.

‘’ Non-Bumiputra’s who obtained good results as such as 3.93,3.84,3.71 CGPA in their exams where denied an opportunity to pursue higher education in universities in Malaysia. One of the Universities Unit Pusit University denied a student who had achieved a perfect score of 4.0 CGPA the admission for an Artificial Intelligence course (reserved for) and was instead offered a course in Psychology!’’[4]

For a Bumiputra education is something that is affordable due to government subsidies and affirmative policies. In 2019 the government introduced a ‘Matrakulasi’ program which is a one or two – year pre-university preparatory program if a student is admitted to this program, it gives them access to top universities in the country, with the government paying a significant amount of the fees. However, the selection process for the program is done through a race based- quota system where 90% of the places are reserved for bumiputras students while the remaining 10 % are open for non- bumiputras. When in 2019 the education Ministry received a total of 84,891 applications for the Matrakulasi program with 20,040 from non- bumiputra students. A total of 4,068 non-bumiputras were eventually accepted in the program.[5]

With only 10% of reservations for non-bumiputras, the remaining 90% of non- bumiputras students are left to eighter take an extensive loan to attend a private college, however the majority of this group are unable to afford a private school. This has led students to or put their education on hold[6]or we see that see that the students discontinue their education.

Because the Malaysian government is not always transparent in announcing the figures of university intakes. Below GHRD obtained some statistics that shows the how the composition % of the Universities intake change comparing Bumiputra’s and non- Bumiputra’s

Enrolment figures in the local universities by ethnic groups.

As already mentioned due to this affirmative action’s non – Bumiputra’s are forced to put their education on hold or quit education. Making them have no diploma or degree and subject to low income jobs.

These affirmative action policies on long term have the potential to harm the nation’s workforce with people doing jobs that fall below their actual potential. Which will eventually also harm the economy of the country as more and more people will belong to low income groups or will be subjected to poverty.

The non- bumiputra students deserve Justice and Equality as access to proper quality education falls within the basic tenants of Fundamental Human Rights! Every student whether he/ she belongs to a minority community or not deserves to receive proper education. The affirmative action policies should be used as a tool to promote and preserve the rights of the minorities and those who are underprivileged and not to placate the majority just for political gains and votes. The government thus should strive to uphold the ideals of Democracy and the basic human rights of each and every person within the country.


[1] Minorities in Malaysia 25% Chinese- Malaysians and 8 % Indian Malaysians

[2] Out of Malaysia’s 28.7 million citizens today, 68% fall under the term Bumiputera

[3] The practice or policy of favoring individuals belonging to groups to have been discriminated again previously or to facilitate the upward- socio economic mobility of a disadvantaged or under represented group. Before the racial riots of 1969 the Bumiputra’s (majority) lived and worked more in rural areas , while the minorities were more urbanized and socially stratified benefitting from wider access to education and public sector employment.

[4] Interview of Mr. VK Regu (Country coordinator Malaysia and WHC (World Hindu Council) President) interviewed by Arise Arjuna Team (Voice of Minorities)

[5] Tho Xin Yo ‘’ Outcry over retaining ethnic quota for pre- University admission in Malaysia’’ (CNA)< https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/asia/malaysia-outcry-ethnic-quota-matriculation-admission-11514578>

[6] Start working low income jobs to earn and safe money to continue their education\