Half the country disappears in Malaysian history syllabus
In view of the controversy swirling around the content of the History textbooks used in schools, we thought Dr Geoff Wade’s ‘The Origins and Evolution of Ethnocracy in Malaysia’ on the measures used to maintain Malay hegemony merit revisiting.
“It is very strange today that in the diverse, multi-ethnic polity of Malaysia, a single ethnic group completely controls and occupies virtually all positions in the judiciary, public administrative organs, the police, the armed forces as well as universities.
“While Malays constitute a majority of the population of this nation, their presence in all these spheres of power far exceeds their ratio within the general population.”
CPI first carried Dr Wade’s ARI Working Paper No.111 in our website on Sept 9, 2009. Dr Wade is an historian who researches various aspects of Sino-Southeast Asian historical interactions over the last 1,000 years and has recently been concentrating on 20th-century interactions between Southeast Asia and China. He previously studied and worked in Australia, Malaysia, China and Hong Kong.
This write-up belongs to the Working Paper Series by Asia Research Institute (ARI) at the National University of Singapore.
When trying to ensure that the populace is sympathetic to a particular point of view, starting inculcation young is a useful tactic. In various ways, Umno is using school history textbooks to push its view of Malayan and Malaysian history. There has been a gradual process of ethnic cleansing in Malaysian history books over the last 25 years.
A anonymous textbook entitled Sejarah Menengah Malaysia, (Tingkatan Tiga), published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP) in under the Ministry of Education in 1971 had much space devoted to the British role in Malayan history, and included a chapter on the Chinese in the peninsula until 1874.
By 1998, a textbook entitled Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah Menegah Sejarah Tingkatan 1, also published by DBP and compiled byDato’ Dr Abdul Shukor bin Abdullah and his 17 Malay collaborators, depicts a peninsula whose history begins with the Melaka Sultanate, when it appears that the population of Malaya was entirely Malay, and continues on into the Johor period of Malayan history. The cultural aspects are entirely Malay and it is as if half the country has disappeared.
A 2003 textbook entitled Kurikulum Bersepadu Sekolah MenengahSejarah Tingkatan 5,published byDewan Bahasa dan Pustaka and compiled by Ramlah bte Adam and her seven Malay collaborators, concentrates on finding Malay national heroes, almost one for each state.
It portrays immigration as something which only happened in the 19th century and only involved people from India and China. The 1930s is written of only through vignettes of Malay figures, while the Malayan Union and Federation depicted as though only Malays and the British existed.
The state/Umno-endorsed and sponsored textbooks are increasingly depicting the history of Malaya’s past as almost solely a Malay history and are gradually excising the roles of Chinese and Indian figures from national history.
And when legislation, distorted history and electoral and media controls fail to convince others of the necessity and validity of Malay ethnocracy, there are always threats of violence available.