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Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Are we Bumiputera?



As a Malaysian, the current debate about the meaning of the term "Bumiputera" moves me greatly. As an Indian Hindu, and a minority in this country, I wonder if this term is a boon or bane? A curse or a blessing?
I have many Indian Muslim friends, and the current debate is dividing their community too.
Many Indian Muslims practice Malay customs and speak Malay. A significant portion wishes to be considered "Bumiputera" to enjoy special privileges that the rest of us are not eligible for.
There are others, however, in the Indian Muslim community who reject that, and feel that their Indian heritage, culture and tradition is something they do not want to sacrifice.
I do not blame those who seek Bumiputera status. Why wouldn’t they want it if it could help their children get to university and study the course they want at an affordable price, buy a house more easily, open their own business with government assistance, et cetera? I would like to have it too!
After all, when a family cuts a cake, doesn't every member deserve a slice?
At the end of the day, we are all Malaysians. And we are all hungry. Let us all have a slice of the cake, please.
The poem below depicts an imagined conversation between a Malaysian Indian Muslim father and his young son.
Are We Bumiputera?
Daddy,
What does the word “Bumiputera” mean?
You were arguing about it last week,
That we should be regarded as “Bumis”,
And the prime minister must give what we seek.
You say that we are Indian,
When you speak to a relative.
But to officials we are Malay,
You become very “creative”.
You always tell me not to lie,
But isn’t that what you do?
You say we need to do this,
But where will it take you?
You say don’t speak Tamil,
In front of “Outsiders”,
But that’s what we speak
At home with “Insiders”.
You say we need to be seen,
With “Bumiputera” qualification.
That we are “sons of the soil”;
Is that your justification?
I know we are devout Muslims,
But that is just about religion.
What about race and heritage,
Isn’t this blatant discrimination?
What about the other Malaysians,
And natives of this beautiful land,
Here for so many generations, yet
Cast out of the “Bumiputera” band?
Son,
I can’t answer your questions,
Though they make perfect sense.
I really don’t know what to say,
In my country’s defence.
The meaning of this phrase,
Is neither here nor there.
Not defined in the Constitution,
It’s vague; clarified nowhere.
But it matters; it really does.
Life for you will be much easier.
You will be given preferences,
Though others may be better.
You can study what you want,
In a public university; you shall
Not fall under an unfair quota;
Bang your head against a wall.
Your job prospects will be brighter,
Ventures into business assisted,
Acquisitions of property cheaper,
Your successes loudly trumpeted.
There are many more advantages,
I cannot speak of them all here.
One day you will realise yourself,
All these values we hold so dear.
Thus “Bumiputera” we hope to be,
We have the right, please trust me.
As for the “Others”, please don’t worry,
Justice and Equality, not theirs to see. -Mkini

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