Malays, 2nd Biggest Majority in Singapore


Earlier tonight, I attended the final policy forum discussion of the Community Leaders Forum series for 2011 held at Yayasan Mendaki’s premises. The speakers were former Members-Of-Parliament, Haji Wan Hussin Zoohrin and Haji Sidek Sanif as well as former Nominated Member-Of-Parliament, Zulkifli Baharudin. The forum was moderated by By Definition Pte Ltd‘s Director (Community & Heritage), Suryakenchana Omar who is also 4PM’s Vice-President.

The forum began with Hj Wan Hussin giving an introduction to what he constituted as the ‘Malay Problem’, an issue which has long been debated and gone over throughout Singapore’s past and present. Hj Wan Hussin described the ‘Malay Problem’ as one that was started during the time when Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah sold Singapore over to the British East India Company in 1824. (Read more here, http://infopedia.nl.sg/articles/SIP_3_2004-12-14.html).

Whilst Hj Wan Hussin didn’t elaborate further on it, historically, we are able to deduce that Sultan Hussein Mohamed Shah represented the same problems Malays face today, one of greed for wealth and the subsequent inability to manage the wealth, power hungry and absolute stupidity in terms of economic senses as well as in the ease of being tricked into.

Of course, Hj Wan Hussin also mentioned and quoted Singapore’s first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew’s opening speech in the inauguration of Mendaki whereby Mr Lee had mentioned that the Malay problem was a National problem and not a communal one some 30 years ago.

Hj Sidek Sanif spoke at length about how social media had been influential throughout the world in effecting change such as President Obama, Arab Spring, Malaysian politics and also possibly, Singapore politics. I wasn’t really able to keep up with his speech though as much as I’d like to.

Lastly, Mr Zulkifli spoke about world economics and at how China took 62 years to be where it is today and how the world will be run by a developing country instead of a developed country as it has always been the case in history. The big businesses of today are also less than 5 years old and with Eurozone facing a double-dip recession, he mentioned that it was absolutely important for Malay-Muslims to be able to take on the opportunities presented to them. He also mentioned that education will be of lesser importance in the future compared to the amount of wealth one has.

As discussion and questions were opened to the floor, a barrage of questions seemed to be directed towards Mendaki’s efforts for the past 30 years which raised issues on the disbursement of the Education Trust Fund and the Tertiary Tuition Fee Subsidy. There were also questions and comments raised on the effective translation of policies down to the ground.

However, there were also more positive comments from the floor with several agreeing that it was important for Malay-Muslims to move ahead regardless of what the past was and also called for a different look into the perspective in relation to the statistical demographics data – rather than calling Malays a minority, Malays should consider themselves as the 2nd biggest majority next to the Chinese.

With so many questions directed towards Mendaki’s efforts, Mendaki’s CEO Moliah Hashim decided to enlighten the floor on the efforts that the Malay-Muslim Community were given and the achievements (17% improvement in academics for the Malays compared to 14% improvement in academics for national average) attained. Mendaki’s Rafiz also clarified to the floor that the TTFS was revised because there was a review conducted 3 years before and there was a significant difference in the household income. The change was effected because of this and not because of a conspiracy theory as a result of People’s Action Party loss in the recent General Elections.

The entire session lasted an additional hour, ending at 11pm instead of 10pm but I’m sure that, for the participants who remained behind to the end, it was definitely a fruitful one.

Whilst I didn’t ask or made any comments, I’d like to perhaps challenge our future and current Malay-Muslims with a few things:

  1. Stop the talks at coffeeshops and start getting involved in the areas that you’re passionate to rant about. If you have time to rant at the coffeeshop or online, surely you have time to volunteer. If not, shut up. Get involved or Shut Up.
  2. Learn to direct your focus on the more positive efforts and learn how to stay focused. As what my dad loved to say to me, “Semangat Dua Minit” or “Hangat-hangat Tahi Ayam”. Don’t get trapped into that idiom.
  3. Be daring to take positive risks. Try to start businesses and take on the unconventional route other than going through the educational route. Malays are probably not gifted in academics but Malays surely are gifted in a lot of other areas.
  4. Have a change of perspective in viewing the Malay community and start using the term 2nd Biggest Majority rather than minority. Use them daily, blog about it, tweet about it until the Mainstream Media uses it to influence the rest of the Malays.
  5. The world of tomorrow will be determined by a measure of wealth, not education. If you’re not investing well in your education to reap monetary benefits, start rethinking/ re-evaluating your options.