November 03, 2005

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A Hari Raya Huanying

A few months ago I blogged about an incident at a Malaysian hotel where some Chinese guests were outraged by being handed out hotel dining cards that had a picture of a pig on them - indicating that they were consumers of pork. It was indeed a grave misunderstanding - local Chinese would have understood, but the mainland visitors did not - similar to how baby food in sub-Saharan Africa did horribly until makers realized that Africans generally put pictures of the food on the bottle... In any case, I felt in general that the growing power of China in Asia and the World would eventually spell changes that Malaysia may need to make with regard to discriminatory laws against its own Chinese minority.

It seems, on this holy Islamic Day of Hari Raya Puasa, celebrating the end of Ramadan fasting month, that Malaysia has slipped out a rather interesting announcement - that henceforth, all international airports in Malaysia would carry messages in Mandarin as well as in Bahasa and in English (as well as occasionally in Japanese). The fact that Mandarin has not been an official language despite almost 40% of the population being Chinese has been very significant (with reasons dating back to the Chinese Communist insurgency in the 1950s). But could this change, in response to growing throngs from the mainland, be the crack in the door? Perhaps the Malays may finally start to take a long, hard look at their country, and ask why they legislate affirmative action for themselves with their Bumiputra laws (to the economic detriment of the Chinese) when they constitute over 50% of the population. Mr. Badawi, give your people a fishing rod instead.

posted by HK Dave on 11.03.05 at 09:09 PM in the East Asia politics category.


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Correction, Malaysia is only 23.7% ethnic Chinese.

posted by: Jing on 11.03.05 at 09:46 PM [permalink]

Its nice to hear KLIA is offering Mandarin announcement. For your info, its offer Arabic, too.

I doubt it's the Chinese tourist because their level of visitation has been drop by half (

In my opinion, I think the tourist dynamic is changing. Its use to be luring the Chinese tourist but lately, there is a surge in the Middle Eastern tourist coming into Malaysia. If the trend continue, there might be arabic sign in the future.

As for affirmative action, nothing will change. Why change, when things is moving just fine?

posted by: yopy on 11.03.05 at 11:15 PM [permalink]

It was 40% in the 1960s or early 1970s.

changes because
1. birth rate difference
2. more importantly, policy guided self-identification. i.e. when there is a cross-marriage, the idenitification shifted toward bumi for 'affirmative treatment'. (same situation in china, when people identify biase toward minority)

posted by: sun bin on 11.04.05 at 01:44 AM [permalink]

Thanks for the correction, Jing. When I lived in neighboring Singapore from 1982-1991, it was around 38%. I had no idea that the demographics had changed so much in the interim.

All the more reason though, why a majority population should divest itself from laws that benefit it at the expense of a minority, and also root out a chief cause of corruption and corporate malfeasance in the country. In my view, it is a chief reason why the country is not more competitive. It should not be a racial issue, but has unfortunately become perpetually so due to the 'sons of the soil' rules.

posted by: HK Dave on 11.04.05 at 05:12 AM [permalink]


posted by: pudding on 11.04.05 at 06:46 AM [permalink]

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