Poll shows Non-bumi youth feel discriminated

November 30th, 2007 by poobalan | View blog reactions Leave a reply »
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Poll: Non-bumi youth disaffected, disconnected

Beh Lih Yi
Nov 29, 07 5:54pm

The majority of Chinese and Indian youth in Malaysia feel they are subjected to discrimination by the government, according to poll findings released today. 

This comes just three days after some 30,000 Indians – the largest protest involving the community – took to the streets in Kuala Lumpur to vent their frustrations over being marginalised. 

The National Youth Survey 2007, conducted by independent opinion research firm Merdeka Centre, found that more than half of the Chinese (59 percent) and Indian (58 percent) respondents perceive that the government does not treat them equally.

However, there was an obvious split in sentiment because 58 percent of Malay respondents had no complaints about unequal treatment, with only 37 percent disagreeing with the view.

The poll, conducted in August in cooperation with regional-based NGO the Asia Foundation, interviewed 1,508 youth aged between 21 and 35 years.

"Generally the concerns were over economic opportunities in terms of getting government jobs," Merdeka Centre director Ibrahim Suffian (photo) said when asked to elaborate on the findings that he presented in Kuala Lumpur.

About 50 people, mainly representatives of embassies and youth groups, attended the session, including the Asia Foundation's country representative Anthea Mulakala.

All the respondents listed the 'state of the national economy' as their top concern ahead of the general election – widely expected to be called by early next year – followed by the 'fulfillment of government promises'.

The implementation of policies such as the New Economic Policy, which favours the bumiputeras in economic and job opportunities, has always been a bone of contention with non-bumiputeras.

There have been frequent calls for this racial-based affirmative action policy to be abolished, but the government has consistently ignored these. Its main argument is that the bumiputeras have yet to attain the stipulated 30 percent equity ownership

Surprisingly, issues like religious freedom, ethnic equality and Islamisation ranked at the bottom of their concerns.

On a more positive note, most respondents believed that only a few civil servants are corrupt – but Chinese respondents bucked the trend with their perception that the majority of civil servants are corrupt.

To another question, 61 percent felt that Malaysians are free to speak their mind without fear – although this was more prevalent among the Malays. Chinese respondents disagreed.

'No time' to register

On political parties, 56 percent said they want more opposition representation in Parliament where more than 92 percent of the seats are currently held by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition.

Chinese respondents topped the list of those seeking more opposition members in Parliament (64 percent), followed by Indians (63 percent) and Malays (53 percent).

On the role best suited for the opposition, 62 percent said it should serve as a check and balance to the government, while 25 percent said it should work towards forming the next government.

More respondents said the general election is important to them, but felt there is little that they can do to hold the government accountable at the same time.

Asked if voting is important, 94 percent agreed that it is, and 80 percent felt their votes could make a difference in influencing government.

More than half of the young voters also admitted that their choices mirror those of their parents (53 percent) and that they have registered to vote (56 percent).

Of the 44 percent which have yet to register as voters, a large proportion said it was because they have "no time" to do so.

Sense of vulnerability

There seemed to be a sense of pessimism among the 52 percent who agreed there is little that the people can do to hold the government responsible between elections.

"Malays or Muslim bumiputeras are more likely to know who their (elected) representative or local authority is and hence, feel that there are ways to hold government responsible between elections," Ibrahim explained.

Still, 53 percent of the youth are unwilling to become involved in politics, although the majority of Malay respondents showed greater inclination to enter politics. (See chart below)

Summing up the findings, Ibrahim said the majority of the youth are concerned about local issues such as the economy, crime and social problems, but feel vulnerable to change.

"They are concerned but disconnected from the ability to change society," he said, attributing this, among others reasons, to the restrictive Universities and University Colleges Act.

"They are not totally apathetic, they (just) do not have a strong sense of being an effective member of the community."

Ibrahim noted that a similar trend had been detected in the same survey when it was conducted last year


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