MAY 26 — Often we hear complaints regarding smart non-Malay students with many As not getting a place in local universities. Political parties, NGOs and the media often highlight their plight and injustice.
I, for one, agree with the push by the government in solving this problem. Regardless of a student’s racial background, a smart student is an asset to the nation and he or she should be given a chance to get an education and contribute to society.
I fully support the move by the government in abolishing quotas in most of the public universities, promoting merit-based distribution of scholarships and move to incorporate more non-Malays into the government.
Although some may argue the main reason for the lack of non-Malays opting to be a government servant is due to perks and wages rather than discrimination, we should view all these as positive.
A good example would be the recent flood at the Selangor Chinese Assembly hall interviews to fill up the vacancies with the Malaysian-Anti Corruption Commission (MACC). Ironic when one considers the recent political spin that has been put upon the MACC, thanks to the Teoh Beng Hock case.
I guess Er Soon Poi put it quite well when he said, “I am impressed with the salary and allowances offered in the public sector and I am interested to become a government servant although I have little knowledge about the MACC” (The Sun May 23, 2010).
I admit there is the perception that there is an ethnic dominance in the Malaysian civil service. I agree with this view and fully support any move to diversify the Malaysian civil service.
To me this is one of the many polarities that divide the Malaysian society. But I have always reminded myself of the old saying, “It takes two hands to produce a clap”. So I am going to discuss what many politicians and activists are quite reluctant to talk about.
Perhaps it is a bit uncomfortable for some of these politicians to talk about or the fact that it does not serve their political purpose.
It started with complaints by local Malay graduates that they faced difficulty in getting good jobs in big companies, mainly multinational corporations which offer good salaries. Especially big, foreign companies with good perks in sectors like banking, finance, electronics, IT, etc.
I have heard of this way back when my seniors were complaining about it. At first even I shrugged it off.
There is this general perception that Malay graduates are “bad in communication skills, mainly English, and not as competent as the non-Malay graduates.”
Come on, let’s be honest. I have more than once encountered this remark, “Ahh you speak pretty good English for a Malay.” Malaysians are huge hypocrites, I tell you. No wonder our politicians are like that as well.
As much as one would like to put a cast on the stereotyping of lazy, incompetent and spoon-fed Malays, there is something really wrong when say 90 per cent of the executive or high ranking technical staff comes from a single ethnic background. Especially when one consider the fact that the Malays are not the minorities.
Are these Malay graduates so incompetent? Because last I heard back in university, there is quite a healthy number of Malay-Muslim students getting on deans’ lists and receiving medals during convocations.
Their English can’t be that bad and based on my experience, the level of English competency is equally horrible regardless of ethnic background when it comes to local graduates. Chances are, there might be a problem with the Malay graduates in Malaysia generally, but instead maybe there is a problem with the human resource manager in said company, don’t you agree?
It becomes even more apparent when that minority ethnic, be it Malays or whatever, tend to fill positions like receptionists, office boys, dispatchers, etc. It’s like having diversity for the sake of showcase, so what better place to put them if not right in front at the reception desk.
The Mandarin factor
Now, once in a while when I browse through the classifieds, I would see an ad that goes something like this: “Mandarin competence” or “Chinese Speaking”. At first I would assume it to be something harmless. Perhaps that company does a lot of deals with China hence they need Mandarin speakers to help them deal with their foreign clients.
But it gets quite dodgy when the companies that have those kind of job ads don’t really deal with foreign clients, especially China. It gets even dodgier when the advertised vacancy is something like a “Systems Administrator” or “R&D Engineer”.
Last I checked, I have yet to find any datasheet, programming language, operating system or technical textbook that is written in Mandarin. Perhaps there are that one or two technical manuals written in Mandarin because of that Made in China product. But chances are if the Germans and Japanese can include an English technical manual with their product, I am pretty sure a “Made in China” product has it as well (Okay, maybe with bad English).
There’s something really amiss when you have a vacancy ad which lists the Mandarin factor for a Japanese manufacturing plant.
Look, this is Malaysia, the official languages here are Bahasa Malaysia and English. Unless a company deals with China or Taiwan, there is no need for compulsory Mandarin. We all know why you put down that criterion. And if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people pretending to be something else when the real reason is very obvious.
Some of you might say “But hey Zaidel what about that ad that goes ‘Untuk Bumiputera Sahaja’ You bloody Perkasa racist!” I say yes, it is quite racist as well, like I said it takes two hands to clap and having this masked hypocritical Mandarin ad is just as bad as having a openly gung-ho racial ad like the “Bumiputera” criterion as well.
So how do we go about this then?
Some may take the path of hyperventilating rants and dramatic raving, which usually ends with the conclusion that the only way to solve every problem in this nation is by voting anything else other than Barisan Nasional.
I actually prefer something more concrete (and less hyperventilating). In the civil service a minimal quota system can always be implemented. For instance, a minimum of one in every three new staff must be of a different ethnic background. That sort of situation fits for the civil service and is easily monitored by the Parliament, hence a regulatory measure can be implemented.
However, in the private sector having regulations may hamper productivity and meddle in the market forces. If, say, the government suddenly announced a regulatory measure such as a quota, it would affect the general productivity.
Based on previous experience when it comes to regulatory policies in the private sector, we do know that this does not work well, e.g. 30 per cent Bumiputera Equity shares. As much as I want diversity in the workplace, I realise it must be balanced with the current needs, market forces and productivity level, and the fact that private sectors should decide for themselves.
So instead of a regulatory measure, I suggest we do an incentive-based measure. One measure could be a tax cuts for companies that introduce diversity in their workplace.
For instance, if a company has a minimum of 25 per cent Bumiputeras working as executives with them, they are then entitled to a 10 per cent income tax reduction. To make it fair, we do the same for, say, a 100 per cent Bumiputera company that manages to introduce a minimum of 25 per cent non Bumiputeras into their company.
This way the government won’t be meddling into the private nature of the private sector and gives the freedom for these companies to take their time in introducing diversity in the workplace without hampering their productivity.
Diversity incentives are quite common in the rest of the world and we have seen it to be quite effective. It’s a win-win situation. To those which think that they may not be ready yet, no worries, business as usual. Maybe next year.
Now some of you may find it hard to chew on this, but like it or not, it’s there, it exists. There is discrimination in the private sector just as in the civil service.
Though many of us find it convenient to blame the civil service, many seem to shy away when it comes to the private sector. However, rather than leaving this as an article that merely focuses on ranting and raving, I would prefer it to be something that we all can ponder upon and come up with solutions that would benefit everyone in the long run.
Not everything is about voting Pakatan Rakyat or Barisan Nasional.