Ramasamy is right, but what about the private sector?

Photograph: mole.my

There has been an unnecessary uproar over an article by the DAP’s P Ramasamy, who wrote that the civil service is not only bloated in terms of the number employed but is predominantly ethnic Malay.

Ramasamy has urged Putrajaya to reform the civil service.

In the article, he also quoted G25 spokesperson Noor Farida Ariffin, who has made a similar call asking the civil service to be opened up for the non-bumiputras, particularly the ethnic minorities in the country.

She lamented that not only is the promotional prospect for the ethnic minorities dim, racial discrimination has also prevented them from joining the civil service.

After six decades of independence, the country’s civil service is predominantly composed of Malay bumiputras from the peninsula with minuscule participation of other bumiputras and the ethnic minorities.

Farida added that if there is an absence of a level playing field, it would be difficult to expect the ethnic minorities to make a significant contribution to public administration.

One wonders why there is no such uproar when a similar statement was made by Farida, while Ramasamy is criticised.

The real concern of the politicians in the unity government is about the implications of Ramasamy’s article for the survival of the government.

The ‘unity coalition’ lacks substantial support from Malay voters and is faced with impending elections to six state assemblies, with the opportunistic Perikatan Nasional, who will use this issue to attack the DAP and weaken the ruling coalition – what more the very survival of Umno in the government.

It is unfortunate that the substance of Ramasamy’s and Farida’s comments, containing a vision of a progressive and inclusive Malaysia, has been placed on the back burner because of the opportunism of the politicians and their fears of political survival.

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On the other hand, in addressing ethnic dominance and discrimination, one has to keep in mind that such discrimination is also prevalent in the private sector.

While the civil service is open to scrutiny, the private sector is not, and one has to understand there is discrimination in functional roles in private companies where a certain ethnic group dominates functions like IT, finance and purchasing where other ethnic communities are overlooked due to prejudice and lack of trust, or the inability to speak and write Mandarin.

In fact, Ramasamy and the DAP should also address discrimination in the private sector so that their views on the civil service could be seen as balanced and honest.

One could learn from the late Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, who was honest enough to acknowledge there is discrimination in certain ethnic Chinese-based companies in Singapore who prefer to employ only Chinese for certain positions.

Addressing ethnic discrimination in both the public and private sectors should be the way forward. This requires a mind that transcends the narrow scope of ethnic politics that shows a lack of insight and wisdom that prevents the whole truth about ethnic discrimination from being revealed.

Politics in Malaysia thrives on half-truths and partisan polemics, and this prevents a deeper understanding of discrimination in the Malaysian context.

There is also lack of empathy about the historical factors and conditions of all ethnic communities in Malaysia, which prevents the current generation from charting a new course and work for the common good.

Addressing ethnic discrimination from a historical perspective and holistically in the realm of the public and private sector is critical for a progressive Malaysia. – Free Malaysia Today

The views expressed in Aliran's media statements and the NGO statements we have endorsed reflect Aliran's official stand. Views and opinions expressed in other pieces published here do not necessarily reflect Aliran's official position.
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