For decades and years, politics in Malaysia have been about races and ethnicity. Certain groups advocates for unity among races. Some lobbies for policies that benefits their own race.
However, Malaysians have misunderstood the real inequalities in our nation. Typical politicians are to be blamed for causing this confusion. Of course, in order to strive in the political world, one has to build his pool of supporters. And without a doubt, it is much easier to garner support through one’s primordial factors which is one’s ethnicity. There is a sense of similarity and belonging with each other. For instance, in a campaign, it is much easier for a Chinese candidate to ask for support from a Chinese voter compared to asking for support because they are working in the same line of profession. Profession and jobs can be changed at any time, but ethnicity and race remains until a person dies.
Hence, politicians tend to bring ethnicity into matter to garner support. It may not necessarily mean that one have to sound extreme as to fight for certain benefits for their ethnic. But when one advocates for equality among ethnicity, especially by highlighting the inequality towards the minorities; they appear to be heroes to them. One may be portrayed as a racial extremist and one may look like a hero fighting for racial equality. A typical politician may use such a way to gain easy support. But if we really look into the inequalities in our community; is racial a real gap between people? Or the real inequality is about class, income and wealth?
In a recent article that I have read; despite tremendous increase in national income, the wealth gap in Malaysia is alarmingly high and extremely skewed. For instance, the top 0.2 percent of depositors in Amanah Saham Bumiputera (ASB) has about 1,133 times more than the 80 per cent of depositors combined. This gap echoed by the fact that approximately two-thirds of Malaysian workers earn less than RM3,000 per month, and about 90 per cent of Malaysians have nearly zero savings. We have seen the top, wealthy elite class getting richer and richer while the growing middle class getting poorer, or some might have flopped to the poor category.
As we can witness, Malaysian politicians keeps harping on racial inequality; advocating for equality and fairness among all races. But when it comes to government policies, the same group of politicians does not look into the real problem of inequalities.
For example in Penang, high-end residential properties were built for the benefit if the investment of the rich. The so-called affordable homes costs up to RM500,000. With the expanding middle class community, very few can actually own an ‘affordable home’. There are so limited low-medium cost housings being developed in the state. What is the basis of such policy being implemented? Is it for the real benefits of the general people, or is it for small group of wealthy elites?
The common perception of Malaysians is that the Chinese are the richer ones compared to Malay and Indians. With that, government policies are formulated to narrow the income gap between races by favouring the Bumiputeras. Is drafting an economic policy based on races and ethnicity relevant? Or should we look into the real inequalities in the community? I believe all races, whether it is Malay, Chinese, Indian or any other races have the differences of wealth within their own community.
Maybe we should look deep into the current politicians. Are they really fighting for equality for all, or are they using the primordial factor to obtain support in an easier way?