After the independence, most Malays continued to live in rural areas, working as farmers, fishermen or rubber smallholders, while the ethnic-Chinese mostly resided in urban areas, engaging in trade and commerce, while ethnic-Indians were mainly rubber estate workers or professionals. Even people belonging to the same class, as working-class Chinese and Malays, did not have a common political representation as class in itself. This established a vertical ethnic connection among the communities, in which their members felt closer to people from the same ethnie than people from the same social class. (Yeoh, 2008)
The Bumiputra is the official collective term that groups together Malay, as well ...view middle of the document...
(Liew, 2003) Currently, the Bumiputera represents 65% of the population of Malaysia, while Chinese are 26% and Indians 8%. While the three groups are not geographically divided, they remain separated by language, religion, customs, education, areas of residence and type of occupation. (Yeoh, 2008) According to a poll conducted on Malaysian students, ethnic-Chinese tend to have a higher national identity, while Malay students still strongly identify themselves with their ethnic belonging. While no tendency to represent the history of their country in terms of group ontogeny was found, it is safe to assume that Malays are likely to support official governmental policies in their favour. (Liu et al, 2002)
The main problem seems to be identifying which divisions in Malaysia are ethnic-based and which are class-based. Policies favouring the Bumiputra would still go to the majority’s favour were they class-based instead of ethnicity-based, since Malays still make up the majority of low-income people. Overriding the historical identification of class with ethnicity, though, would probably undermine a political leadership largely based on ethnic divisions. (Yeoh, 2008) Now in Malaysia the most acute interethnic conflict occurs between the bourgeoisie in the competition over educational, employment, business and facilities opportunities. Some contend that the ethnically biased role of the Malaysian state, “deemed necessary to eliminate the ethnic division of labour as a source of ethnic conflict” in turn further intensified racial contention. (2008:89) Enunciating his “vision 2020” on the future of Malaysia, former prime minister Dr Mahatir accommodated non-Malays in his will for a Bangsa Malaysia, a unified nation. Ensuing debates showed that ethnic-Chinese were more likely to accept the vision had the differences between Bumiputra and non-Bumiputra eradicated. Malays, however, still do not seem willing to give up their privileges. In the making of the Malaysian nation-state, interests of ethnicity and religion will always play an important shaping role. (Kheng, 2002)
Singapore was founded as a British trading post in 1819, and as its economy thrived it attracted immigrants of mainly Chinese, Malay and Indian origin. It was granted internal self-government in 1959, when Lee Kwan Yew’s People’s Action Party gained power through democratic elections. Singapore briefly joined the Malayan Federation in 1963, but disagreements between Lee and Tunku, the general wariness of Malays towards the ethnic Chinese and the refusal from the part of Lee of granting ethnic Malays in Singapore the same privileges they enjoyed in Malaysia, brought to its separation in 1965. (Liu et al, 2002)
Upon independence, Singapore had to find a reason to exist as a nation: largely of immigrant stock, it was difficult even to create a discourse on a “Singaporean identity”, for lack of common descent and kinship myths. There was no tradition or governmental structure which...