Paper 3

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Paper 3

World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural




    Nobaya Ahmad, Zaid Ahmad, Haslinda Abdullah a nd Sri Rahayu Ismail

    Faculty of Human Ecology, University Putra Malaysia


    The creation of a multi-ethnic society in Malaysia has been a phenomenon since the early days of trade

    during the era of the Malacca Sultanate. The suitability of Malaysia‟s geographical location has attracted

    migrants from both East and West, thus, creating a society that is heterogeneous demographically and

    culturally. However, the multi-ethnic society created was considered a „plural society‟ as described by British scholar J.S. Furnivall (1948) where the different racial groups lived side by side under a single

    political administration but, apart from economic transactions, do not interact with each other socially or

    culturally. The importation of labour during the colonial era, the formation of Malaysia in 1963 and the

    open labour policy in the migration of foreign workers in the current situation have created a demographic

    situation where there was a shift in the ethnic distribution from a majority Malay population to a multi-

    ethnic population. Therefore, the aim of the paper is to describe the demographic changes in Malaysia

    from pre-colonial era to the present day, and the challenges that the country has and is still facing to create

    a united Malaysia.


World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural Identities


    The creation of a multi-ethnic society in Malaysia has been a phenomenon since the early days of trade during the era of the Malacca Sultanate. Geographically located as the meeting point of East meet West, Malaysia has attracted traders from China, Arab, India and Europe. Many settled in the port of Malacca, creating a mixed population through inter-marriages and thus a generation with mixed identities. This has been a process that existed for more than 600 years, hence, issues on ethnic plurality is not new to Malaysia. In the early days of trading, inter-ethnic relationship was apparent whereby there were evidences that a leader among the Chinese community was also chosen to manage the foreign traders as well as the Chinese communities (Yen Chin-hwang, 2002) and the Indian traders were already assimilated amongst the aristocrats where “… Indian traders were able to move freely among the aristocrats and indeed many

    assimilated into the families of the ruling class in the days of the Malacca Sultanate. There is evidence that Indian traders continued to enjoy a position of pre-eminence even as late as the eighteenth century. In Perak, for example, the special position of royal merchant (saudagar raja) was then held by the Indian merchants as stated by Khoo Kay Khim (1993).

    It was also stated that before the attack of Portuguese on Malacca in 1511, Malacca was already a cosmopolitan city with approximately 190,000 multi-ethnic groups speaking about 84 languages although it was stated that the lingua franca was Bahasa Melayu (Mohd Yusoff Hashim, 1989). It was also stated in the same text that although they were living in the same city, areas designated for the different ethnic groups were evident, thus creating a segregated living arrangements. There were Chinese Villages, Indian Villages, Javanese villages and Pasai villages. What was interesting to be noted was, while there were evidences of multiethnic settlement, very little report of inter-ethnic fights were found, hence suggesting that the groups though segregated in terms of settlement were able to mix freely. It was also stated that there were two groups of people residing in Malacca at that time. One group which only stopover in Malacca for the business purposes, hence do not assimilate into the culture of the locals. The other group was one which assimilated well with the locals through inter-marriages and lived along side the locals forming a multi-

    2 ethnic and multicultural Malaysians of today.

World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural


    History of Ethnic Relations

    The push for the Malays to the hinterland during the Portuguese and Dutch empire was partly due to the

    way they conducted their business by enforcing a high amount of tax for importation and exportation of

    goods through the port (Abdul Maulud Yusof,1980). This was because the Malays were no longer able to

    trade fairly and were left to plough the land for their living. The gap left by the Malays in the commercial

    sector were quickly taken up by the migrant traders as stated by Abdul Maulud where “It is fair to assume that Malay society was transformed from a maritime and commercial society to a rural and agriculturally

    subsistence society owing to the rapid expansion of European dominated commerce in the cities legitimized

    by the presence of the Malay monarchy” (op.cit, pg 114).

This has resulted in an increase of the Chinese migrants which was seen to be the hardworking group where

    ththeir population increased from 400 in 1641 to 2000 in the middle of the 18 century. The Chinese

    migrants set up businesses and support the economy of Malacca port during that time through their

    business which included coffee shops, artisans and gambling parlour (Andaya, 1983).

The colonialization of the British brought about an even greater number of Chinese and Indian migrants to

    the Peninsular where the Chinese the British considered the Chinese as”…the most valuable part of the

    population because of their industry, perseverance and enterprise….” (Chan Gaik Gnoh, 1982). The Malays

    and Chinese relationship during the British era were partly supported by the role of the Chinese in the tin

    mining sector where it can be seen as a win-win relationship between the Malay royalty and the tin miners.

    The number of Chinese continue to rise and the importation of Indian labourers from India for the

    construction and security sector has brought the number to increase from 239,000 in 1911 to about 571,000

    in 1931 (Ryan, 1971). As a result, Malaya, at that time, was slowly becoming a country with a population

    comprising three major ethnic groups excluding the expatriates.


World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural


    Demographic Perspective - Post Independence

    This section will discuss the demographic perspective of ethnic plurality post independence. Table 1 set out

    to present the distribution of ethnic group in the police force, an important sector regarding the issue of

    security. Table 2 and 3 present the distribution of overall population and urban population post 1957.

The uneven distribution of the ethnic groups was a cause of concern during the emergency period where it

    was found that not many Chinese youth were in the police force. Hence, the issue of security and loyalty to

    the country can be interpreted from an ethnic point of view. The lack of Chinese youth in the police force

    was considered more crucial during th era of communist party in Malaya. Table 1 showed the distribution.

Table 1 Enrolment in police force by ethnicity (1952-1957)

    Year European Malay Indian Chinese Others Total 1952 1229 24018 1742 2488 327 29804 1953 1141 22665 2488 2398 319 28150 1954 933 19015 1418 2264 266 23896 1955 948 17797 1303 2054 199 22301 1956 828 17655 1277 2261 162 22183 1957 583 17869 1251 2491 133 22327


    Federeration of Malaya Annual Report, 1953 KL:Government Press 1954,pg 224, Federeration of Malaya

    Annual Report, 1955 KL:Government Press 1956, pg 294, Federeration of Malaya Annual Report, 1956

    KL:Government Press 1957, pg 300, Federeration of Malaya Annual Report, 1957 KL:Government Press

    1958, pg 316, Memorandum from The Secretary of Defence Progress Report for the last Quarter 1954 in

    C.O 1030/36/FED17/112/01 Part A. Federation of Malaysa Administrative Reports, pg 173; Quarterly

    report from the Secretary of Defence, Fourth Quarter 1955 in C.O 1030/36/FED17/112/01 part A,

    4 Federation of Malaya Reports,pg 49

World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural


However, in terms of overall population, there was an increase in the percentage of Malay population and a

    slight decrease in the percentage of Chinese and Indian population from 1957 to 2000 for Peninsular


    Table 2 Percentage of distribution of population by ethnicity post independence.

    1957 1970 1980 2000 M C I M C I M C I M C I 49.8 37.2 11.3 53.1 35.4 10.6 55.3 33.8 10.2 66.1 25.3 7.4 Source: Dept of Statistics (1957-1980) and Eight Malaysia Plan (2000)

    The percentage did not add up to 100% because “Others” is not included

In terms of the urban population, Table 3 showed the distribution. The table showed that there was an

    increase in the percentage of Malays living in urban areas in 2000 compared to the previous years. The

    percentage of Chinese and Indian saw a decline throughout the years although majority of Chinese are still

    urban dwellers.

Table 3 Percentage of distribution of urban population by ethnicity post independence.

    1957 1970 1980 2000 M C I M C I M C I M C I 21.0 62.6 12.8 27.6 58.5 12.8 37.9 50.3 11.0 46.5 35.9 9.8 Source: Dept of Statistics, 1957-2000

    The percentage did not add up to 100% because „others‟ are not included


World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural


Based on Tables 2 and 3, it can be concluded that while the urban population was still a majority Malay

    population, in the urban areas, the Chinese still was the majority until 2000 where affirmative action

    policies through the New Economic Policy has brought about more Malays in the urban areas. The lack of

    Chinese and other non-Malay groups in the police force specifically and the public sector generally is still a

    cause for concern for the Government until the present time. According to the Public Service Department's

    January-June statistics, Chinese made up 1.71 per cent of applicants and Indians 2.36 per cent compared

    stwith Malays at 84.62 per cent (New Straits Times, 21 Feb 2008). Low pay and lack of promotion

    opportunities have been cited over and over again as the factors behind the dearth of non-Malays in the

    public sector. Therefore, there seems to be an uneven distribution in terms of the demography as well as the

    employment sector among the different ethnic groups in Malaysia.

    Table 4 present the distribution of Malay (and Bumiputra) participation in employment in 1957, 1970 and


    Table 4 Bumiputera participation in employment 1957, 1970 and 1990 (percentages)

     1957 (%) 1970 (%) 1990 (%)

    Professional and 35.1 47.0 60.3


    Administrative and 17.5 24.1 33.3


    Clerical 27.1 35.4 54.9

    Sales 15.9 26.7 36.0

    Agricultural 62.1 72.0 76.4

    Service 39.7 44.3 61.5

    Total 48.2 51.8 57.8

    Source: Jomo,1990; Fourth Malaysia Plan,1981-85.

    Note: the 1957 and 1970 figures refer to Pen. Malaysia, while the 1990 figures refer to

    Malaysia as a whole.


World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural


Overall, there seems to be an increase in the participation of the Malays (including Bumiputera) in all

    the sectors but the non-Malays still dominates in the traditionally non- Malays sector like sales and

    managerial and administrative.

    Demographic distribution of ethnic groups in Kuala Lumpur

Table 5 showed the distribution of ethnic groups in Kuala Lumpur. Although in the early days, Kuala

    Lumpur was known as Yap Ah Loy‟s Kuala Lumpur or a Chinese town, the Chinese population had been experiencing a decline and by 1970, the population of the Chinese in the city was down to 57% from 73%

    in 1891 when the city was founded. On the other hand, the Malay population had been experiencing an

    increase from 12% in 1891 to 24% in 1970 though between the years there was a marginal decline before

    increasing rapidly prior to independence in 1957 to form almost a quarter of the city‟s population. By 1990,

    the Malay population had increased to 38%.

Table 5 Distribution of ethnic groups in Kuala Lumpur 1947-1990.

    Year Chinese(%) Malays (%) Indian (%) Others (%) Total (%) 1947 63.0 12.0 18.0 7.0 100.0 1957 62.0 15.0 16.0 7.0 100.0 1970 55.0 25.0 18.0 2.0 100.0 1980 54.0 28.0 17.0 1.0 100.0 1990 45.0 38.0 16.0 1.0 100.0 Source: Lee, 1976, Population and Housing Census,1990

    The distribution of the population was not accompanied by a more balanced mix of population over 7

     micro areas. The Chinese continued to dominate in the Chinese areas and the Malays in the Malay areas.

World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural


A further analysis using enumeration districts provided by the statistics department is shown in table 4.2.

    In 1980 there were 15 enumeration districts. These districts consisted of population ranging from 25000

    to 250,000. Out of the 15 enumeration districts, 10 had a percentage of Chinese higher than the Malays,

    4 (zone 2,6,8,12) districts had a higher percentage of Malays and only one district (zone 13) showed an

    almost equal percentage of Malays and Chinese.

However, in 1990, there were 24 enumeration districts. 8 existing districts in 1980 were subdivided to

    create another additional 9 districts. The percentage breakdown of population by ethnicity is shown in

    Table 4.3 for the 24 districts.

Table 6 Distribution of Malays and Chinese by Enumeration Districts, 1990

    Zones % Malays % Chinese

    1 32 57

    2 63 25

    3 38 40

    4 14 60

    5 14 73

    6 59 17

    7 22 54

    8 66 9

    9 15 68

    10 33 51

    11 28 54

    12 42 25

    13 66 16

    14 10 82

    8 15 49 45

World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural


    16 62 29

    17 52 34

    18 58 20

    19 40 43

    20 22 58

    21 6 76

    22 35 57

    23 28 63

    24 28 48 Population and Housing Census, 1991

Out of 24 enumeration districts, 13 showed a higher percentage of Chinese, 8 had a higher percentage

    of Malays and 3 districts (3,15 and 19) showed an almost equal percentage of Malays and Chinese.

    However, these 3 areas which showed a mix population need not necessarily indicate a balanced and

    mixed area at the micro-scale because the three districts had a total population of 73,679 (approximately

    14 000 households) which can still be segregated at the micro level. The Chinese dominated areas had

    approximately 61,000 households and the Malay dominated areas approximately 44 000 households.

An earlier study by Agus (1991) had discovered that, although there has been an increase in the

    number of Bumiputera residing in Kuala Lumpur since 1970, the spatial structure had not changed

    much in terms of the distribution of population by ethnicity. Despite an increase in the number of

    Malays in the city in 1990, the increase was concentrated in pre-dominantly Malay areas and likewise

    for the Chinese. While drastic changes in terms of numbers have taken place, the basic pattern remains

    the same. As stated earlier, the segregation of geographical pattern was not accompanied by

    occupational segregation. This seemed to imply that Malays and Chinese irrespective of what their

    occupation is tend to reside in areas where the majority of their ethnic groups resided. Their

    9 occupational mobility did not affect their choice of location.

World Civic Forum (S5-07-3)

     Issue Title: Cultural Diversity and Tolerance; Session Title: Plural Society and Plural Identities

    Ethnic plurality and land use segregation in Kuala Lumpur

    According to Gullick (1988), a distinct pattern of residential segregation has been evident since 1880. When the administrative seat of the colonial government was shifted from Klang to Kuala Lumpur, the western bank of the rivers Gombak/Klang was reserved for the European settlers. The other settlers were confined to the eastern bank of the river.

    Segregation was further strengthened by the situation faced by the successive waves of fresh immigrants. Some voluntarily segregated themselves when they flocked to the quarters that housed people from the same village in their country of origin, others had no choice but to lived where they were near their place of work. These people consisted mainly of Indian and Ceylonese origin who were brought in to be employed in the government services.

    To keep pace with population growth, the city‟s boundaries were periodically expanded, constantly encroaching upon the rural Malay settlements located on the urban peripheries. However, since Malay Agricultural Settlements were not allowed to be sold to non-Malays, this area emerged as a Malay stronghold within the city, as the city expanded around it, thus contributing towards ethnic segregation. The creation of Chinese New Villages close to the existing town mainly during the Emergency period (1948-1960) had increased the number of more Chinese areas as the city expanded. The resettlement of the rural Chinese was a measure to curb the spread of Communism and to facilitate defence against Communist attacks.

    Occupational segregation also reinforced ethnic segregation in the city, especially in the pre-independence period when division of labour sharply followed ethnic lines. The Malays were mostly involved in the civil service, the armed and police forces. The Chinese monopolised the economic sector of the employment, in retailing and manufacturing, while the Indians were concentrated in the railways and public works department. Hence, in terms of settlement patterns, the Chinese dominated


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