The Malays are the most numerous group in Malaysia. The second is the Chinese and then the Indians.
They were regarded as the original people and the earliest settlers in the country. Hence, they are also known as the ‘Bumiputra’ or literally ‘Sons of the soil’. Together with the natives of the state of Sabah and Sarawak who were also grouped as the ‘Bumiputras’ they comprised about 66% of the Malaysian population.
The recent election in which the ruling coalition were dislodged in five states of the Peninsular was regarded as the worst showing by the Malays.
The Malays of the Peninsular were divided among three political parties. The biggest group are in UMNO[United Malay National Organisation], PAS [Parti Islam Malaysia and PKR a splinter group].
UMNO is the lead actor in the National Front Coalition. At federal level it is still the leading political party.
Despita having a comfortable majority in Malaysia’s Parliament, The National Front is up against a very vocal opposition. These Opposition Leaders are not only vocal in the Cahmber but also outside it. Thus, there seems to be a glaring erosion of Malay dominance in the country.
Conscious of their perceived weakness many Malay Politicians have called for a united Malay. Malay unity is the call heard at every forums, conferences and informal gatherings.
To make matters worse, the opposition who ruled the five states immediately tried to test the limits of the federal constitutions. Malay rights were questioned and efforts to pull it lower down were provocatively tried.
The rights of the Malays as the natives of Malaysia were enshrined in our Federal Constitution. The British who were masters then made it clear that the Chinese and Indians should be incorporated into the new Malayan soceity.
To this suggestion the Malay leaders then agreed. So did the rulers who were know as Sultans. The Malay royalties are to be consulted on matters pertaining to the Muslim Religion. This is the very matters that was voiced and raised by the non-Muslim leaders in the opposition coalition in those five states.
One of the Senior Ministers who called on the Malays to defend their rights was Datuk Zahid Hamidi. He is the Miniister in the Prime Minister’s Department.
However, there are Malays at the fringes of their soceity who interpreted this rights as their so-called supremacy. This was the voice that irked the non-Malay population of this country.
The challenge for the present leaders of Malaysia is to balance those contradicting voices.