Prime Minister and all Cabinet Ministers  should shoot down the proposal to increase the  bumiputra varsity quota to 66:34 to reaffirm  Vision 2020,  Bangsa Malaysia concept and the  National Vision Policy in OPP3 and 8th Malaysia Plan  just adopted by Parliament

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Penang, Friday): I find it shocking that the Education Minister  Tan Sri Musa Mohamad should be amenable to the proposal to increase the bumiputra university intake quota in public universities from the present 55% to 66%  to better reflect the current population figures.

It is a reflection of the utter irrelevance of Parliament that this proposal made the headline of a “mainstream” newspaper on the last day a two-month parliamentary meeting  which had formally approved the Third Outline Perspective Plan (OPP3) 2001-2010 and the Eighth Malaysia Plan to launch the National Vision Policy, all three  of which would be altered substantively in both vision and direction by any widening of the university bumiputra quota from 55:45 to 66:34 for bumiputra and non-bumiputra students respectively.

This is a classic “red herring” tactic of distracting attention from the national issue at hand, i.e. how to ensure that there is a fair universities admission policy in keeping with the new National Vision Policy to unite Malaysians to  face the challenges of globalisation, liberaliasation and information and communications technology (ICT) by admitting all the 500-plus SPM top scorers as well as thousands of deserving STPM applicants into universities by throwing up a highly controversial and divisive proposal as raising the bumiputra university quota.

The proposal to increase the bumiputra university quota is  tantamount to repudiation of Vision 2020, the Bangsa Malaysia concept and the trio of policies which have just been passed by Parliament, namely the OPP3, the 8th Malaysia Plan and the National Vision Policy.

The Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad  and all Cabinet Ministers  should shoot down the proposal to increase the  bumiputra university quota to reaffirm  Vision 2020,  Bangsa Malaysia concept and the  National Vision Policy in OPP3 and 8th Malaysia Plan  just adopted by Parliament.

It was only on Sunday that Mahathir made the startling statement that  the university quota system would  be abolished if that was  what the people wanted.

I was very cautious and wary  when reporters reached me on that day for my comment, as the immediate issue was not the question as to whether university quotas should be abolished but whether  the government was  prepared to be fair in university admissions this year to, as assured by  the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi in Parliament,  that  local universities would take in “as many as possible” SPM high achievers as well as release the unfilled 7,168 university places to eligible Chinese and Indian students.

In a way, it  is not really surprising that instead of focussing on the question of fair university admissions for all Malaysian students, Mahathir’s hypothetical statement  of abolishing the bumiputra university quota system has led to the demand that it should instead be  raised from 55:45 to 66:34 to reflect population changes.

It is very sad that after 44 years of Malaysian nation-building, with the country facing the challenges of globalisation, liberalisation and ICT, when it is more important that Malaysians should be competing with the rest of the world instead of competing with each other, Malaysia  still have “intellectuals” so mired in communal mindsets who cannot rise from ethnicity to Bangsa Malaysia and  who could in all seriousness make the outrageous proposal for raising the bumiputra university quota from 55:45 to 66:34.

Would such an “intellectual” respect and accept a non-bumiputra equally deeply mired in communal thinking who respond to his proposal by suggesting that the taxes of non-bumiputras should be limited to 34% of total taxes?  I heartily agree that any such proposal is outrageous, as outrageous as the proposal to increase the bumiputra quota from 55% to 66%.

What Malaysia needs are not Malay intellectuals like Datuk Zainal Abidin Wahid who remains mired in the communal mind-set but Malaysian intellectuals like the  the Malaysian Academic Movement Chairman Dr. Wan Abdul Manan Wan Muda who have publicly urged that SPM top scorers should be given a chance to enter university and take up courses they are interested in as this will be in the country’s best interest and that a special programme should be developed for top scorers to ensure they would eventually serve the country.

Wan Abdul Manan said: “We don’t want potential five-star engineers going into fields they are not interested in. We will lose the critical mass of intelligent people if this happens.”  (Star, 5.5.2001).

As the Education Minister seems sympathetic to the proposal for raising  the bumiputra intake quota, he should  be reminded of speeches by  Mahathir as well as the two previous Prime Ministers, Tun Razak and Tun Hussein Onn, that quotas are not  “permanent appendages” but  “mere temporary crutches”.

Furthermore, it is ridiculous for Zainal Abidin to talk about raising the quota for bumiputra university intake to 66% when this figure had often been exceeded in practice in the past decade, an infringement of the 55:45 university quota which was condoned  by the MCA Deputy Education Minister and the MCA and Gerakan Ministers all these years.

For instance, in 1990  bumiputra students constituted  74.6 per cent of total enrolment at tertiary level in public institutions as compared to 25.4% for non-bumiputras.  At the degree level, bumiputra students constituted 65.9% of total enrolment as compared to 34.1% for non-bumiputra students.  In the same year, the public universities produced 12,054 degree-holders, 62.1% or 7,487 were bumiputra students as compared to 37.9% or 4,567 non-bumiputras.

In 1999, bumiputra students constituted 72.7 per cent of total enrolment at teritary level in public institutions, and for the degree level, bumiputra students comprised 69.9% - way above the 66% demanded by Zainal let alone the 55% in the quota. In 1999, the public universities produced 24,413 degree-holders, 60  per cent or 14,660 were  bumiputras and 40 per cent or 9,753 are non-bumiputra students.

The following tables show how the 55:45 university quota had been observed in the breach and MCA, Gerakan, SUPP and MIC Ministers in particular should explain why they had been a party to such breach of the university quota for over a decade:

First degree, diploma and certificate enrolment in public institutions according to race 1990 and 1999

Enrolment     Bumiputra     Non-Bumiputra     Total

Degree        35,361        18,309            53,670
              65.9%         34.1%             100%
Diploma       28,719        1,772             30,491
              94.2%         5.8%              100%
Certificate   624           1,929             2,553
              24.4%         75.4%             100%
Total         64,704        22,010            86,714
              74.6%         25.4%             100%

Degree        97,836        42,084             139,920
              69.9%         30.1%              100%
Diploma       49,588        9,891              59,479
              83.4%         16.6%              100%
Certificate   725           3,551              4,276
              17.0%         83.0%              100%
Total         148,149       55,526             203,675
              72.7%         27.3%              100%

First degree, diploma and certificate output  in public institutions according to race 1990 and 1999

Degree        7,487          4,567             12,054
              62.1%          37.9%             100%
Diploma       8,588          965               9,553
              89.9%          10.1%             100%
Certificate   387            396               783
              49.4%          50.6%             100%
Total         16,462         5,928             22,390
              73.5%          26.5%             100%

Degree        14,600         9,753              24,413
              60.0%          40.0%              100%
Diploma       8,701          3,161              11,862
              73.4%          26.6%              100%
Certificate   583            2,025              2,608
              22.4%          77.6%              100%
Total         23,944         14,939             38,883
              61.6%          38.4%              100%

In calling for the increase of the bumiputra university quota from 55% to 66%, Zainal Abidin has completely ignored the root problem of the weakness of  Malay students in science and technology.

This was why the previous Wednesday (3rd May 2001), the Education Ministry Higher Education Department director Professor Hassan Said had said that 30,800 university places  were offered representing  a 15% drop in total
university intake this year  originally estimated at 38,000 university places because of a shortfall of qualified bumiputra science students.

The inclusion of two groups of matriculation students, firstly the intake of  5,761 matriculation students  enrolled into the universities last November and  the group of 2,604 matriculation students in the International Islamic University,  may seem to “solve” the problem of the 7,168 unfilled university places but not the problem of the shortfall of qualified bumiputra science students for this year’s university intake.

I call on Musa to explain how many of these 8365 students from the two matriculation groups are science students, and if not, how these  predominantly arts students could  fill up the shortfall for the bumiputra science students?

I call on the Ministers, whether UMNO, MCA, Gerakan,  MIC or SUPP to reject Musa’s claim that the 7,168 unfilled university places had been taken up by the two groups of matriculation students, unless more credible evidence is produced, and they should demand that the 7,186 places  be released to eligible students, whether bumiputras or non-bumiputras.

If the latest claim that there are in fact 11,376 qualified  bumiputra students who had not been given places is true, they should be considered as well.  Can Musa explain how many of these 11,376 bumiputra students are science students?


*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman