Everybody knows that scholarship is recognition to the learned. Every year, thousands of applicants apply for it but majority only the selected one succeeds. This writing intends to convey a message that this scholarship is not merely rights for those academic achievers but a privilege under constitutional rights given for certain groups of people. This unsettle issues must be addressed to avoid grudges that will affect Malaysians as a whole. The arguments basically involve the Constitution as the answers to the issues with a clutch of Islamic perspective. It is to show that current policy for the scholarship should be re-examining to represent Malaysians.
Every year the same issue arises in all the informative mass media without fail. Jabatan Perkhidmatan Awam (JPA) scholarships becomes the center of attraction every time after the Malaysia national exams results is announced especially to the qualified students who wanted to further their studies with the help of sponsorship.
In this year alone, 15,220 candidates applied to fills only 2,000 places offered. The two thousand scholarships are for abroad studies in ivy-league universities worldwide. Nevertheless, it is not the issues. The predicament all these years was the successful candidates were more to bumiputra despite the non-bumiputra having better academic achievement. The non-bumiputra claimed that there are unequal treatments towards them, as it was also their rights as the citizen of Malaysia who also patronize this half a century country. There was bias treatment against them when their rights supersedes since they are better qualified to fills and secure places in the ivy-league universities. Demands for equal treatment were asserted every time the Public Service Department (PSD) announced the successful candidates for the scholarship. Suddenly this demand is acted upon by PSD by reducing the crude of this issue that is the quotas given to the bumiputra for the scholarship. Previously, the bumiputra have 90:10 percent to the non-bumiputra, however, today the policy was changed to 55:45 between bumiputra and non-bumiputra. This is a crisis for Malaysians.
Even though from the surface of the changes may look reasonable and uphold greater justice than before. For those who love Malaysia would probably claim it will be a new dilemma as whether it was the true justice that are tried to be served or is because of the current Malaysia general election which causes certain crucial and fundamental aspects of others rights being infringed. This is the reason for the topic of this term paper was chosen. The main objective is to embark upon and gives a broader perspective to the reader of this term paper that everything in this life should be put as its place. It is to show that this scholarship even though was the rights for qualified Malaysian, but it is just a mere right because bumiputra have privileges for the scholarship that are guaranteed and enshrined under the constitution. Above all, the aim of the constitution is to uphold justice for the Malaysian as a whole. The change of the current PSD policy indeed does not represent the intention of the constitution.
I firmly believe that JPA scholarship quota system given to the bumiputra should be re-examined the drastic changes towards disbursement of the funds could diminish the privileges of the bumiputra, result in improper justice in the name of equality and to ensures the future of social stability in Malaysia.
FIRST ARGUMENT: SPECIAL POSITION IN RESERVATION OF QUOTAS
Scholarship has always being a symbol of success when there are successful candidates named as scholars. JPA scholarships are given by the government to those who deserved it. The issues currently that have been played yearly every time the list of successful candidates were released. There are those who are happy and those that are not very lucky. The dilemma faced Malaysians when questioning who really deserved it.
Probably the issue was there are greater number of successful candidates’ for JPA scholarship with lower academic achievements than those who are having greater numbers of A’s, especially when these people are the bumiputra students. Then the taboo questions from the society was where were their rights as citizen of Malaysia being successful academically in national exam but failed to get due recognition to be short listed as the scholars.
Here, the root of these problems lies from the failure of general Malaysians to understand Malaysia itself . The public outcries seeking explanation from Public Service Department on the reason why there are high achiever was left out from the short listed successful candidates despite the lesser academic achiever got the place.
This was previously before the current percentage of JPA scholarship been changed from 90:10 percent ration between bumiputra and non-bumiputra to 55:45 percent ratio currently by Public Service Department. Well, it stops the usual non-bumuputra from questioning the ratio given to bumiputra. Definitely, it does not stop the issues when bumiputra open up their mouth on their reserved percentage was change significantly without any justification.
The scenario now is far worst then before. The changes in the allocation of scholarship have significantly affect bumiputra privilege under the Malaysian Constitution. This is the issues will be raised by the bumiputra pressure groups or interests group due to this dissatisfaction. The privileged held by bumiputra as the natives people of Malaysia under Article 153 of the constitution where the bumiputra are given a few “special position” in receiving reservation of scholarship. It is called special position because these reservations or quotas are given to the bumiputra alone.
Well, to understand why does it exist require lengthy discussion on historical development of independent of Malaysia. In brief, there are agreements between the Malays, Chinese and Indians to recognize these reservations of quotas of the bumiputra for the bumiputra to recognized citizenship to non-bumiputra.
Even though there are no specific numbers given for reservation of quotas but it is the responsibility of the current government to ensure the allocation represent the needs of bumiputra. The government action now can be argued to have misled the privileges given to bumiputra. The current allocation of percentage out of two thousand scholarships for abroad studies given by Public Service Department this year does not represent the percentage of multi-ethnics society in Malaysia.
The ration between bumiputra and non-bumiputra according to National Planning Unit (EPU) is around 66.1:32.9 percent ration. Definitely the current JPA scholarship does not represent Malaysians. Furthermore, it can be argued that this current policy made by Public Service Department have over looked the privileges given to the bumiputra under the constitution.
It is tactically against the objective of the constitution to safeguard the bumiputra interest for a suitable number of scholarship allocations. If the previous percentage of 90:10 ration been changed currently was harsh to the non-bumiputra, but the current percentage failed to demonstrates effectively to Malaysian and bumiputra especially that their privileges are well observes as for the time being since independent until indefinite time, the special position is their privileges.
SECOND ARGUMENT: EQUALITY IS JUSTICE
Malaysia having pluralistic ethnic groups need to serve every group equally. That is what any reasonable man wanted. It is definitely correlated to this term paper topic as JPA scholarship can be said as trivial issues in these pluralistic societies. When every year comes and goes, the same arguments, outcries or demand asking the JPA scholarship allocation to non-bumiputra should be increased as there are so many of them being the high achiever were left out from the short-listed government scholars while at the same time the bumiputra candidates having relatively lower academic achievement secures the place.
The pressure from the demands causes the government to change its scholarship policy. The current ratio 55:45 percent between bumiputra and non-bumiputra was said to be more equal rather than previous ratio of 90:10 percent respectively when Dato’ Seri Mohamed Nazri Aziz the Minister in the Prime Minister Department announced it at the Parliament(Utusan Malaysia, 29th May 2008). Well, this contention purely without weight because it deprived the privileges of bumiputra. Even if changes should be made, it should at least represent the ratio of races in Malaysia. The drastic changes made by the government to the current ratio can be considered as a rush to satisfied minority demands while neglecting the needs of majority.
The outcries for equality in every inch of the world are definitely to serve to human rights despite any differences and within the spirits of article 8 of the Federal Constitution on rights for equality in education. Well, this is the view of a typical mind setting in certain people or society. Equality will not definitely lead to justice or fulfillment of justice in having it.
The courts in Malaysia as a matter of jurisprudence have delivered interpretation of equality in Malaysia. Like in the case of Khong Teng Khen it was held that the provision of equality did not mean that the law could not categorized people and treated them differently as long as it is rational. Similarly in the case of Datuk Harun Idris where the court ruled that equality under Article 8 was not absolute and it did not mean that all laws and policies had to be applied uniformly to all people in all circumstances.
Basically, the change to the current policy failed to represent justice for the Malaysian current situation. This is because what the policy probably intended to do is to reduce the gap of the scholarship allocation but it had overlooked in understanding the societies as whole. The weakest part is to understand that since it is a government scholarship it needs to represent all races equally. The most simple and reasonable act by the policy maker currently is not a social justice. Total equality is hard to achieve because even the communism block country that uphold total social equality is incapable to do so when he stated that;
If the sentiments of social equality is wisely cultivated, it is sure to make a considerable addition to the realization of social justice for which the world clamorous now. But social equality is a difficult ideal to attain. It exist nowhere in the world, not even in former Soviet Russia despite the claims of its various Constitutions which were operative at different times of its history.
Moreover, JPA scholarship is not a mere scholarship. It is a tool for a better education to develop a particular individual or society. The special position of bumiputra is not a mere privileges to merely have a bigger cut of cake from others, the intention to create this inequality was to give justice even though there are no equality but it promotes more stabilize development of all races in Malaysia.
This is the main objective in Malaysian context is to assist those who need assistances to stand tall equally with each other. Only after sufficient equality among Malaysian in term of economy, social, and education is achieved in the future through these inequalities, and then only the privileges can be withdrawn in the name of equality.
JPA scholarship looking from the naked eyes previously is injustice but its object is to achieve justice as a whole. The current situation needs to be re-examined by the government in its policy not only because it is a privileges given to bumiputra but to put justice where it belongs.
The Reid Commission recommendation that the Malays present position will continue for a substantial period, but to some extend the special position should be reduced and should ultimately ceases from the Constitution in order to create a better justice to race discrimination provided in the Federal Constitution. The special position granted to the Malays and bumiputra was discriminatory to other races that ought to have the same right in the distribution of wealth in the country. When bumiputra secures more places for JPA scholarship it is discriminatory because there are non-bumiputra factually more deserving the place.
The ambiguity is that reservation of quotas has caused inequality among the races in Malaysia especially in the allocation of this scholarship when the constitution upholds equality to everyone. Although the bumiputra special position should not be deprived or restricted to non-bumiputra of their legitimate interest and continued enjoyment as a citizen of Malaysia.
The contention is that every privilege that are acted upon by the government should be acted in accordance to the interpretation of the judiciary in order to determined it is reasonability and just to the society.This means that even the JPA scholarship to the bumiputra that have been safeguarded in the constitution should be determined by the courts to evaluate the reasonableness of the policy made by the government in the distribution.
When the Reid Commission in their recommendation suggested that the Malays and bumiputra should be protected due to economic backwardness was a socio-economic justification to the Malays and bumiputra in temporary measures that will be review in every 15 years and the government of the days can make changes from time to time.
The recent changes in the JPA scholarship policy is indeed purely the rights of the government to determined the portion of scholarship to bumiputra and non-bumiputra. It was generally accepted to help bumiputra to develop their ability and the changes as in the scholarship policy to bumiputra is not to question bumiputra privileges or better known today as ‘ketuanan melayu’.
The basic idea behind this argument is to show that policy changes made by the government of the days in the disbursement of the scholarship were indeed relevant to cope with the current environment. Moreover, it was the intention behind the provision for the policy maker to review what is necessary from time to time as reasonably as possible.
It can be implied that that changes of the Public Service Department policy ratio in the scholarship distribution is accordance to the spirit of the constitution for a greater just and equality.
There are many tremendous arguments made just to justify oneself perspective or perception to their ideas. Similarly when talking about whose rights and privileges for JPA scholarship. Failure to appreciate why and how the scholarship should represent the society are devastating to the society as a whole. The arguments made by certain quarters are to give ways to their liberal thinking or western ideology of human rights.
It is and will never be the same to apply the same method of thinking in this multiethnic society. JPA scholarship needed to be understood as a tool for social development. The development of society which one part is richer and the other having lesser should not be treated equally in the name of justice, until and unless when everybody can share equally all the resources.
When it was argued that the Alliance Party intended 15 years for the review of special position but it was subsequently remove from being inserted into the constitution. This contention is difficult to reconcile with the Reid Commission’s Report on the special position of the Malays. The basis was according to the wording of the Reid Commission Report on the bumiputra special position, which read: “163. Our terms of reference require that the provision should be made in the Constitution for the safeguarding of the special position of the Malays and the legitimate interest of the communities.”
The term used by the commission was clear and direct that illustrates the intention of the Malaysian constitution drafter from having any effect of time limitation as argued. The privileges of JPA scholarship as was inserted in the constitution is safeguard by Sultanates as the keeper of this special position. It means that this scholarship to bumiputra has been put at a secure position to protect the interest of bumiputra. Any due changes then should be make carefully and should not depart from the main objective to help bumiputra develop to a equal status as non-bumiputra.
Moreover, when JPA scholarship was argued it may means to argue the position of the Malay Rulers as guardian of the bumiputra special position to have reservation for scholarship as stated in constitution. Even if there are arguments to bring about the necessary changes to the special position from time to time, it should not be meant only after 50 years of independent because this age is just days from birth period for a nation, and the objective of the privilege given has yet to actualize.
Although it is the current government right to apply what is reasonable or as they think fit in the JPA scholarship policy but the changes should not go against the primary intention of the quotas and reservation to assist bumiputra to a better position in this country. Changes in the recent ratio of the public scholarship are not significant to the spirit of the supreme law. Mere 10 per cent higher is not a privilege, but it shows a sham of an interest group strategy in their social science to cover their weaknesses as policy maker.
ISLAMIC PERSPECTIVE: PRINCIPLE OF PUBLIC INTEREST AND PREVENTION
Islam is too vast as it does not only confine to worship but as a way of life. It governs everything without missing any single function as guidance to the mankind. Similarly, Islamic principle can be invoked on this scholarship issues. Islam has always concerned with public interest as it affect the society at large underneath the concept of maslahah mursalah which mean unrestricted public interest.
Here, when scholarship was made as privileges to the bumiputra it was because the bumiputra according to Reid Commission left behind in many areas including education. When there are contentions that this privilege was injustice as no equal treatment among all races. This is where Islam said the government should always consider the public interest. Scholarship to the bumiputra is a public interest.
This is because in any society, equal treatment especially within the acquisition of the country wealth is important, the bumiputra which are left behind in the share of the wealth due to backwardness need assistance like scholarship for them to acquire knowledge and skills to develop and pull them out of poverty and minimal education level. The concept of public interest is to give justice especially in ensuring the racial harmony in Malaysia when everybody are happy to live not too lesser or too greater than one and another.
Furthermore, Islam has always put the concept of prevention rather than curing. It is principle known as sad dharai. In this concept, it wanted to prevent any negative effect or impact from being materialize by equipping a preventive action before any undesirables result appear. Similarly with privileges given to the bumiputra because the object of giving it was to ensure that bumiputra will not be scotch down with poverty and backwardness while the non-bumiputra that better in economic standing keep on fuelling their pocket that resulted the rich become richer and the poor become poorer. This has given huge impact and bad experienced to Malaysia during racial riot in 1969. This was due to that time there was lack of wealth sharing between the bumiputra and non-bumiputra. Nevertheless, privileges in scholarship because it is not a mere or plain special position given to the bumiputra without justification.
Since education is the tool for development, withdrawing assistance from the bumiputra that needed it to face globalization will probably not in short period materialize the negative impact but to the next generation. The current policy need to represent as a tool of prevention against racial dissatisfaction. Every government policy like the scholarship issues should not be made in consideration and fulfilling only current situation but it also need to cater the future that can be reasonably foreseeable as the past should be sufficient lesson.
-my humble opinion and analysis-