Malaysia – Affirmative Action for the Majority?

Open to Everyone
Free to Attend

2D2 Lecture Room, University of Bristol 8 Woodland Road, BRISTOL, BS8 1TH

Prof Steve Fenton

University of Bristol

Special protection for the ethnic majority – Malaysia – was built into the Independence constitution of Malaysia. The ethnic riots of 1969 turned these protection provisions into a programme of affirmative action for Malaysia. Is this programme still justified in the context of a multi-ethnic and multi-religious Malaysia where disadvantage is also multi-ethnic?


This public talk given by Prof. Steve Fenton and organised by the Dialogue Society in Bristol attracted interest from people with Malaysian and Middle Eastern background. Prof. Fenton started off his talk by going through the history of Malaya (the name of Malaysia before independence) before moving in to the difficulties the country has faced when adopting to a multi-cultural and muti-ethnic society. As an example he gave the 1969 riots which left approximately 2000 dead, mostly Chinese. At present the Malaysian constitution gives privileges to people with Malay background but Malaysia can still be a model for multi-ethnic societies. However there is still a long way to go for it to be a society where everyone is treated equally regardless of their faith and/or ethnicity. Political parties must make it their objective to be more pluralist and acknowledge the diversity that exist in Malaysia.