Why is Malaysia's population so small



Malaysia: economic boom and communalism. - [Electronic ed.]. - Bonn, 1994. - 15 pp. = 51 Kb, text. - (FES analysis)
Electronic ed .: Bonn: EDV -stelle of the FES, 1997

© Friedrich Ebert Foundation


The cultural and ethnic heterogeneity of the population shapes the socio-economic and political situation in Malaysia: The Chinese (approx. 30%) and Indians (approx. 8%) are under pressure from the Muslim Malay majority, but without any conflicts that could endanger the state.

The boom economy of the last 20 years with growth rates e.g. 1987-1994 averaging 8.7% has reduced the income differences between richer non-Malays and the Malay population and changed the structures of the economy, the labor market, the social stratification and the political elite.

Malaysia is no longer a low-wage country, but a shortage of labor and deficits in the training system will create risky bottlenecks for further dynamic development in the future.

Parallel to the enforced Malay policy - secured at the central state level by a party alliance dominated by the UMNO party - an Islamic state of its own is developing. Tactical and controlled Islamization on the part of the government, pressure from fundamentalist forces, the constraints of economic and social modernization as well as the ethnically, culturally, linguistically and religiously inconsistent population result in a tension that has so far been balanced.

Under the leadership of Finance Minister Anwar, a moderately Malay and not fundamentalist but Islamic-oriented team of young technocrats is ready to soon take over the power of the almost 70-year-old Prime Minister Mahathir. However, a fundamentally new policy is not to be expected.

Key facts at a glance

Malaysia is rightly regarded as an ethnically heterogeneous and multicultural country which (with the exception of 1969) succeeded in preventing communalist tensions from escalating, mediating it in a justifiable manner and achieving broad-based growth over decades. The communalist politics, which is always and primarily power and distribution politics, appears as a tightrope walk between pacification and yet possible escalation. Raison d'etre of the state is the claim of the Malays (probably 51% of the population), as an indigenous Bumiputeras ("Sons of the Earth") to exercise political hegemony over the immigrant Chinese (30.7%) and the Indians (8.3%) and to use this - since 1970 - for economic equality.

The actual indigenous population, the Proto-Malays, in East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) about 55% of the local population (9% of the total population), can hardly be deprived of these special rights. In numerical terms, they increase the proportion of Bumiputeras in the total population even further. However, the Proto-Malays differ in many ways from the Malays (language, culture, religion) and also from each other. Most of them have not developed a sense of identity of their own within the larger ethnic associations in which they are grouped. Only the mostly Christian Kadazan in Sabah developed this against the dominating Malays. This peaceful rebellion and identity-finding at the ballot boxes and through the formation of a kadazan-led opposition government in Sabah came to an end in 1994.

The definition of Malayism is not possible without recourse to culture and tradition. Important components are the Islamic faith, the Malay language and the traditional order of sultan's rule, which shape the Malay identity. Islam was declared the state religion, the Malay language was enforced, at the expense of English and Chinese, in education and in public life. The rights of the sultan's families in nine of the thirteen federal states were respected, their position was constitutionally protected, and the state was organized as a federal, constitutional, elective monarchy. The political process takes place through communally organized and institutionalized mass parties. An alliance of these parties governs, each opposed to the communalist opposition parties. The latter must necessarily articulate the interests of their "community" more sharply than the respective governing parties and thus justify their structural incapacity to govern, since they are unable or very difficult to form coalitions or cooperate with one another.

The decision on the exercise of power is made in pluralistic, free, secret, but unfairly designed elections in which the governing parties always knew how to prevail. It is important that the opposition parties are usually only weakly represented in parliament due to the majority voting system, but that their share of the vote is always considerable and that they are always close on the heels of their communalist opponents in the government. This forces the Malay UMNO party to always think about the broad impact of its (development) policy.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the UMNO underwent a gradual structural change. Up until then, party and government policy had been determined by members of the nobility and the old elites who were educated in the West (Jura, Cambridge, Golf and Polo) and who relied on the village elites (village school teachers). From 1970 onwards they were forced to enforce the Malay policy, but they nevertheless pursued an all in all conciliatory policy towards the elites of the other ethnic groups. The enormous economic boom with industrialization and urbanization, the forced expansion and expansion of the education system as well as the expansion of the state sector led to the rise of non-aristocratic and previously non-wealthy academics who were trained in the country or region and who began to occupy the political heights of command in the party and pressed for the strengthening of Malay prerogatives for the benefit of her and her ethnic group. This group is personified by Prime Minister (since 1981) Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, a doctor trained in Singapore who was temporarily excluded from the party a decade before he took office as a Malay radical. In the 1980s, Mahathir barely survived a domestic power struggle against a representative of the old guard, the uncle of the Sultan of Kelantan. At that time the party split, and for the first time an opposition alliance led by the dissidents seemed to be able to replace the governing coalition. In the 1992 elections, however, the decision was again made in favor of the governing coalition. The UMNO has now been able to consolidate again. Many dissidents returned to the victor's lap.

Under Mahathir, the ruling party alliance experienced a decisive change. Before it was essentially a coalition in which the smaller parties negotiated with the dominant party, the hegemonic character of the alliance became increasingly clear: the decisions were made in the UMNO and communicated to the other parties. Although they are free to leave the alliance, they have little chance of survival in the opposition, as their function there has already been fulfilled.

Mahathir is an exponent of the Malays, but at the same time a technocrat who knows that special rights are of little use if the economic boom does not increase the scope for distribution and economic structural change does not secure it in the long term. This repeatedly opens up tensions and zones of conflict that affect the cultural identity of the Malays and the other ethnic groups, economic growth and thus the stability of the political order. The generation change that was brought about by the rise of Anwar Ibrahim to the second man in the party and the government and thus to the probable successor of Mahathir in 1993 will not change this.

Boom economy and social integration of the ethnic groups

The Human Development Report of 1994 highlights Malaysia as one of the relatively few multi-ethnic societies that has achieved high growth and a significant improvement in the economic and social position of the previously poor ethnic groups.

The Growth of the economy Malaysia is impressive indeed. In the 1970s it was 7.9% p.a., 1980-1992 it was on average significantly lower at 5.9% due to the 1985/86 recession, but it is still quite acceptable in an international comparison. It was thus also well above the population growth of 2.4-2.5% pa, which is still high by Asian standards, which, unlike in neighboring countries, could not be reduced in the past decades and its decline to 2% only in the current period Decade is expected. The growth drivers were initially the diversifying oil, raw materials and agricultural export sectors, then increasingly the export industries. Exports (11.3% p.a.) and the manufacturing industry (10%) experienced double-digit growth rates from 1980 to 1992.

Economy and society were subject to a considerable Structural change: the share of industry (manufacturing) in GDP increased from 13% (1970) to 20% (1980), 27% (1990) and 30% (1993). The share of the agricultural sector decreased accordingly from 31% (1970) to 23% (1980) and 19% (1990). Due to the different productivities, the share of employment in the manufacturing sector only rose to 15.8% (1980) and 17.8% (1990) and remained at 38.7% (1980) and 30.3% (1990) in the agricultural sector. which, however, also lost its former dominance on the income side. The internationalization and full capitalization of the economy, which was traditionally more important than in the other countries of the region due to the plantation and mining sector, which was already important in the colonial era, was deepened even further: the share of exports of goods and services in GNP increased from 45 % (1970) to 71% (1987) and almost 89% (1992). The share of wage earners in total employment rose significantly again in the 1970s (1970: 48%, 1980: 60%), but has since stagnated at this high level (1989: 61.9%, entrepreneurs: 4% (1970, 1980) and 3.3% (1989)).

Much investment in heavy and basic industries by state-owned companies was through borrowing and borrowing in the first half of the 1980s Indebtedness funded abroad. During this period, foreign debt rose from US $ 6.6 billion (1980, 28% of GDP) to $ 22.8 billion (1987, 77% of GDP). After the recession (1985-1986) one began with a z. Partly early repayment of foreign debts (to $ 17.8 billion or 40% of GNP, 1991). In 1992 and 1993 the nominal debt was expanded again somewhat. However, the total debt of $ 19.8 billion (1992) is offset by foreign exchange reserves of $ 18 billion (1991: 11.7 billion), which have since been increased significantly (Dec. 1993: $ 27.4 billion, 1994: 34.9 billion). The debt service (Share of exports of goods and services) had just exceeded the critical limit at 21.2% in 1987, is now relatively insignificant (1991: 7.6%, 1992: 6.6%). That means: Although some loans were not used economically, many flowed into risky, initially deficit and often only medium and long-term profitable projects, they were repaid from the overall dynamics of the economic boom, to which these certainly also contributed.

After the crisis in the mid-1980s, the malaise targets of corporate wealth were tacitly overridden, and in 1987 the investment rules for FDI were liberalized and generally considerably improved. The result was a private investment boom by both domestic and foreign entrepreneurs, which increased economic growth between 1987 and 1994 to an average of 8.7% p.a.

While new debt totaled $ 9.2 billion from 1985 to 1988 and was reduced to $ 7.8 billion from 1989 to 1992 (with a combined outflow of capital and interest payments of $ 19.4 billion and $ 14 billion, respectively), Incoming direct investment rose from a combined $ 2.3 billion (85/88) to $ 13 billion (89/92), offset by outflows of profits of $ 4.5 billion and $ 8 billion, respectively.

The peak of foreign investment interest was marked in 1990 when investments of $ 10.5 billion were approved and $ 2.3 billion realized. Since then, the approved investments have flattened to (1992) $ 6.9 billion (current inflow: 4.1 billion) and in 1993, to $ 2.3 billion, experienced a worrying drop for Malaysian standards.

This may have global economic (competition from other investment countries, decline in all foreign investments) and home-made causes (1992 discussion about a renewed promotion of the Bumiputera share, bottlenecks in the infrastructure due to symptoms of overheating). The government responded promptly. The 1993/94 budget took into account tax improvements for corporate profits and reinvestments, tax exemptions for research and development companies, technology projects, as well as for tourism companies and foreign investments by Malaysian entrepreneurs. Spending on infrastructure in the transport, energy and communications sectors increased by 28%. In the first seven months of 1994, the approved new investments of $ 2.8 billion exceeded that of the entire previous year ($ 2.3 billion). In the 1990s, about 55% of the approved investments in the corporate sector came from abroad, and 45% came from domestic private capital.

What is important is the broad impact of all this economic activity: Employment rose by 3.7% in the 1970s and by 2.8% p.a. from 1980 to 1992. The income of employees is said to have increased annually by an average of 2% and 2.4% respectively. Unemployment, which was officially rather too high, fell from 8.5% (1986) to 6% (1990) and 3% (1993). This means that there is full employment and acute labor shortages in low-paid and inhospitable occupations, such as on the plantations and in the construction sector, but also in the skilled workers, engineering and management sectors. Today 430,000 foreign workers legally work in the low-wage jobs, mainly from Indonesia, Bangladesh, the Philippines, and, despite amnesty and registration offers, several hundred thousand illegally (in West Malaysia allegedly 200,000, in Sabah probably significantly more). In September 1994 it was agreed that another 50,000 workers, doctors and nurses would be recruited into Bangladesh each year. The need for academics is z. This is partly covered by the immigration of unemployed British people who are willing to work in Malaysia for the local salaries (and without a foreign allowance). These are now in the skilled academic sector, close to what is paid in the UK.

Despite significant investments in the Education and training There are still numerous illiterate people (1990: 22%, 30% among women), there are still relatively few employees with a tertiary education, most of them are in the non-economically relevant cultural, legal and social sciences and too few engineering and natural sciences and studied business administration. Generous scholarship programs and quotas for bumiputeras were awarded solely on the basis of need and ethnicity, not qualification, until 1983, and jobs for the often moderately qualified graduates were reserved in the extremely bloated administration and public sector.

These deficits in the training system form essential obstacles for the future growth and the necessary development of increasingly capital-intensive, more productive and technology-intensive productions, which are needed since Malaysia has long since ceased to be at the level of a purely low-wage country and the labor shortage affects wages and so that unit labor costs will drive up. A necessary substantial increase in the still low mass income is only possible through a simultaneous increase in labor productivity, since it must be realized through the world market.

The official statistics show a significant decrease in income earners below the poverty line from 46% (1976) to 17% (1990) of all households, and absolute poverty to around 2%. The poor population is distributed differently from region to region. Their share of the total population is highest in Sabah at 34% and is still around 30% in the predominantly rural and Malay-populated states of Trenganu, Kelantan and Kedah. These data suggest that the relatively poor are mainly found among the smallholder Bumiputeras.

However, it should not be overlooked that the New Economic Policy, which was introduced in 1970 and officially ended in 1990, helped many Bumiputeras to move from the country to the city into modern self-employed, entrepreneurs, and academics by granting grants and licenses, preferring loans and assignments and protecting quotas etc. to switch. In this way, academic, management and entrepreneurial positions are very often filled with sub-optimally qualified and motivated Malay climbers who are often not exposed to performance-promoting competition through protection, quotas and pensions, which ultimately paid for by the non-Bumiputeras and possibly with Growth losses must be bought. Nevertheless: The incomes of the beneficiary Bumiputeras grew faster than those of the other ethnic groups.Large fortunes were acquired at a narrow peak, but the breadth of middle income earners was also expanded and the income of lower income earners was e.g. T. raised. However, all the data indicate that the incomes of the bumiputeras have not yet reached that of the Chinese, who also benefited from the growth, although the gap has narrowed. The social peace between the ethnic groups could be preserved. However, tensions arise again and again and are usually decided in favor of the Bumiputeras. Nonetheless, the danger to ethnic and social peace does not come from the other ethnic groups, but rather from the Bumiputeras, who are themselves fighting for their own identity. This will be shown using the example of some recent developments.

Bumiputera privileges and economic optimization

The high economic growth allows leeway for distribution, in which, to varying degrees, almost everyone can participate. A clear flattening or even a prolonged slump in growth would certainly make communalist relations much more difficult, since any form of common "national" identity was actually not developed. In future, however, high economic growth will be less and less able to build on the natural comparative advantages of the country, but will increasingly have to rely on technological competence and economic efficiencyin order to set themselves apart from the low-wage countries that are moving up and to catch up with the emerging countries of the first generation or to be able to conquer their now abandoned place. Bumiputera privileges, which justify the misallocation and inefficient use of resources that do not seek to create a greater performance potential by broadening equal opportunities, are increasingly less compatible with these requirements. Basically, the Bumiputera funding is looking for one so far The result is equality of ethnicities, not equality of opportunities to achieve. The result was a large number of entrepreneurs focused solely on the appropriation of state pensions and not exactly performance-oriented academics who seek the warmth of state administration.

Mahathir and Anwar Ibrahim, who emerged as radical exponents of Malay prerogatives and still quite rightly understand each other today, recognized the danger, although the crisis of 1985/86 gave this insight particular impetus. The policy of liberalization, privatization, the future limitation of the quantitative growth of the administration, the conversion of the promotion of Bumiputera companies and of students also to performance criteria, the task of the goal to drastically increase the Bumiputera share in modern productive assets (1970 - 1990 An increase from 2% to 30% was aimed for, in fact 20% were officially reached, which in the meantime (1992) should have crumbled again to 18.2%) are all going in the right direction and understandably find support not only among the Bumiputeras.

An important problem is that Language question: As is well known, language is an important key to defining the identity of an ethnic group. In a multicultural society, there are also considerable competitive advantages if one's own mother tongue can be used as the medium of communication. The Malays were able to enforce their mother tongue as the mandatory state language. Since the 1970s, only Malay has been allowed to be taught in public schools and universities. Entry into the public service is linked to proof of appropriate language skills. In 1990, Malay was made mandatory at the Supreme Court. This policy is directed against the Chinese and Indians who were forced to use this foreign language in public life. The proportion of the population who can communicate in Malay is said to have increased from 71% (1970) to 89% (1980, new data are not available).

This policy was also at the expense of English, the quantitative spread of which was expanded further (1970: 14%, 1980: 23%), but whose quality is said to have deteriorated in many cases - especially among the academically educated Malays. This opens up the conflict between the state-national society - in which one of the local languages ​​can be enforced against other local languages ​​- and the transnational society, in which Malaysia is also integrated through its extremely internationalized economy. International (business) language is English. A good and widely spread knowledge of English gives you a competitive advantage over countries where the elites and middle classes mainly speak local languages.

The consequence of this tension between state-national and transnational society is that the wealthy and educated non-Bumiputeras, who are actively discriminated against by this language and educational policy in favor of the Malays, have found a way to turn their disadvantage into an advantage. Since the quota system only allows relatively few of them to study at the seven state universities (with a total of 60,000 students), many go to foreign universities in mostly English-speaking countries (USA, Great Britain, Australia - well ahead of Egypt, which has around 40,000 students of all ethnicities to study). However, the costs are considerable and the majority of the non-Bumiputeras have to be raised privately. Many children from the not so wealthy middle classes therefore attend private colleges in Malaysia. These can be taught in English, but their exams are not recognized by the government. These private universities have therefore concluded cooperation agreements with foreign universities, which allow them to issue foreign diplomas or enable students to complete their undergraduate studies in Malaysia and the main studies at the foreign partner university in a cost-saving manner.

The better English language skills give the non-Malays a competitive advantage in the private sector, where they are preferentially recruited and can advance more easily than the Malays with only broken English. Mahathir has recognized these problems and is trying to take countermeasures - certainly not without resistance from Malay ultras. Teaching in English was tacitly allowed again at state universities in 1993. Attempts are made to internationalize them by accepting foreign students. Ultimately, their reception capacities have to be expanded considerably and their standards raised. In 1994/95 all education expenditure was increased to 24% of the state budget (1991: 20%, 1980: 13%).

Multicultural and / or political conflicts

What actually is a Bumiputera ("son of the earth")? The local Malay population sees themselves as Bumiputera and thus establishes their prerogatives over the immigrant population from China and India. Muslim immigrants from Indonesia, in 1957 4.5% of the population of Malaysia (44.6% were Malay, 0.7% "indigenous people"), are also considered Bumiputeras and are no longer recorded separately in the census. The majority of the Indonesians immigrated later than the Malay Chinese ("Baba Chinese") and the small Portuguese community that came into the country half a millennium ago, neither of which have Bumiputera status (the Portuguese are trying to get it!).

The actual indigenous people, the Proto-Malays, which include very different cultural, linguistic and ethnic groups, have older rights than the Malays. In West Malaysia ("Orang Asli") they are almost insignificant and marginalized with 50,000 members. In Sarawak and Sabah they are probably still in the majority, but will soon become a minority in Sabah due to the immigration of Muslim Filipinos and Indonesians. This part of the population is granted Bumiputera status. By joining the federation, the residents of Sabah and Sarawak were also able to negotiate a number of other special rights. Until recently, this population did not actually have any kind of supra-local sense of identity with tradition, which referred to a tribe, ethnic group, "nation". In Sabah, this was only actively promoted by Christianized academics in the 50s and 60s who tried to spread the local Kadazan dialect among the Dusun from an area near the state capital Kota Kinabalu and to establish a common Kadazan identity. The Kadazan held local power when they entered the state (1963), but soon lost it.

In Sabah - unlike in West Malaysia - multi-ethnic parties formed in which Christian Kadazan were represented, but who were dominated by Muslims and Malays who joined the federal coalition ("National Front") in Kuala Lumpur as governing parties Federalization of the country bureaucracy: In the 1980s only 19 departments were controlled by the government in Kota Kinabalu and 51 by the federal government in Kuala Lumpur (1963: 13). An active Muslim mission policy with clear discrimination against Christians, an active language policy to enforce Malian at the expense of Kadazan and the other languages, but also an education and development policy that significantly increased the number of non-Malay bumiputeras with modern training, were also part of the policy to.

The non-Malays saw themselves marginalized and threatened to be marginalized in numbers by the officially tolerated immigration of Filipinos and Indonesians. The census no longer records their strength. Together with the Malays and the immigrants mentioned, they are melted down in the "pribumi" (= Bumiputera) category. The dissatisfied elements gathered in the Kadazan Cultural Association, which was founded in 1963 and which has enjoyed great popularity since the early 1980s. The annual harvest festival, which was previously only celebrated locally, but was now held centrally with nationwide participation, became important for the formation of cultural and, ultimately, political identity. The first and the penultimate chief minister (Donald Stephens, Pairin Kitigan) were elected by the chiefs of the Kadazan as chief chief, a position that did not exist before and that actually has no tradition.

The recession that began in Sabah in 1982 and has not yet been completely overcome (economic growth is well below that of the state as a whole) and which made the employment opportunities of the trained residents of Sabah increasingly thinner, gave their ethnic-cultural identity formation and resentment towards the development controlled by Kuala Lumpur, which has often been characterized as a colonial relationship (raw materials: crude oil, wood for industrial goods, net outflow from the state), additional impulses.

Resentment against Kuala Lumpur and the hegemony of the Malay Muslims was not limited to the Kadazan, but was also carried by other ethnic groups. Under the leadership of the Australian trained lawyer and former minister, the Catholic Kadazan Joseph Pairin Kitigan, the United Sabah Party (PBS) was founded, a multi-ethnic party that won 53% of the seats in the state parliament in 1985 with 36% of the vote .

The open conflict between the central government in Kuala Lumpur, i.e. the ruling party UMNO, which ruled the "National Front", and the PBS has been shaping the political climate between the central government and the opposition Sabah for almost ten years now. The party and government led by the Christian Kadazan was impressively confirmed in elections in 1986 and 1990 and was only subject to the massive interventions, manipulations and intrigues of the UMNO in 1994: Since March 1994, the UMNO has ruled Kota Kinabalu with an ethnically structured seven-party alliance , the financial and administrative power of the central government, racist arguments, ruthless use of the media and the purchase of MPs have all led to a questionable change of power.

Identity formation through Islam and re-Islamization

The identity of the Malays is determined and shaped by Islam. As a Malay one can practically not belong to any other religion or renounce Islam. Although the other religions are tolerated, Islam is the state religion. Although the Malays are practicing Muslims, Islam was by no means the focus of public and private life. It was only the structural distortions and shifts in the economic boom that brought many Malay peasant sons and daughters to the city and the universities, the unevenness of the boom, that led to a re-Islamization movement on the social base from the end of the 1960s and 1970s, especially among the Malay students. This Dakwah movement is very diverse. It comprises rather apolitical self-centered communities that try to practice a godly life, youth and student movements that address the oppression and exploitation by the ruling secular class, radicals who demand the establishment of an Islamic republic, an Islamic state. These movements were radicalized through the study of many Malay students abroad, including at English universities, where they came into contact with fundamentalist movements from other countries. The problem was first brought to the attention of the political elite when Prime Minister Hussein Onn, in the mid-1970s, picked up his daughter from the airport from a study trip to England and met him dressed in traditional Islamic hijab. From now on, hijab-clad women from Milan should increasingly shape the cityscape, universities and authorities.

The radicalizing Dakwah movement questioned a core point of the ideology of the UMNO and the government led by it, which has now been denounced as "un-Islamic". Mahathir (as deputy prime minister from 1976 and premier from 1981) tries to reduce the target areas for the Islamists and the Malay opposition - the PAS, which also re-Islamized itself and called for the introduction of an Islamic state and Sharia - and himself to be at the forefront of re-Islamization in order to control it. To this end, he uses a rather symbolic policy, such as renaming the Red Cross to the Red Crescent, the increased construction of mosques, the establishment of an Islamic bank, Islamic pawn shops, an Islamic insurance company, an Islamic hospital and the upgrading of Islamic judges and courts. Concrete steps were also taken to enforce ideological hegemony. An Islamic training center and an Islamic university were established. The range of religious programs on radio and television was expanded considerably. Compulsory courses on Islam and Islamic culture were introduced at all high schools and universities. Government employees of all denominations are required to attend courses on Islamic law, and finally an Islamic think tank, the Malaysian Institute for Islamic Understanding (from the Malay acronym: IKIM), was founded in 1992 to promote an "Islamic work ethic" through the organization of seminars, television discussions and publications "to define and to interpret and disseminate government policy in the Islamic sense. Foreign policy also emphasizes the Islamic: early upgrading of the PLO representation to an embassy, ​​support for the Palestinians through conferences, in international bodies and international politics, and also argumentatively in the media. On television, the state name "Israel" is avoided in favor of "Zionists" or the "Tel Aviv regime". Films that could arouse sympathy for the Jews by addressing the Holocaust are not approved by the censors, as was recently the case with "Schindler's List"; However, at the instigation of Anwar Ibrahim's, the ban was lifted. While Israeli Prime Minister Rabin was in neighboring Djakarta in October 1993 to negotiate an improvement in relations with this Islamic state, Malaysia is currently delaying normalization of relations with Israel until the peace process in the Middle East is completed. The conflicts in the former Yugoslavia clearly took sides with Bosnia and took in Muslim refugees.

All in all, this is more than just a symbolic policy, but it has been considered that the economic growth opportunities are not negatively affected: The passion for betting and gambling of the Malay and non-Malay Malaysians, which is hardly a concern of devout Muslims, is only attempted to hinder, for example, not really to prevent it. For a long time no new licenses for betting and gaming companies or new betting offices have been issued. Since 1983, a plaque at the entrance of the Gentine casino has announced that the Sultan of Pahang has forbidden Malaysian Muslims entry: the ban apparently does not apply to foreign Muslims. Genting still ranks sixth of all Malaysian companies on the Kuala Lumpur Stock Exchange (1994 value of shares: $ 5.9 billion) and is owned by four other betting and gaming companies, whose total market value is 10% of that of the Company traded on the stock exchange. The betting and gambling sector is one of the most lucrative and fastest growing industries at 20% per year (sales of $ 2.3 billion, 1993).The state, of course, earns a lot, in 1993 its income was estimated at $ 390 million. He also tries to get companies to donate to non-profit and charitable organizations. Nevertheless: The betting and gambling companies amass an enormous amount of money, which is said to amount to a total of $ 1 billion and which, since an expansion of the industry is not possible in the country, they are accumulating in betting and gambling abroad or in non-industry areas in Malaysia try to invest.

For radical Muslims there are enough starting points for criticism and possibly also for fanatical actions. The government tried to monitor developments by establishing an Islamic Center (Pusat Islam) with a National Council for Islamic Affairs, a National Islamic Research Center, to which a Dakwah Institute and a Koran Institute were later added regulate (preachers in the mosques should be approved by the center) and also restrict them through repressive measures (through arrests without a court judgment under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Occasionally there are militant clashes between the police and smaller fundamentalist groups, which result in deaths and injuries, but which have so far remained limited.

Among the fundamentalist movements, the one founded in 1968 has Sect Dural Arqam (for example: residence of Arqam, a companion of Muhammad) took the most remarkable development. Its founder and leader is a former religion teacher in a state school, Ashaari Muhamad (now 57 years old), who wants to prepare an Islamic state by founding the most self-centered Islamic communities in which the rules of the Koran should be lived. The sect members dress in black Arab robes, turban, sandals or Purdah for women. In 1977 Ashaari pushed through the advocacy of polygamy (he himself has four wives and almost 40 children today), which at the time, however, led to a considerable wave of emigration. To date, the sect is said to have built 48 communities in Malaysia with around 10,000 members, who maintain 257 schools and numerous clinics and are active with 417 companies in Malaysia and another sixteen countries (from Uzbekistan to England to China). These are in the food manufacturing and processing sectors, restaurants, taxi and transport companies, real estate and service companies, etc. The fixed assets of companies in Malaysia are believed to be approximately $ 116 million.

Dorul Arqam tries to differentiate himself from the opposition party PAS and the youth movement ABIM, with which one competes for the same clientele, especially rural students with an anti-establishment orientation. The UMNO government therefore accompanied the sect with goodwill at times. In 1981 Mahathier praised it as a "genuinely Islamic movement". Only when Anwar Ibrahim entered the government (1982) did accusations of heresy begin. From the end of the 1980s, more and more of her writings were indexed. Ashaari went into voluntary exile abroad in 1988 and stayed mostly in a luxury hotel in Chiang Mai, Thailand. The sect was increasingly perceived as a threat and in August 1994 it was finally banned, its schools closed and the products manufactured by its companies prohibited from bearing their logo. In September 1994 Ashaari was deported from Thailand to Malaysia, where he was arrested. The Islamic Center founded by the government should decide what should finally happen to the sect.

Founded in 1971, it was and is more moderate than Darul Arqam Malaysian Islamic Youth Movement (Malay acronym: ABIM), which regards the ritual aspects of Islam, including clothing (the women wear the hijab, the men, however, western clothing), as secondary, and the Islamization of the economic, legal and educational system more socio-economic justice, restriction of state arbitrariness and corruption, enforcement of civil rights occurs. Co-founder, leading exponent and president 1974-1982 was Anwar Ibrahim (born 1947). Anwar, whose father had already been a member of the UMNO parliament and parliamentary state secretary, studied Malay in Kuala Lumpur and was actually also a product of the worldwide student movement of the '68, except that in Malaysia one did not study Marx and Mao, but the Koran. In 1974 Anwar Ibrahim ended up in prison for 22 months in prison for his agitation among the poor farmers in Kedah under the ISA, without trial. ABIM was close to the opposition party PAS, with which it cooperated again and again. Mahathir's move to run Anwar for parliamentary candidacy for the general elections in March 1982 and then to accept him into his government was like a bang at the time and had the purpose of co-opting a moderate exponent of the Islamic movement and with him the already initiated controlled Islamization to advance.

The question of succession: Anwar ante portas

After Anwar changed sides, ABIM became less and less important. In the student parliaments, the association was ousted by the "Islamic Republic" group. Anwar rose in the UMNO and in the government, initially with the support of Mahathir, and finally on his own, and is now ready to take on the most important offices himself.

He began in 1982 as a deputy minister in the office of the prime minister and was elected chairman of the party youth in the same year, so far an influential lobby for the climbers and for the radical implementation of Malay prerogatives and career opportunities. Soon he was able to rise to the position of Minister for Culture, Youth and Sport, followed by the management of the Ministry of Agriculture and, in 1986, the takeover of the first important ministry (education). In 1991 he became Minister of Finance. These are stations and years of apprenticeship on the way to the highest office for which Mahathir apparently wanted to prepare him. At the crisis party conference in 1987, he rose as a follower to one of four vice-presidents of the party.

However, the actual successor candidate for the party chairman and prime minister was the deputy party chairman, who is also the deputy prime minister. Ghafar Baba moved into this position in 1987, who was also a follower of Mahathir during the party crisis. Ghafar, a former teacher and more of a representative of the old membership base, is about the same age as Mahathir (both were 69 years old in 1994) and - like him - also had a heart condition (both had to undergo a bypass operation). Ghafar felt comfortable in the position of second man in the party and government and no longer had the ambition to take the first place. Mahathir, who is not yet showing any signs of exhaustion and who, like his predecessor Hussein Onn, does not intend to resign for health reasons for the time being, appreciates this arrangement with Ghafar, as it largely leaves him free to decide for himself when he may want to resign.

Apparently Anwar did not want to wait that long, but at least wanted to clarify the question of his successor beyond any doubt, especially since the other two vice-presidents of the UMNO, Defense Minister Badawi and Agriculture Minister Junid, were also hoping for the highest office. Conscious of power and with the support of the press of his followers, he began his informal campaign, secured the support of almost all 153 party divisions and forced Ghafar Baba to resign because there was no prospect of success. Quite against the will of party leader Mahathir, Anwar was able to occupy all important positions at the party congress in autumn 1993 with his so-called "Vision Team" under the party presidency, to acquire a majority in the 25-member party executive and to completely dismantle his possible competitors.

This alliance of forty-year-olds is now ready to take full power in the UMNO and thus in the government and the state under Anwar's leadership. It will be interesting to see whether the "team" will leave the timing to Mahathir or try to force or force his resignation. Before the general parliamentary elections in 1995, however, hardly anything will be decided. A change of course under Anwar is not to be expected. Although he has recently tried to distinguish himself in nuances towards Mahathir through greater conciliation and commitment in his demeanor, especially towards western states, at best a slightly different political style, but not a new policy, can be expected.


© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | March 1998