M for Malaysia

Malaysia has a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society. The original culture of the area stemmed from indigenous communities that inhabited the land, along with the Malays who later moved there. Substantial influence exists from Chinese and Indian culture, dating back to when foreign trade began during the British colonization.

Malaysia has a multi-ethnic, multicultural, and multilingual society. The original culture of the area stemmed from indigenous communities that inhabited the land, along with the Malays who later moved there. Substantial influence exists from Chinese and Indian culture, dating back to when foreign trade began during the British colonization.

Malays make up 60% of its population, followed by those of Chinese and Indian origins, and other indigenous groups of various ethnicities including various indigenous groups in the Borneo states of Sabah and Sarawak. The racial diversity in Malaysia is what makes it unique but it also leaves room for politicians to divide and conquer. The representation of the three main races, Malay, Chinese and Indian is evident in politics. The longest ruling party Barisan Nasional is a coalition of UMNO (United Malays National Organisation), MCA (Malaysia Chinese Association) & MIC (Malaysian Indian Congress) although UMNO is the most dominant component.

Although the opposition parties in Malaysia are not strictly racial-based but they are similarly divided, with the DAP (Democratic Action Party) associated with the Chinese and PAS (Malaysian Islamic Party) and PKR (Parti Keadilan Rakyat) with the Malays. This racial and populist approach by political parties has been in place since independence but gradually it has become more untenable especially when greed and corruption has abused the otherwise tenuous agreement signed by Malaysia’s founding fathers in 1957. Over time the opposition parties formed the coalition Pakatan Rakyat and fought against Barisan Nasional and began to win over support slowly. However, over time the Alliance crumbled and another coalition- Pakatan Harapan was formed with new surprising developments and parties involved.