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Malaysia plans scholarships free from racial rules

Malaysia plans scholarships free from racial rules

Malaysia has announced a plan to award student scholarships regardless of race, but critics said Monday the move is not enough to soothe minorities' anger against government privileges for the country's majority Malays.
Prime Minister Najib Razak announced late Saturday that the government will set up "National Scholarships" starting next year that will help "all bright children, be they Malays, Chinese, Indians or others."
State scholarships are generally offered according to ethnic quotas. For example, the government gives about 2,000 scholarships each year to students going to foreign universities, but roughly 55 percent are reserved for Malays, who comprise nearly two-thirds of Malaysia's 28 million people.
The country set up a wide-ranging affirmative action program in the early 1970s to help Malays catch up with the more affluent ethnic Chinese minority, who make up about a quarter of the population. The policies also enable Malays to buy homes at reduced prices and enter business through rules requiring many companies to be partly Malay-owned.
Najib, who took power in April, says affirmative action is still needed but can be diluted. He has pledged more racial fairness to placate minorities, who have overwhelmingly shed their support for the National Front ruling coalition in recent years.
The government recently got rid of a requirement for 30-percent Malay ownership in sectors such as health and transport to lure more foreign investment. Najib is expected to announce further liberalization for the property sector and stock exchange Tuesday.
Najib said authorities will reveal details later of the new scholarships, which are expected to complement the current system and not replace it.
Opposition politicians said the move might not add up to much if only a few scholarships are given out, and if the scholarships are to lower-quality universities.
"It is taken with a heavy pinch of salt after repeated disappointments with previous promises of meritocracy," said Lim Kit Siang, a top leader in the ethnic Chinese-dominated Democratic Action Party.


Updated : 2021-04-17 02:46 GMT+08:00