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The Defence of Ethnic Identity in Malaysia

The changing dynamics of interstate conflict in the post-Cold War environment led scholars to debate the relevance of established security theory. While traditionalists maintained that the state-centric theory should retain its primacy, others argued for a security agenda, not only broadened or widened to include other sectors, but one deepened or extended to include the individual and larger societal groupings as referent objects of security. In the 1990s, the Copenhagen Peace Research Institute developed a reformulated and expanded security agenda which recognized five dimensions of security – political, military, economic, environmental and societal. Societal security has been defined as the defence of identity with identity accepted as the way in which communities think about themselves and the manner in which individuals identify themselves as members of a particular community. The Institute’s research on societal security was further expanded by Paul Roe in his 2005 study on ethnic conflict in the Balkan states. The determination of successive Malaysian governments to inculcate Islamic values throughout its infrastructure and society was borne from the inter-communal violence in May 1969, a civil reaction to the unexpected election results. The loss of parliamentary majority, for so long the domain of the Malays, confirmed a significant shift in political power and the increasingly influential role of the non-Malay voice in the political process. The inter-ethnic hostility resulted in a Federation-wide state of emergency and the suspension of parliamentary democracy for 20 months during which time the country was led by the National Operations Council under the leadership of Tun Abdul Razak. The National Operations Council and subsequent administrations progressively introduced policy to restore Malay political supremacy and redress societal imbalance. Despite the obvious success of Malaysia’s social transformation, research has indicated that policy introduced to lessen the economic and social inequality of the Malays has, in effect, led to a polarising of ethnicities. Political historians and analysts are mindful that increasing ethnic tension along with tacit ethnic segregation are salient reminders of the violence of the 1969 ethnic riots. With the theoretical framework on societal security provided by the CPRI, this thesis proposes to analyse the impact of the post-1969 political paradigm on Malaysian society with particular focus on inter-societal relations.
Type of thesis
Jones-Leaning, M. (2010). The Defence of Ethnic Identity in Malaysia (Thesis, Master of Arts (MA)). University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/5600
University of Waikato
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