- The Malays were convinced that the racial riots were the result of economic activities, and affluence, of Malaysians in 1969 still being determined by the racial segregation of colonial times, at least for the majority; i.e. Malays were farmers, Chinese were businessmen and Indians were estate workers. Malays pushed for the DEB to address the issue so that "Malaysians are no longer racially segregated by economic activity or affluence".
- In the meantime, the two major minorities, the Chinese and Indians, were fighting for the retention of their identities. Their leaders feared a Malay push for national unity at the expense of their racial and cultural identity, such as was happening in Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines. They hence insisted on the protection and continued support of vernacular schools side-by-side with mainstream education.
- The desires of East Malaysia (Sabah and Sarawak) continued to be protection of their autonomy, with the Bumiputra hence augmenting this with themselves opting into the DEB. Their negotiating position was stronger though as they did not suffer racial riots.
The fight of the major components of BN on the material side have thus been, the advancement of DEB goals for UMNO, the growth of Chinese education for MCA, the protection of a Hindu-centric culture by the MIC (which ironically resulted in them not getting much from the deal from the outset, despite the fact that DEB, on paper, also had benefits where Indians qualify ahead of Malays!) and protection of autonomous rights for the East Malaysian parties.
Gerakan and PPP were funny BN partners in that they were the only parties shouting for a Malaysian Malaysia then and was happy to endorse this agreement for the long term aspiration. They continue to do so to this day whilst becoming increasingly mono-racial themselves.
Post PRU-12, people are running around saying DEB is no longer relevant. I disagree. In fact, I think most Malays still want the bulk of DEB and certainly at most they wish the implementation to be reformed, especially around contracts. Most Malays still want MRSMs and Boarding Schools, scholarships, low cost or discounted housing, etc to remain. I am convinced that DEB is being scape-goated by the Lah-ist regime for the election loss to keep Pak Lah in power.
However, no meaningful debate on the removal of DEB can take place before reverting back to the original social contract. So, will the Chinese and Indians be willing to sacrifice their right to have vernacular schools to get rid of DEB? There are also many reasons for abolishing them. They are, variously:
- Racial in nature,
- Mainly exclusive, with such clear advantage given to Chinese and Indians due to their mother-tongue (ya ya, some Malay kids go to, but we have some Chinese in MRSM and Indians with JPA scholarships too!)
- Draws good resources away from the standard Malay-medium schools, hence contributes to the reduction in overall quality of Malaysian education through structurally unequal distribution of resources
- Polarising the nation by segregating minority races away from a mixed environment, and also resulting in a Malay-centric environment being created in Malay-medium school
- Disrupts efforts to foster national unity through use of a single national language, Bahasa Malaysia, and a unified education system
So, no DEB, no vernacular schools? Sorry if I've upset anyone, I didn't open this door... was it the opposition? Pak Lah?
By the way you guys in East Malaysia, you don't go scot free. You jump to PKR (who wishes to 'modify' DEB... abolish-lah tu...), you open the door to East Malaysia losing its autonomy as per the social contract...
But, to re-emphasise... no DEB, no vernacular schools?