Governance and Development : A Perspective On Malaysia's New Economic Policy (1971-1990)

Garoot Suleiman Eissa,


Malaysia gained its independence from Britain in 1957. On the eve of its independence the country was counted among the poor countries; yet it was economically better off than most newly independent countries. Among Asian countries it ranked next only to Japan and South Korea in terms of income per capita. (Emsley 1998) Yet, we find that the specter of eminent ethnic conflict loomed large as a paramount problem facing the newly independent country. The ethnic situation was a direct result of the legacy of centuries of British colonialism, whose main concern was to tap the country's rich minerals potential. Thus, the British imported workers from China to work in the mining industry and from India to work in plantations. Then they encouraged each ethnic group to maintain its own cultural identity and traditions and to remain isolated from the other as well as from the indigenous groups (Bumiputera). Presumably, the purpose was to thwart any inter-ethnic cooperation between the three main ethnicities against the colonialists.

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