19 October, 2017

Malacca And Lanka: What A contrast!

By Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

Prof Kumar David

Puzzling differences between Peninsular Malaya and Lanka – Malacca and Lanka: What a contrast!

A question often asked is why racial and religious relations in Malaysia, in contrast to Lanka, are relaxed and communities more tolerant of each other; comparatively of course. Recently while in Malacca, I was similarly interrogated by a nubile and durian addicted female. Malacca’s history does resemble Lanka’s, but now exhibits this distinction sharply. Having mulled it over I intend to share my thoughts; but first a short outline about Malacca.  The Sultanate (now state) of Malacca was founded by the Hindu Raja Parameswara when he was driven out of Singapura in 1377 by the powerful Mapahit Empire of Java. Myth has it that sitting by the Melaka River (a largish stream) under a nelli tree (phyllanthus emblica) in 1400, pondering his misfortune, he witnessed an incident between his hunting dogs and a deer which persuaded him that this was the best place to set up shop. Islam, however, had arrived in the 12-th Century in the far north, in what is now the state of Kedah, when its Hindu ruler converted. Conversion was by persuasion, not the sword, so Islam in Malaya has been easy-going and plastic. Parameswara converted to Islam in 1414.

Straits of Malacca: Narrow sea lane between peninsular Malaya and island of Sumatra Choke point for sea routes to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Japan.

Straits of Malacca: Narrow sea lane between peninsular Malaya and island of Sumatra
Choke point for sea routes to Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Taiwan, China and Japan.

Malacca sits athwart the eponymous Straits, the choke point for shipping between the Indian Ocean and the Middle East on one side, and SE Asia and the Far East on the other. To bypass it, ships will have to round the Indonesian Archipelago, navigate the difficult Torres Strait between Australia and New Guinea, then turn north past the Philippines, before rounding off south again to SE Asia, or steaming on further north to China and Japan. Therefore the Malacca Strait is a vital sea lane. This geography persuaded Admiral Zheng He, the greatest naval commander ever, to steer his Treasure Fleet through the Straits of Malacca on seven voyages to the littoral countries of the Indian Ocean, East African and Arabia, sixty years before Gama reached Calicut or Columbus set foot on San Salvador Island (Bahamas). He always stopped in Malacca, hence Chinese enclaves sprouted there six centuries ago. Large scale Chinese emigration in the 19-th and 20-th Centuries however was under British tutelage, importing labour for roads, railways, and rubber. In its wake first came Chinese traders then businessmen and investors. Now a Chinese community thrives in Malacca and Malaysia.

Sixteenth Century Portuguese Fort of Malacca

Sixteenth Century Portuguese Fort of Malacca

The next four centuries is like retelling the Ceylon story; the Portuguese took Malacca in 1511, the Dutch ousted them in 1641 and stayed till 1798; then followed the confused period of Napoleonic Wars in Europe. In the subsequent settlement Britain gained Malacca in 1824 and held it till the Japanese captured Malaya in 1942. At this point similarity ends. The Japanese surrender in 1945 re-established British rule but was contested by the Malayan communist uprising influenced by Chinese Communism. The Malays collaborated with the fiendish Japanese occupation, the Chinese did not; a consequence was that the uprising was a Chinese affair. The Malays backed the British in a brutal war to exterminate Malayan communism. In 1957 came independence but again with a twist. Singapore and Malaya joined in a short-lived union (1963-65) from which Singapore was expelled, despite Lee Kwan Yue’s impassioned pleas. Lee called Singapore the “Only place in the modern world to have independence thrust upon it against its will!” It is incredible how time and tide have turned the tables on everyone’s expectations!

Demographics

Superficially, the demographic ratios of Malacca (and Malaysia) and Lanka seem similar, but small distinctions have had important consequences. Numbers fan out as follows for Malacca and Malaysia as a whole: Islam (mainly Malay) 65%, Chinese (very few Muslims) 25%, Hindus (of Indian descent) 6%, and Christians and small groups 4%. In Lanka the breakdown in round numbers is 75% Sinhalese, 17% Tamils in two distinct communities, and 8% Muslims. While it does not look very different, with one large majority community, the details have had a major effect. At 25%, the Chinese are a bulky and monolithic block, not to be pushed around too much. They are also a much richer community. There has been just one outbreak of communal rioting in Malaya, in 1964, and only 23 people were killed (sic! Yes ‘only’; readers will get my point). Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahaman was convinced that extremism could not be controlled within a unified state and this is what motivated the expulsion of 74% Chinese Singapore from the union.

1753 Dutch Reformed Church, re-consecrated Anglican in 1858 by the British

1753 Dutch Reformed Church, re-consecrated Anglican in 1858 by the British

Mutual suspicion between leaders of Lanka’s two Tamil communities fragmented the minorities. LTTE insistence on the concept of a “Tamil speaking people”, hoping to draw in the Muslims, was tactically shrewd, though heavy handed abuse got it nowhere. Gross minority ratios may seem similar, but the Chinese community in Malaya was, and is, in a position to stand up. This is one reason why the Malay majority was compelled to compromise. India is similar; the Hindi speaking plurality accounts for 40% of the population; some 50 to 80 million each of Bengalis, Telugu speakers, Marathis, Tamils and Urudu speakers are no push over. And don’t forget that with 180 million adherents, India is the second largest Muslim nation in the world, easily outnumbering Bangladesh, Pakistan and Iran. Nor are Sikhs and tribal hill people to be toyed with. The moral is simple; demography counts! The Tamils of Lanka don’t have a chance in hell unless they win a degree of Indian and international support. The way out for the Muslims, however, is different; they must persist in breeding ferociously.

It was not demographics alone but also the quality of political leadership that made the difference. Tunku Abdul Rahman and Mohamad Mahathir were no saints, they were Malay nationalists and made unjust anti-Chinese concessions to Malay demands (Bhumiputhra mumbo-jumbo for example), but they were not innate racists. Many of Lanka’s first and second line leaders were cast in a lesser mould – JR, SWRD, Rajapakse, Cyril Mathew and Gotha, to name but a few. (Tamil chauvinist leaders did not hold state power so they are not of comparable importance). The ways of Lee Kwan Yue next door was no doubt a restraining example on the Malay political leadership. One would have expected the tolerance and broadmindedness of Gandhi and Nehru to rub-off on Ceylon/Lanka; but palpably it did not!

A better polity

Lanka is predominantly Buddhist, so is Burma. Both, at this point in time, are flashpoints of extremism incited by monks. Does this bear a deep relationship to religion, like the connection which Catholicism, in league with a craving for Inca gold and the delectable bliss of that other sport which so popularised syphilis in Europe, bore to the Spanish conquest of South America? I think not, because today’s Buddhist extremists are bogus; the Catholic missionaries and monks of yore were deadly serious about their theological stuff. Since it is so fake, today’s Buddhist extremists will win no converts, they can only stir a political can of worms.

Malacca World Heritage City

Malacca World Heritage City

Apart from demography and leadership, there are some four or five other reasons why Malaysia is more stable and therefore ethnic relations less disorderly. (Of course there are shared downside habits, for example the Malays are lazy buggers, like the folks at home). Malaysia’s nominal per capita GDP is $10,000 and the state of public finances is better; a broader and better administered tax regimen ensures that deficits and debt are better managed than Lanka. Hence the state spends more on education and health as a percentage of GDP. There is corruption, but my impression is that it is not as widespread, and more important, it does not reach as far up as in Lanka. The public service functions better; perhaps the neighbouring sterling Singapore public service is an exemplar. There is political stability in Malaysia; Rajapakse seems entrenched, but in truth he is an Ozymandias with feet of clay. Democracy seems secure in Malaysia, brazen election rigging is absent and 18A style power grabs have never been contemplated. People, and crucially the government, have respect for law, order and the judiciary. To encapsulate all this in one phrase: The Malaysian state is not a sick institution, nor are people degraded by ethnic conflict.

Let me conclude with a little matter that says a lot in more ways than one. Services in Malacca are much better regulated than in Lanka, an example is the ubiquitous tricycle rickshaw. The price per hour is forty Ringgits (1 Malaysian Ringgit = 41 Sri Lanka rupees) and none of the ragged looking band of peddlers attempt to cheat customers, locals or tourists. A four hour day on average, of admittedly back breaking work, earns a living wage (Rs. 6560 a day). I was impressed not only by the superior income and living standards of the lowest rungs of the working class, but also by the proper regulation of services.

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Latest comments

  • 0
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    David,
    You talk as if you were born yesterday!Sinhalese Buddhist tolerated your terrorism for 30 years.The sacred tooth relic(Dalada Maligawa)was attacked by your tiger terrorists.WE tolerated.Innocent pilgrims were murdered in cold blood at Srimaha Bodhi,Anuradhapura.WE tolerated!But now we respond because if we don’t do so you will be encouraged to perform your past dirty tricks.All in the name of freedom and human rights you behave in an unacceptable manner.

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      Tamils tolerated Sinhala pogroms and institutional racism for decades and finally said enough, and the LTTE was born.
      It is your supremacist mentality that caused the civil war; you Sinhala nationalists think Lanka belongs to you.

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        LTTE is drowned. But you are trying your best to get its ghost up. But we’re alive for your sinister efforts. You can start a proxy war at UNHRC through an ageing giant. But we are ready with ours.

        Dr. Subramanian Swamy wrote recently: Without UNSC backing by way of a Resolution, an UNHRC Resolution is not even worth the paper on which it is written. Hence the British PM’s threat at CHOGM to enforce human rights justice by external intervention is laughable.

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          Banda

          “Dr. Subramanian Swamy wrote recently: Without UNSC backing by way of a Resolution, an UNHRC Resolution is not even worth the paper on which it is written.”

          Dr. Subramanian Swamy says millions of things and does the opposite.

          In the early 1980s as an active member of the Indian establishment activated the destabilization of this island.

          In an interview he glorified his part in arranging under water commando training to LTTE in Israel.

          You ought to learn a little bit about the man before typing about his mission.

          Have you finished reading Prof R A L H Gunawardana’s papers on Ancient Irrigation. Go do some serious work.

          • 0
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            I am sure Su Samy, as he is called nowadays, is on the payroll of Sri Lanka, similar to 14 Conservative MPS in the UK whose connections to Mahinda regime was recently exposed.

        • 0
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          Take no notice of my Tamil cousin. He is a crackpot.

        • 0
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          You aren’t going to get your Sinhala pure state, not anytime soon, so keep dreaming about it because only in your dreams youn will get a Sinhala only Lanka.

        • 0
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          Punchi Banda,

          LTTE may have drowned but MR is sunk. Dont talk rubbish and bring Loony Swami into this. He has a Parsi Wife and a Mulims Son In Law so invented a theory that Hindus and Muslimas are related and he was ridiculed in debate and he accepted defeat.

          If you are ready with yours why dont you tell MR to put it to the test and clear his name. The whole World including the Giant China is asking only one question ” Are you Guilty of War Crimes “.
          If the whole World asked me this Question I would go before the International Court ask them to prove it.

    • 0
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      Max you Racist Sinhalese Moron and a Sexual Predator:

      We tolerated your atrocities ( animal behaviour) for 63 years. What happened for 30 years was a Freedom Struggle. If you read Mr.Macraes answer it will send a siver down MRs spine. It is obvious that the reason MR doesnt want a War Crime Inquiry is beacuse he will be found Guilty.
      The Litmus teast for him is the State Elections in the 5 States in India during the first week of December where BJP is expected to win.
      That will set the scene for the General Election next year and MR will then be counting his days before beingb tried for War Crimes.
      YOu can join him in the HAGUE. These are not empty words but things to come. There is no hiding place for Criminals.

  • 0
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    Max Silva thinks that the life of a Non Sinhala is not worth it. That is why he has not mentioned about who started the killing spree, and how many temples, churches and Mosques were bombed with people inside. How many STATE ORGANISED POGROMS were perpetrated on the minorities!!

    This habit of selective amnesia is the trade mark of the Sinhalese!!!

    • 0
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      truth alias Boru Karaya,
      Who started what?Regardless of who started what,we had the last laugh at Nandikadal!

      • 0
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        Max
        I would say that Tamils have the last laugh because they retain their native SubCon linguistic heritage but you Sinhalaese despite being of predominantly native SubCon descent speak the language of Eurassian invaders. Comparable to how African Americans speak English and not Sub Saharan languages.

        Land is lost and won, retaining one’s identity is far more important because once you lose it it is gone for good.

  • 0
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    “….today’s Buddhist extremists are bogus; the Catholic missionaries and monks of yore were deadly serious about their theological stuff. Since it is so fake, today’s Buddhist extremists will win no converts, they can only stir a political can of worms.”

    Sir,for your above comment you may have to pay a high price.

    • 0
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      What high price are you on about,can you please explain?

    • 0
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      Yes, SATAN comes and give him the NOBEL prize.

  • 0
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    “The sacred tooth relic(Dalada Maligawa)was attacked by your tiger terrorists.”

    Buwahahaha….. It was reasonably well known that the attackers came from the East, who were under the direct command of Colonel Karuna Amman, with Pillaiyan, and they used the ammunition procured by KP. All three are in the direct patronage of the President and his brothers. Karuna is a Minister and the Deputy Leader of SLFP.

  • 0
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    This interesting article has a message of sanity to all Sri Lankans and more especially its minorities who still stand divided into three or even four groups even in the face of severe adversities faced by them. It is unfortunate that the level of political consciousness of the plantation Tamils is still low and this weakness is taken advantage of their current leadership which has insulated them from other minority groups and which runs almost a fiefdom upcountry. The Sinhala supremacists are trying to emulate the ‘bhoomiputro’ policy of Malaysia which is fast becoming outdated even in the country of its origin.

    Sengodan. M

    • 0
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      But rulers call it further “home grown solutions to lanken issues”, paradoxical ?

  • 0
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    Tamil language is NOT a national or official language of Malaysia. Very wise move. SL must copy.

  • 0
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    Sri Lanka should treat Tamils the way Singapore treat tamils.

    In brief, Singaporean Tamils do not talk Tamil.

    • 0
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      That’s not what I read. Tamil is spoken by Tamils just as Mandarin is spoken by the Chinese and Malay by the Malays. English is the lingua Franca that allows all these communities to communicate with each other.

      Wiki says 2/3 of Singapore Tamils speak Tamil as their main language at home.
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_languages_in_Singapore

      ” Tamil is the only Indian language among Singapore’s four official languages, alongside Mandarin, Malay (the national language) and English (the language of administration),[3] and 3.1% of Singapore residents speak Tamil at home.[2] Singapore is one of the three countries in the world to make Tamil an official language, the others being India and Sri Lanka.”

      • 0
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        ” Tamil an official language, the others being India and Sri Lanka.”

        India DOES NOT have a national language, though the majority have accepted it as such. Tamil does not even get a mention.

        • 0
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          though the majority have accepted Hindi as such.

        • 0
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          I think what they should have clarified or worded differently is that Tamil is an offcial Language in India, specifically the official language of Tamil Nadu.

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          Setha Ram Jeya Seetha Ram,

          What are trying to say man. Tamil Echos round the whole of India but you dont hear it because you are bloody deaf.

    • 0
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      You have no idea about Singapore tamils – absolutely not :(

    • 0
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      Jim Sooty,

      You bloody Wog what do you speak. Nothing except Bullshit yo idiot.

  • 0
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    13th amendment is god given if the govt can understand what they can do with it.

  • 0
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    “Communities more tolerant of each other; comparatively of course”

    1) Bias towards the Malay majority:
    Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, is facing accusations of bias towards the Malay majority, despite being elected on the promise of minority rights. Razak appears to be favouring the indigenous people who will be the beneficiaries of a billion dollar economic empowerment plan.

    http://youtu.be/6nqG6nFnfK0

    2) Ban on the use of the Arabic word Allah
    In what appears to be an urgent response to allay growing unrest among Christians in Malaysia, Deputy Home Minister Wan Junaidi has clarified that a ban on the use of the Arabic word Allah only applied to Catholic magazine, the Herald.

    However, critics were cautious and accused the Najib administration of more “double standards” and “political dishonesty”. They also said it was “ridiculous” and “shoddy governance” to bar Christians in West Malaysia from using the Allah word but to allow it in East Malaysia

    http://tinyurl.com/oo8bhgw

    3) Appeals Court perceived as having acted in bad faith

    Opposition politician William Leong:
    “The Court of Appeal has failed to protect the minority in accordance with the design and intention of the Federal Constitution. The Court’s function as the third pillar of government is to safeguard the rights of the minority enshrined as the fundamental liberties to freedom of expression, assembly and religion,”

    Not only Christians but other non-Muslims believe the Appeals Court had deliberately acted in bad faith to rob them of their constitutional rights, delivering a biased judgement that aimed to turn Malaysia into a Malay state.
    All 3 members of the panel of judges were Malay Muslims

  • 0
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    From wiki
    Race is a significant force in politics, and many political parties are ethnically based.Affirmative actions such as the New Economic Policy and the National Development Policy which superseded it, were implemented to advance the standing of the bumiputera, consisting of Malays and the indigenous tribes who are considered the original inhabitants of Malaysia, over non-bumiputera such as Malaysian Chinese and Malaysian Indians. These policies provide preferential treatment to bumiputera in employment, education, scholarships, business, and access to cheaper housing and assisted savings. However, it has generated greater interethnic resentment

    The Chinese make up about one-third of the population, but accounts for 70 per cent of the country’s market capitalisation.[129] Chinese businesses in Malaysia are part of the larger bamboo network, a network of overseas Chinese businesses in the Southeast Asian market sharing common family and cultural ties.

    The official language of Malaysia is Malaysian, a standardised form of the Malay language. English remains an active second language, with its use allowed for some official purposes under the National Language act 1967, and serves as the medium of instruction for maths and sciences in all public schools.

    So whats the point I am trying to make.
    The Chinese did not resort to 30 year civil war to get
    a) Mandarin (or Cantonese) as a National Language
    b) Or to remove bhumiputra status (think District Quota). They quietly went about their business and made money.

    However, the Malayan Emergency from 1948 to 1960 was by the Malayan National Liberation Army (MNLA) which was supported by about 500,000 of the 3.12 million ethnic Chinese then living in Malaya.

    • 0
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      It is interesting that the Malayan independence was fought for by the minority Chinese and NOT the Malays themselves, and yet they were willing to accept their minority status and work for Malaya(Malaysia) as a whole. The Tamils could but fall behind as they were held back by the great gift of Hinduism to mankind, the CASTE system.

      • 0
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        Chinese have a country, ‘China’. Tamils do not have one. That’s the problem for all this.

        • 0
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          Then they should LEARN to live in harmony with the people in whose midst they are fortunate enough to live. Greed and avarice for what others possess is NOT a solution.

          • 0
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            Greed and avarice is what the Sinhala Nationalists displayed when they embarked on anti Tamil pogroms, because they could not stand to stand to see Tamil success in SL. The same greed and vengefull spirit is now continuing under Rajapaksa regime.

            Tamils living in India do not need to be gratefull to others for living in India , as Tamils are indegenous inhabitants of the SubCon.

      • 0
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        Tamils have held senior government posts in Singapore, despite the caste system hobbling them.

    • 0
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      sbarrkum,

      From your name it is obvious you belong to the Animal Kingdom.

      So the point you are making is this.

      Chinese control 70 % of the Business activities in Malaysia and therefore although discriminted against have not resorted to 30 year Civil War.

      Whereas the Tamils in Sinhala Lanka more or less contolling nothing should have been grateful to the Sinhalese for not giving anything were traitors for fighting 30 year Civil War.
      You should be awarded a PhD for your thesis.

  • 0
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    Professor Kumar David says that “Malaysia is more stable and therefore ethnic relations less disorderly”. I fully agree. Knowing Bumiputera policies is the key for that success, I request Professor David to write a paper on how Sri Lanka should adopt the (Bumiputera) policies that Malaysia has been pursuing since its independence to suit us.

  • 0
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    Singapore also has ‘NATIONAL Service’ where every young adult is required to serve in the armed forces – certainly a unifying factor.
    In India it’s largest empire collapsed BECAUSE the Emperor became a Buddhist, and was even lost to history till recently. AHIMSA did not serve him nor India well.

  • 0
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    In Sri Lanka both Sinhalese and Tamils (including Muslims) should jointly make English as official language and medium of education. This way we can increase international competency and social integration. Sinhalese and Tamil could be compulsory languages in primary schools in order to avoid extinction. In fifties, education through Sinhalese and Tamil was necessary as there was a shortage of English medium teachers and also anti-English political sentiments. But now things have changed. There are plenty of software/hardware to teach English and also better opportunities for English educated people internationally.

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    Proff,

    The picture you paint about Malaysia is not as rosy as you make it out to be but it is not as bad as in Sinhala Lanka for the following reasons.

    “On its formation in 1963, Malaysia, a federation incorporating Malaya (Peninsular Malaysia), Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak, suffered from a sharp division of wealth between the Chinese, who were perceived to control a large portion of the Malaysian economy, and the Malays, who were perceived to be poorer and more rural.

    The 1964 Race Riots in Singapore contributed to the expulsion of that state from Malaysia on 9 August 1965, and racial tension continued to simmer.”

    But Sinhla Lanka holds the record for the number of race riots in which thousands of innocent Tamils were slaughtered.
    This is because Racism is in Sinhala Gene and you are not going to change it and it is no use pretending that we can live together. WE CANNOT.

  • 0
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    I am a Sri Lankan living in Melaka, Malaysia.
    99.9% percent of the Sri Lankan Buddists are extremely good and very tolerant. They are very kind and respect the other religious people. Only the politicians create problem between the religions to get votes.

    I see no different between Sri Lanka and Malaysia in terms of culture, behaviour and attitude of people. The recent problems like Bodu Bala Sena in Sri Lanka are the creation of politicians

  • 0
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    Singapore National Anthem is in Malay. Only 13.4% of the population are Malays.

    Majulah Singapura (Onward Singapore) is the national anthem of Singapore. Composed by Zubir Said in 1958 as a theme song for official functions of the City Council of Singapore, the song was selected in 1959 as the island’s anthem when it attained self-government. Upon full independence in 1965, Majulah Singapura was formally adopted as Singapore’s national anthem.

    By law the anthem may only be sung with its original Malay lyrics, although there exist authorized translations of the lyrics of the anthem in Singapore’s three other official languages: English, Mandarin and Tamil.[1]

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Fdb_O91d92M

    Come, fellow Singaporeans
    Let us progress towards happiness together
    May our noble aspiration bring
    Singapore success

    Come, let us unite
    In a new spirit
    Together we proclaim
    Onward Singapore
    Onward Singapore

    Come, let us unite
    In a new spirit
    Together we proclaim
    Onward Singapore
    Onward Singapore

    Singapore is a good example of a nation who have rejected racism and forged ahead in unity.

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