Majority Affirmative Action in Malaysia:
Imperatives, Compromises and Challenges
Publication Date: March 2017
At the end of British colonial rule in Malaysia, indigenous Malays comprised a majority but were often economically disadvantaged compared to Chinese and Indian migrants who had arrived prior to independence. In response, the Malay-majority government used its political dominance to introduce affirmative action policies to recognize the special position of “Bumiputera” peoples (Malays and other indigenous groups) and improve their economic standing. Introduced as a constitutional commitment, affirmative action has shaped Malaysian citizenship and democracy. What lessons can be drawn from this experience about the effectiveness of affirmative action as a policy remedy for horizontal inequalities? How has this choice affected pluralism in Malaysia?