Period: 22 July 2004 – 1 March 2005. Country: Malaysia
(1)  Re-thinking Development Policy in Malaysia: Light and Shadow in a Malay Fishing Community
KAWANO Motoko  (Division of Southeast Asian Area Studies)
Key Words: the New Economic Policy (NEP), Ethnic Conflicts, Elections and Party Politics, Islam, Malay Fishing Community

Viewing Petoronas twin tower, a symbol of economic development from Malay accommodation space, at Kampong Baru in Kuala Lumpur in August 2004
Election campaign flags of ruling and opposition parties waving in the wind of Terengganu at kg. Seberang Takir in Terengganu in March 2004
Terengganu Malay Women selecting ikan bilis (a small anchovy fish) near the boat slip at kg. Seberang Takir in Terengganu in June 2003
(2) The object of my Ph. D. dissertation is to examine the relations between state and society in Malaysia from the perspective of the periphery. Based on findings from field research and analysis of administrative documents, it will discuss: 1) how the development policy of this country has affected local communities since the 1970’s, 2) how local communities have been reconstructed since the start of New Economic Policy, and 3) how the response of local communities to the effect of the development policy has been linked to some contemporary political factors such as elections and political party politics.
       In my Ph. D. dissertation, I will look into the mechanisms through which the central government implements development policies concerning local governments and communities so that we can reconsider what is really happening under the name of "development" in the country. I will also examine to what level the state or political leaders that direct development policies influence the reorganization process of local societies in Malaysia. In this manner, I will present a new perspective for understanding the state formation and developmental process in contemporary Malaysia.

(3) The research was conducted both in Terengganu, located on the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, and in Kuala Lumpur, from 22 July 2004 to 1 March 2005. It consisted of field research mainly in a fishing community, archival research in administrative institutions, and interviews with government officials and political leaders. As a result of these activities, the following four points were elucidated:

  1. With the ethnic disturbances of May 1969 as a turning point, Malaysia came up with the New Economic Policy (NEP), known as Bumiputera (meaning "son of the soil") Rules, which gave favorable treatment to Malay to facilitate the development policy that had already been implemented. Under NEP, the state of Terengganu experienced rapid progress in various areas, e.g., new industries and improved infrastructures. As NEP brought Malay up to a better position, the educated Malay middle class increased not only in urban areas but also in rural areas. While NEP reduced the tension among ethnic groups, particularly that between Malay and Chinese, the growth of the Malay middle class created wider economic and regional disparities within Malay.
  2. In the four northern underdeveloped Malay states, which include Terengganu, Islamization became widespread through what is known as da'wa (call to Islam). Those who could not receive the benefits of NEP became hostile toward uneven modernization and urbanization. At the same time, they became eager to seek their identity through the experience of Islamization.
  3. Concrete social reactions related to the above manifested themselves in showdowns between UMNO, the Islamic ruling party and PAS, the Islamic opposition party. In these northern states, the opposition force is strong even though BN, the ruling alliance led by UMNO, has kept the present administrator in power ever since independence. In the 1999 general election, PAS took over the government of Terengganu.
  4. This then seems to show the existence of dissatisfaction among Terengganu people toward the contradictions of development policy and the so-called "democratic movement."
  5. In spite of these social changes, "village community" has not been broken down by the authoritarian development policy since the 1980's. Malay fishermen and Malay fishing communities have maintained their traditional social order, which consists of communal roles and local knowledge that grows out of their natural environment of the sea and the religion of Islam.

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