Bumiputera (Malaysia)

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Bumiputera or Bumiputra is a Malay term widely used in Malaysia, embracing indigenous people of the Malay Archipelago. The term comes from the Sanskrit word bhumiputra, which can be translated literally as "son of land" (bhumi= earth or land, putra=son). It is also translated as "sons of the soil".

In the 1970s the government implemented economic policies designed to favour bumiputras (including affirmative action in public education) to create opportunities, and to defuse inter-ethnic tensions following the extended violence against Chinese Malaysians in the May 13 Incident in 1969. These policies have succeeded in creating a significant urban Malay middle class. They have been less effective in eradicating poverty among rural communities. Some analysts have noted a backlash of resentment from excluded groups, in particular the sizable Indigenous Non-Muslim Orang Asli, Chinese and Indian Malaysian minorities.



The concept of a bumiputra ethnic group in Malaysia was coined by activist Tunku Abdul Rahman. It recognized the "special position" of the Malays provided in the Federal Constitution of Malaysia, in particular Article 153. But, the constitution does not use the term "bumiputra"; it defines only "Malay" and "aborigine" (Article 160(2)),[1] "natives" of Sarawak (161A(6)(a)),[2] and "natives" of Sabah (Article 161A(6)(b)).[2] Definitions of bumiputra in public use vary among different institutions, organizations, and government departments and agencies.

In the book Buku Panduan Kemasukan ke Institusi Pengajian Tinggi Awam, Program Pengajian Lepasan SPM/Setaraf Sesi Akademik 2007/2008 (Guidebook for entry into public higher learning institutions for SPM/equivalent graduates for academic year 2007/2008), the Malaysian Higher Education Ministry defined bumiputra as follows, depending on the region of origin of the individual applicant[3]:

  • "If one of the parents is Muslim Malay as stated in Article 160 (2) Federal Constitution of Malaysia; thus the child is considered as a Bumiputra"

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