The social and spatial impact of settlement policies in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
As a multiracial country, one of the main concerns of Malaysia is maintaining political and economic stability in the process of achieving national integration. The plurality of society is a legacy of British colonialism and has contributed to occupational and geographical segregation between the ethnic groups. Economic disparities between each ethnic group has been a source of ethnic conflict. In 1970, the Government formulated the New Economic Policy, a preferential treatment policy which favours the Bumiputera over the non -Bumiputera. The objectives of the policy are, first, to restructure society so as to eliminate the identification of race with economic functions and, second, to eradicate poverty. However, while the Bumiputeras benefited from the affirmative action programmes, the non-Bumiputeras, especially the Chinese, were alienated by them and this lead to rising ethnic tension. Residential segregation had divided the two ethnic groups further. One part of the New Economic Policy is designed to foster better social relations between ethnic groups by fostering greater ethnic mix within residential areas. The aim of this study is to investigate social interaction patterns and levels of integration between Malays and Chinese who reside in different types of residential areas, that is mixed and monoethnic. The implementation of the housing mix policy is interpreted as the Government's intention to overcome residential segregation and thereby integrate different ethnic groups. The policy is one of the ways of bringing the two ethnic groups into closer contact with each other in the hope of promoting better social interaction and integration. The first task of the research was to establish the rationale behind the policy on residential and ethnic mix and secondly to find out if there were any significant differences in the form of socialising patterns and integration levels between the ethnic groups residing in different types of residential areas. The study involved the use of interviews and social survey as methods of gathering information. Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia was chosen as the case study because it represented the plurality in society. Surveys were carried out in residential areas that were both ethnically mixed and monoethnic. The findings of the study suggested that there are differences in social relationships and levels of integration between Malays and Chinese who live in the different types of residential areas. Those who lived in mixed areas were found to be more socialised and more integrated than those who lived in monoethnic areas. However, the effect of the types of area was not strong as a determinant of social interaction and integration and other non spatial factors were more important. Factors like socialising patterns and place of employment also explained social interaction and integration. Those who socialised with other ethnic groups were found to be more integrated than those who did not. Malays were also more integrated than non-Malays. The study also found differences in gender and age. Although there was an area effect, it was not the same for Malays and Chinese from different income groups and educational levels. The findings have important policy implications.