Malaysia : the political and economic aspects of accommodation and conflict regulation in an ethnically divided society
This study examines practices used by the Malaysian elites in their efforts to solve problems related to ethnic and cultural divisions in the country. The study traces the history of political development of Malaysia, from the very first attempt at inter-ethnic co-operation --- the meetings of the 1949-1950 Communities Liaison Committee --- to the most recent one --- the deliberations of the 1989-1991 National Economic Consultative Council. The focus of the research is on political and economic issues involved. Theories which are relevant to the study of ethnicity and political stability such as 'pluralism', consociationalism and conflict-regulation theory are reviewed in this study. In addition, alternative explanations of contemporary Malaysian politics such as those provided by critical social theory, political economy/development and radical political economy approaches are also included. Empirically, the research is based on personal interviews in Malaysia in 1993, materials on the National Economic Consultative Council, letters, parliamentary debates, government and party literature, newspapers, periodicals, election manifestos, articles and books related to the subject. This study shows that the ideal concepts of consociationalism cannot fully apply to contemporary Malaysia. Because of the dominant role of UMNO in the Barisan Nasional, the system has developed into 'asymmetric accommodation'. However, there is still an adherence to the principle of multi-ethnic coalition, a genuine power-sharing and the presence of accommodative attitudes and motives among the elites which the consociational model highlights.