I have always been of the opinion that the Malays suffer from some kind of mental block and inferiority complex.
This was something that former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad tried hard to correct but he failed. In the final days of his reign, Mahathir said his greatest failure was that he could not change the mindset of the Malays.
Yesterday, I was at a private hospital in Subang Jaya and met one of the best heart surgeons in Malaysia because my wife will be going for surgery to remove another tumour, likely to be benign, from her chest area. (For my wife's musings, surf to http://www.keepingtaps.blogspot.com/ or click at the link below)
He was a Malay and a gentleman. He seemed to me very Old World, very learned, very courteous and spoke excellent English. Obviously he was trained overseas. He had a laptop and a PDA on his table - obviously he was connected to the Internet generation - and I noticed Chinese paintings on the wall of the consultation room.
I couldn't help thinking to myself that his parents or grandparents must have been farmers or fishermen. Yet he could rise from such a humble background to become one of the best heart specialists in town. His command of English was superb and he must have learnt his science - and maths - in English. If he can do it, why can't other Malays?
A Malay colleague told me that she felt the government had made the wrong decision on the issue of teaching of Science and Maths in English. She said, "Come on, all the knowledge is coming from the West. Just google anything on science and see how many Malay websites you get." How many research papers are written by Malay (or Indonesian) scientists? "Our children will suffer."
She is another example of a Malay who has mastered English - after all she is writing for an English newspaper. I don't think she's from a rich family who could afford to send her for training overseas or private schooling.
In my office, we have another senior Malay reporter who is now editing and rewriting articles and correcting the English of Chinese reporters.
That shows that Malays can be just as good in English as anyone of any other race. That's why I still maintain it is a mindset issue.
I was told that when the government announced that the teaching of science and maths would revert to Bahasa Malaysia and vernacular languages in 2012, lots of Malay students in schools, especially in rural areas, actually cheered and celebrated.
Sadly, there are many, many more Malays who need to change their mindset and overcome the hurdles in their thinking.