The Canterbury Malaysian Students' Association
Thesis DisciplinePolitical Science
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In 1962, there were 590 overseas students from 37 countries studying in New Zealand. 100 of these were from Malaya and Singapore. They have become a familiar sight in universities, special training schools and the various high schools in New Zealand. This number has been increasing over the years so that by 1972, there are over 600 Malaysian students in Christchurch. 470 of them are at the University of Canterbury. The growth in the number of Malaysian students has produced a considerable number of problems, both for the New Zealand government and the New Zealand public but mostly for the Malaysian students themselves. As early as 1967, the New Zealand government and public was aware of this and efforts to restrict the number of Asian students in New Zealand universities were enforced. With the increasing number of Malaysian students in Christchurch, relationships between Malaysians and New Zealanders took a less favourable turn due to formation of cliques among Malaysians. In universities, high schools and other institutions where they are studying, the Malaysian students are frequently in exclusive gatherings - grouped together at lectures, cafeteria and library. The New Zealanders react to such communal groups with different feelings. Some see nothing wrong with it, some with genuine interest go out of their way to start a friendship; more just tolerate and ignore them. For a few, there begins a gradually growing dislike of the aloofness. This lack of contact between New Zealanders and the Malaysian students is perhaps one of the major reasons for the misunderstandings which occur between them. The causes of this segregation of Malaysian students are two-fold. Firstly, it is mainly due to an inherent shyness which prevents them from making the first move towards a conversation. Secondly, there is a general indifference in both parties towards each other. However, the problem of segregation is only one of the difficulties which the Malaysian students have to face in the new environment. The Malaysian student visiting New Zealand is a stranger and certain consequences are attached to this position. He discovers that the familiar norms of the home society, often accepted unquestioningly as the course of socialisation as recipes for normal social relations, do not necessarily hold in the host society. He is suddenly bereft of what had been safe guides for his conduct. Whilst the host country is indulgent to the stranger in some areas, it expects conformity in others. The background of a Malaysian student either Malay, Chinese or Indian, has been moulded by oriental traditions, customs and values. Each group of students had been subjected to life-ways different from those practised in New Zealand. Even though Western 'civilisation' had made its influence felt on a section of the Malaysian population, their general style of life and attitudes, their manners of expressions; eating and various other aspects of life are still basically traditional. Assimilation into an entirely new way of life involves many problems. The main difficulties faced by the Malaysian students in New Zealand include language, education, accommodation, racial discrimination and sex relationships. Above all, the problem of assimilation is caused by the cultural differences between the Malaysian students and the 'host' society. Thus in the interest of both the 'guests' and the 'hosts', this study is designed to produce as much information as possible, so that a more complete picture of the Malaysian students may be obtained. It is hoped that the information contained in this study will provide some of the basis of understanding for future relations. The study is, however, confined to the Malaysian students Association in Canterbury, whose membership in 1971 comprised approximately 41% of the total Malaysian population in Christchurch. Part One, the historical background of the Canterbury Malaysian Students Association (hereafter referred to as CMSA) is traced from its formative years since 1962 to 1972. The CMSA experienced organisational changes in 1965 and 1969, due to political developments in Malaysia. Part Two is designed to analyse a short survey of 100 Malaysian students in Christchurch in 1972, and to investigate the background, the opinions and views of these students towards their national Association; their general problems of adjustment in New Zealand and contemporary social and political issues. The major problem faced in this study has been the devising of the questionnaire, because of the shortage of reference material. Furthermore, in order to avoid sensitive issues, such as racial questions, answers from indirect questions are compiled. One such case is the question of the racial background of the students. No direct question was asked concerning race; on the other hand, the students were asked their religious denominations. The Muslims are categorised as Malays while those with other religious denominations are non-Malays (Indians and Chinese). After the questionnaire had been completed, the next problem was that of distribution. 250 forms were distributed to the members of CMSA at its Annual General Meeting for 1972. The method was found to be ineffective, for only 40% was returned. The final problem is to take a non-partisan stand on sensitive issues, such as the clash of interests between the Malays and Chinese. Admittedly, these shortcomings would pose as limitations to the value of the study, despite the attempt to give an academic, non-partisan presentation of material. Nonetheless the important issues which concern the Malaysian students in Canterbury are posed in this study, including the problem of assimilation. Since 1965, however, the most important issue in the organisation of CMSA has been the problem of unity and national identity of the Malaysian students. Malaysians being of a multi-racial society, this problem has become increasingly prominent in Malaysian politics. This study also attempts to show the background of Malaysian politics which have given rise to the disunity among the Malaysian students in Canterbury.