Petaling Jaya, Malaysia | 24 Sept 2015 | Asia Samachar
By Hb Singh
A first-of-its-kind study on the socio-economic and social issues of Sikhs in Malaysia by a team of researchers from four universities has identified five key areas of concern.
In gauging the pulse of the community, the five top areas of concern for the 700 respondents interviewed were, in the order of importance, economic, divorce, conversion out of the faith, health and mixed marriages.
“We were expecting something else,” Associate Prof Dr Sarjit Singh from University Putra Malaysia (UPM), who led the research team, tells Asia Samachar.
The project report, entitled ‘A Study on the Socio-Economic Status and Social Issues of Sikhs in Malaysia’, will be presented at a forum in Petaling Jaya on Sunday (Sept 27).
The study was commissioned by the Coalition of Malaysian Sikh Organisations (CMSO) with funding from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
The seven-member coalition is hoping the forum, and any necessary subsequent engagements, will identify strategies to address issues highlighted in the study.
“We need financial and manpower resources to tackle them. We hope to submit some proposals in time before the next Federal government budget,” says CMSO secretary general Autar Singh.
Prime Minister Mohd Najib Razak, who is also the finance minister, is scheduled to table in Parliament the Budget 2016 on Oct 23. This woud be the first budget under the 11th Malaysia Plan which was tabled in Parliament in May.
The research, which combined both qualitative and quantitative methods, involved 700 respondents from eight states in the Peninsular Malaysia.
“It covers both rural and urban areas. The sample size was more than sufficient to represent the popullation, in order to generalise the findings,” said Dr Jaspal from Taylor’s Business School in Subang Jaya, Selangor.
Almost half the respondents were from Selangor, Kuala Lumpur and Perak, with an almost equal balance of men and women, according to the research data made available to the Asia Samachar.
About 76% of the respondents to the a set of detailed perception questionaire from the research team were between 15-45 years old. In terms of marital status, 41% of the respondents were single, 52% married and 7% divorced.
Some 42% of the respondents have a household income of between RM1,001 and RM5,000 (US$229 to US$1,142, at exchange rate of US$1=RM4.38).
Elaborating on the research, Dr Sarjit said such a multi-disciplinary study on Sikhs in Malaysia had not been undertaken prior to this.
“This study was driven by academics. You get critical analysis and insights on community issues.
“We have teams members form various disciplines: sociology, accounting, economic, anthropology. It was a multi-disciplinary team, it enabled us to get different perspectives.”
The research team included Asc Prof Dr Ahmad Tarmizi Talib (UPM), Asc Prof Dr Sivapalan Selvadurai (UKM), Asst Prof Dr Charanjit Kaur Darshan Singh (UTAR), Dr Jaspal Singh (Taylor’s University) and Dr Puvaneswaran Kunasekaran (UPM).
Previous university driven studies on the Sikhs in Malaysia have touched on history, gurdwaras, culture and the Punjabi language.
“But not on socio-economic and social issues. In a way, this is a ground breaking study. These are fresh data coming on stream,” adds Dr Sarjit.
How did the research idea come about? In 2011, the CMSO board held a discussion with historian Dr Ranjit Singh Malhi, Dr Sarjit and Dr Charanjit with a view to set up a Sikh history research project.
“A Sikh histroy research project team was set up in view of the distortions in the history textbooks,” said Autar.
Dr Sarjit was tasked to prepare three research proposals: Malaysian Sikh history in view of a book, research on social economic status and social issues of Sikhs in Malaysia, and producing a Punjabi-Malay-English dictionary.
The proposals were sent to the Prime Minister’s Office in 2012.
In 2013, Malaysian Gurdwara Council (MGC) received a research grant of RM100,000 to produce a history of SIkhs in Malaysia, which is being now handled by Dr Ranjit.
In the same year, CMSO also received RM100,000 for the second project which was awarded to Dr Sarjit and a team of experts from various universities in Malaysia.
“The third project has yet to make headway,” said Autar.
As of Tues (Sept 23), CMSO has received confirmation of participation for the forum from representives of two gurdwaras, seven Sikh organisations, six universities, two Sikh media groups and 12 individuals.
CMSO call-for-action to discuss new research on Sikhs in Malaysia (Asia Samachar, 21 Sept 2015)