May 30, 2010
New Economic Model (NEM) ignores Malay Special Rights, says Bumiputera Economic Congress
By Hazlan Zakaria (May 29, 2010)
The Congress is organised by the Malay Consultative Council, which include Malay NGOs such as the controversial PERKASA.
National Economic Advisory Council (NEAC) secretary Dr. Normah Mansur, a former University of Malaysia don, started the ball rolling when she conceded the lack of bumiputera or Malay-specific policies in the proposed economic model soon to be finalised by Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak.
She also stressed that the proposed NEM is not a government document but only a proposal from the economic advisory body, which effectively opened the floodgates of criticisms as panel speakers, one after another, let loose their disagreements.
Academician Kamaruddin Kachar, who chaired the panel, told the panel speakers not to be shy to tear down the NEM because the Congress was about defending the “natural rights of the Malays”.
“This is our country, pioneered by our ancestors 2,000 years ago, and defended with their blood in countless battles against invaders. Why should we be afraid? The sultans are our protectors. The Royal Malay Regiment is for the Malays.
“Should we be afraid of Samy Vellu’s son? Don’t let Lim Kit Siang and Karpal Singh belittle us. The Malays are not weak,” he said.
‘Special rights ignored’
To the applause and cheers of the crowd, the four-member discussion panel comprising senator Akbar Ali, former Economic Planning Unit director Hanipah Esa, economic scholar Rajini Ramlan and history professor Ramlah Adam, picked apart the policy which they argued neglected to consider the special rights of the Malays and bumiputera.
Akbar’s (left) grouses were more on the technical facets questioning what he said are the flawed basis of the NEM.
In particular, he criticised the economic policy’s over-dependence on the free market approach and the use of the single indicator of the gross domestic income, instead of a basket of indicators like household income and human development which he says would be more reflective.
He also mounted a vehement defence of the New Economic Policy and former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad, whom he said is being disparaged by the apparent attack on the economic policy which the former UMNO chief had presided over.
“The attack on NEP is actually an attack on Mahathir. He was the one who implemented it for near 20 years. These people are from the World Bank. The World Bank has always had a beef with Mahathir,” he said.
Hanipah recounted the still-fragile state of the Malays, in particular those who still need to be given protection from the other races, who are more well-versed and able in business and economic fields.
“Without clear mechanisms and action plans, the hope (to strengthen the bumiputera) will not see fruition,” she opined. Rajini said that while the NEM may help Malaysia prosper, it will incapacitate the Malays economically.”I am positive that the NEM is a long-term plan that will develop the economy, but I am pessimist about its ability to uplift the Malays.”
‘Prosperous Malaysia won’t uplift Malays’
Meanwhile, Ramlah took a more historic route, slamming the proposed economic model as breaking the promises made in the agreements signed before Merdeka.”This is an attempt to destabilise the Malay economic and political establishment,” she added, speaking of what she claimed are attempts to question the special economic rights guaranteed to the Malays.
She said that the special rights of the Malays is guaranteed in return for granting citizenship to the non-Malays.
The one-day Congress is the culmination of a series of workshops, talks, roundtable discussions and seminars by the Malay Consultative Council to scrutinise the NEM. A memorandum was later submitted to Najib, who was there to close the event tonight.The memorandum contains resolutions and recommendations passed by the congress to be included in the NEM.
Among notables at the congress were PERKASA president Ibrahim Ali, Dewan Negara president and Malay Consultative Council co-founder Abu Zahar Ujang alongside academicians, NGO representatives and veteran Malays.
Conspicuously absent, however, were bumiputera representatives from government-linked companies and the corporate world.
These so-called Malay nationalists failed to realise that the world is increasingly interdependent, open and competitive and that the Malaysian government cannot be asked to help the Malays in terms of subsidies , handouts and bailouts on an unending basis. The community itself which now has millionaires, entrepreneurs, professionals and skilled workers must learn to mobilise its talents and creativity to shape its own destiny in a competitive world.
PERKASA and other Malay NGOs are sectarian and racist in their approach. They should be made to realise the NEM is not against Article 153 and related provisions in our constitution. These are not under threat as they are accepted by all citizens. Why create a bogeyman, if not for personal agenda?
The old NEP now longer works, although it had been successful in creating Malay human capital. It is now dysfunctional. It is time to change our approach to affirmative action. It is time to put this Malay intellectual capital to good use.
The Malays can compete, if they are prepared to liberate themselves from total dependence on government. Forget the easy option; in fact, there is none. Nothing is given; everything is obtained through hard work, and sacrifice. The old adage which says, “you reap what you sow” is apt here.
The NEM document notes that ” Malaysia has reached a defining moment in its development path. It risks being left behind or worse still,suffering a reversal in living standards, unless it implements far reaching and comprehensive reforms. Economic policies to date are no longer keeping Malaysia competitive enough regionally and globally to generate sufficient growth”. If we wish to prosper, then we must think and act differently. The experts at the NEAC led by Tan Sri Amirsham Aziz produced a document which requires rational discourse and careful consideration, not politiking.
We should be addressing the issues of growth and competitiveness. We are talking about the future for the Malaysian Malays and other Malaysians in a competitive economic environment; we must not cling to the past. In the wider context of national unity and solidarity, we cannot be held hostage to a small group of Malays who want the old NEP system to remain because it has been beneficial to them in the past. This is the time to move on ; we cannot be prisoners to policies that have weakened the Malays in general.
Prime Minister Najib, I urge you not to give in to these extreme elements in the Malay community and your own party, UMNO. You must move forward with your NEM if you wish to make Malaysia great again. Competency, meritocracy and integrity must be the foundation of your administration.
I personally have never underestimated the capacity of the Malays to adjust and adapt to changing and challenging times. I believe we can compete and win. What we need is a strong belief in ourselves. The Malays of old (e.g, the Malays of the Malacca Sultanate) did not have the NEP yet they were able to compete and trade beyond their shores and hold their own at home against others. We need that can do spirit. We must believe in ourselves. Yes, we can.—Din Merican