The NEP:”A Magical Touch” or Systemic State-Sponsored Discrimination?

February 9, 2017

COMMENT: The objectives of the Tun Abdul Razak’s  New Economic Policy (1970)  were (1) to eradicate poverty regardless of race and (2) to create a Malay Commercial and Industrial Community to eliminate the identification of race with economic function. It was intended to deal the root causes of  the May 13 1969 riots that shook Malaysia and promote national unity.

Image result for Malaysia's New Economic Policy

It was Tun Dr. Ismail Abdul Rahman, Tun Razak’s Deputy, who likened it to a golf handicap system to enable the Malays to compete against the more economically successful Malaysian other. It was  to  “serve as a temporary affirmative action policy with a 20 year lifespan but which now appears to have been extended ad infinitum.”(Lim Teck Ghee).

Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad used it to create a UMNO crony capitalism and make the Malays beholden to the UMNO state for handouts. In the name of “democratization of education” our fourth Prime Minister also lowered university entrance requirements to enable Malays to attend our public universities, the consequences of which are quite well-known to all of us.

If the Malays are to compete in a globalized world, they must learn to be self-reliant and resilient in the face of adversity. Like my friend Teck Ghee, I feel that empowerment of the Malays, not dependence on UMNO handouts, is the way forward  in the pursuit of national unity.–Din Merican

The  NEP –“A Magical Touch” or  Systemic State-Sponsored Discrimination against The Malaysian Other?

by Lim Teck Ghee

Surely our well informed Royalty must also be aware of the collateral damage that pro-Malay bumiputra policies have had on governance, economy, social cohesion and race and religious relations. Surely Sultan Nazrin, with degrees from Oxford and Harvard, must be aware of the vast literature available, in English and the national language, of the downside of maintaining the NEP past its original shelf-life of 1990.–Dr. Lim Teck Ghee

Recently the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Dr.Nazrin Shah, officiating at a religious discourse described the NEP (New Economic Policy) as a “magical touch”. The word “magic” is associated with the the power of influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces. It is a word whose synonyms include “sorcery, witchcraft, wizardry, necromancy, enchantment,the supernatural, occultism, the occult, black magic,the black arts, shamanism” and the like.

Image result for raja dr nazrin shah
Malaysia’s Oxford and Harvard Educated Sultan

The “magical touch” of the NEP which gave more opportunities for the Malays to participate in mainstream development and encouraged the growth of youths especially from the rural areas to have a strong foundation of race and religion. of course, did not come from the waving of any supernatural or magical wand, although some of the superstitious in the audience may believe it.

It was a human and politically-crafted public policy in the aftermath of the racial violence in May 1969 and it was intended to serve as a temporary affirmative action policy with a 20 year lifespan but which now appears to have been extended ad infinitum.

The assertion that the the NEP benefited Malay individuals and families and also injected a new confidence and pride into the Malays is also well-known and is incontestable. No one can deny that the younger generation Malays, especially women, “filled Malay secondary classes in bigger numbers, held high positions in their careers, especially in the public sector, enjoyed influence and underwent a cultural transformation, including in the workplace and home” as a direct outcome of the NEP.

But there were other ripple effects from the application of the “magic” touch which the Sultan did not bring to the attention of his audience. These effects – principally relating to the non-Malay community but also now impacting on the Malays – are also important and necessary to bring to the attention of those who continue to advocate it as the panacea for the ills and shortcomings of the Malay community.

Image result for raja dr nazrin shah

Such a critical, empirically-grounded ]and non-romantic analysis is especially necessary to emphasise in religious and Malay-centric fora that are held ostensibly to instill “Islamic values” of justice, moderation, equality, and the other ethics deemed as central to the practice of the religion; or during events intended to uplift Malay pride and self-esteem.

Who Lost Out With The NEP

That magic wand waved to secure the employment of Malays in the public sector and their accelerated promotion and advancement in it, as well as in other sectors, has required the suppression and holding back of other citizens in their employment, career and even life prospects, however deserving or qualified they may have been, simply on account of their minority ethnic identity. Enough has been written about this for so long that even the most out-of-touch or uneducated in the country is fully aware of it.

Image result for malaysia's tn50

UMNO-BN Election Gimmick?

The loss has not only been to the many hundreds of thousands of non-Malays who have had to make personal sacrifice or have been denied fair treatment as a result of a policy pushed down their throats to ensure ‘national unity’ and so that Malay politicians (and Royalty) can have what these dominant groups consider to be a fair share of the nation’s wealth.

The loss is also that of the nation as a whole.

Surely our well informed Royalty must also be aware of the collateral damage that pro-Malay bumiputra policies have had on governance, economy, social cohesion and race and religious relations. Surely Dr, Sultan Nazrin, with degrees from Oxford and Harvard, must be aware of the vast literature available, in English and the national language, of the downside of maintaining the NEP past its original shelf-life of 1990.

Sultan Dr.Nazrin who is also the Financial Ambassador of the Malaysian International Islamic Financial Centre (MIFC) also said that Malaysia is always described as a modern Islamic nation which is developed, progressive, peaceful and moderate. According to him, “Islamic leadership in Malaysia is highly respected. The wisdom of the Malay leaders in implementing programmes for the development of the people and the country has been acknowledged throughout the world.”

OECD’s Damning Analysis

As Financial Ambassador, he would do well to read the recent Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Review of Innovation Policy report which categorially states that the NEP is among the causes of Putrajaya’s limited success in upgrading the economy through science, technology and innovation policies since the mid-1980s. The recently released Malaysia report noted that “[s]ocial equity rules associated with the New Economic Policy, affecting a wide range of domains including education and businesses, did not allow sufficient mobility of resources which, in the end, hindered innovation activities”.

The report also noted that the domination of government-linked companies (GLCs) and major family-owned conglomerates – all factors the Sultan should be very familiar with – have tended to block competition, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Finally the reported noted that “[e]ven the best initiatives have suffered from a lack of sustainable efforts, political interference or, in some cases, clientelism and corruption”.

The NEP and its successor policies need an open, rigorous and transparent stocktaking to ensure that the Malay community and other Malaysians do not continue to be led astray or become victims of an anachronistic, increasingly elite-favouring, corrupt and indefensible policy.

The magic has been long gone and will never return. Perhaps the Sultan’s next speech may see him provide some ideas on the replacement policy to the NEP.  Empowerment of the Malays, not dependence of UMNO handouts is the way forward  in the pursuit of national unity.

15 thoughts on “The NEP:”A Magical Touch” or Systemic State-Sponsored Discrimination?

  1. Real affirmative action is a handicap system, NOT an absolute entitlement which is what NEP is. Couched in “hak Melayu” and “Ketuanan”, absolute quotas rather than target quotas, NEP is apartheid, it is racist just not by a powerful race. It is still immoral, unjust and more important, unsustainable.

  2. Why are we still fixated to solve national problems along racial line is beyond me. What more if we add religion to the mix.
    My tabik hormat to Dr. Lim Teck Ghee but as a cautionary I would want to state that the very moment we mention royalty and its members, we are already at risk for expressing our thoughts publicly because we, the rakyats, are subjected to lese mejestic and a host of rules, regulations, laws that we are not even aware of that could be sprang against us. The point is any discourse involving royalty in Malaysia is always a one way street. Period and it’s that definite and simple. I don’t think those in power would even consider loosening the grip and let and give us more space to engage and deliberate in this discourse. The same mindset applies to the ruling elites in most of the political parties. Do you think Najib would want to hear from someone with opposing views about TN50? The dominant cultural milieau remains one which encourages and empowers sycophancy. He will reward those who accolade him and punish who are dismissive of him. I have yet to read anywhere that says Najib or anyone within Malaysian ruling elite who can be considered as open-minded and welcome new ideas and thoughts. Will appreciate if you could show me the evidence that my supposition has been wrong all these whiles. The bottom line is this: as long as this dominant cultural milieau remains in the psychic of Malaysian rulers and the ruled, what and how we expect things to change for the better?

  3. It is a truism that the NEP is state sponsored discrimination and Malaysia as a nation will never achieve harmony among the different races because is a non-inclusive policy. After almost six decades of independence what are the incompetent politicians talking nothing constructive but race, religion, royalty and haram and halal. The immaturity is the hallmark of these incompetent politicians.

  4. Why do national wild life park administrators the World over advice visitors not to feed the animals, and in fact some even impose a punitive fine on any (visitor) who do so?

    Answer this question and you will know why the NEP, even if implemented as originally intended and without any opportunistic abuses, will never ever lift the Malays / Bumiputras, (or indeed any others), as a group. And BTW why did Tun Ismail put a 20 year cap?

    And because the 20 year cap was not followed, the NEP has now become an Event Horizon.

    Any attempt now by any political enterprise, from any ideological side, to push it back or even attempt to do so will be met with swift and most likely violent resistance, ala May 13, just like wild animals who have been fed easy meals by humans will attack the latter when the feeding stops.

    The Malays / Bumiputras themselves must collectively want the NEP to end; collectively endure, optimistically, a most painful transitional period of at least two generations. For this to happen the mindset of the Malays / Bumiputras, which Khairy talked about, (he was actually referring to the Malay / Bumiputras only when he said “Malaysians”), must change to what I call the “Bonsai Mentality”

    Read how a Bonsai is created and you will know what I mean.

    Will it happen? I personally have my doubts, though I hope to be proven wrong.

  5. The root cause of Malaysia’s current troubles is Ketuanan Melayu: the ideology of Malay supremacy espoused by the UMNO that has dominated the country’s politics for more than six decades. The NEP is only a tool to facilitate Ketuanan Melayu. It is a means for UMNO to cement political support, creating a rentier system with dubious economic results.

    Promoting Malay supremacy not only undermines government accountability, it makes for unsound economics. Market discipline, transparency and good governance are falling by the wayside in the name of Malay supremacy. And for what? After more than four decades of preferential treatment, many Malay businesses remain uncompetitive and rely on the government for their survival. Non-Malays are leaving the country in droves, undermining the economy’s long-term prospects. Although the educational levels of Malays have improved tremendously, their median household income still lags behind those of all other ethnic groups.

    The pro-Malay affirmative action policies must be abandoned. The Malay Agenda is hurting Malaysia tragically. The promotion of Malay supremacy has resulted in Malay subservience.

    • LaMoy: It is interesting that you narrow Malaysia’s current predicament to one major issue, that is, the “Ketuanan Melayu”. The good old USA seemingly is reverting to another form of “ketuanan” too, perhaps we can coin it as “Ketuanan Mat Salleh”. If you are not a white person, others will question you about your immigration status, your nationality, etc., etc. Being born in Hawaii somehow makes one less American then being born in Iowa. Ask Obama. Americans of Asia descents face discrimination more (whether direct, institutional, or subtle) relative to those from Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Britain, etc., I once met an author from Stanford University who told me that he is a 7th generation of Asian American and yet he articulated that he still wasn’t fully embraced and accepted as Americans much the same way as Malaysian view the non-Malays. Anectodal, yes, but illustrative of my point even if it comes closer to being stereotypical.

      Back to our “tanah air”, I think there many elements that contribute to the strengthening of the”Ketuanan Melayu” and of course its longevity and sustenance. Malays are feudal people. I often pained myself looking for clues, articles or pictures that demonstrate the mutual even flow of transactional interactions between those leaders but all I see is non-Malays continuously are being subordinated and being made to pay homage to the Malays. The Tunku is of course an exception but we do not have another Tunku nowadays but plenty of jubah-wearing with goatie Saudi wannabe. Why do the non-Malays subject themselves and keep on enabling and perpetuating the sick system and the fact that the unequal treatment of all citizens is not a battle cry is beyond me.

      My two cents worth!

  6. Agree. Tabit hormat to Dr Lim for venturing where angels fear to go. In one short brilliant piece, he has summarized all our nation’s problems and exposed the hypocrisy of those at the top. Family owned conglomerates and their ill-gottem wealth and NEP – what has Perak Sultan to say about it? Thanks to Din for posting Lim’s piece. We have to make sure it remains in the public consciousness.

  7. The NEP is the single most destructive thing that could ever happen to the Malays, and by extension ALL Malaysians.

    I’ve just read an article from FMT “Unemployed graduates are out of sync” (

    One of the worst affect element of society as a result of the NEP is our education system. Institutions keep churning out meaningless and worthless pieces of paper that no respectable employer would bother with.

    Many of my friends could hardly gain any employment, even though they have no shortage of so-called “sijil”s. On one occasion, a friend told me, in order to get a job with a certain State (or State-linked entity), he had to go through THREE internal tests. He gave up at the second. On that same occasion, he said, another fresh graduate, with a degree no less, flunked out on the first test. We’re talking about a State entity here, not a full on privated company, although that state, been governed by the “Opposition”, most probably just operated a bit more on merit rather than “connections”, which is understandable. By the way, on that same day, close to a hundred applicants showed up at the recruitment drive.

    Previously, the Federal Government can easily absorb scores of graduates because the government coffers are still pretty brimful. But this is, and now proven, to be unsustainable.

    There really is no substitute for hard work. NEP or no NEP, we still have to earn our dues. The NEP just postponed the inevitable down the line. And the longer we postpone it, the harder we’re going to get hit.

  8. The Malay Muslims have been taught and brainwashed to be bigots and racist by the Ulamaks. They always claim they are following the teaching of the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet. It is the complete opposite.
    Islam and the Prophet pbuh have always preached tolerance and acceptance of the various races and religions but the Malay Muslims are hooked on KEtuanan Melayu.
    Race aside notice how the MAlay Muslims treat the Indonesians and Bangladesh who are Muslims, yet they are treated with contempt and looked down on. Is that what Islam teaches its followers? The Malay Muslims are not above the other races and God has clearly stated that your station in life is your piety and submission to God.

  9. Kelantanese:
    Very well put, sir. We are all here just to put in our own two cents. I simply stated what I saw. Others may see things differently. The history book of the United States is a book of racism. But that is not how I see Malaysia.

    My relation with Malaysia is quite unique. My father was a 3rd generation Chinese-American and a graduate from Stanford University. But he couldn’t find a decent job in the United states due to racism, and so he went to teach in Tsinghua University in China. But then the Civil War came and he moved to teach in Malaya. My parents never became Malaysian citizens. Although I was born and grew up in Malaysia but I never was a citizen. I was born before the independence of Malaya so I did not automatically became citizen. When my classmates mostly had blue color identity cards, I had a red color identity card, which meant orang asing. But that didn’t prevent me of seeing myself a de facto Malaysian.

    I grew up in a Malay kampong and never experienced any racial animosity there. No one saw me as a anak China or treated me any differently. As a matter of fact, my family was revered because the kampong folks respected my father as a highly learned man. And I grew up with great admiration, respect and love for the gentle, kind and generous kampong folks. I remember the penghulu often came to visit my father for advice and I still wonder how he could understand my father’s broken Bahasa Melayu.

    I honestly believe Tunku Abdul Rahman had, for the good of the country, the genuine interest of equality among all citizens. I remember the ultra Malays like Tun Razak, Mahathir, Alatas… were always against him. They drove LKY out of the federation. I strongly suspect the May 13 Riots were orchestrated and started by these ultra Malays in UMNO to seize power and to enhance their political agenda of Ketuanan Melayu. NEP is only a pretext, a product by the devils like Tun Razak and Mahathir. Many things were done in the name of the Malays but the true instigators and benefactors were a small number of Mamaks like Mahathir. And now they are adding a stronger element into this political game of power — Islam.

    But I believe the kind, generous and gentle Malay majority will one day empower themselves again to drive out this evil force. How soon? Your state, Kelantan, plays a vital role. Selangor, Penang and Johore already awaken. If the situation prolonged, I believe Sarawak and Sabah would secede, even though the odds are against them at the moment.

    “Why do the non-Malays subject themselves and keep on enabling and perpetuating the sick system and the fact that the unequal treatment of all citizens is not a battle cry is beyond me.” Because they have not lost faith in the love and hope for their country, just like us in the United States. It needs patience to build a nation right, just like it needs patience to cook the food good and tasty. The important thing is not to be afraid of failure and intimidation — get involved, take action, and be patient.

    Kelantanese, my new friend, you’re right that the US is “reverting to another form of ‘ketuanan'”. There was a time after the Civil Rights and the Anti-Vietnam War Movements that race relations in the US had improved. But white supremacy never went away. The election of a black president had triggered to provoke white supremacy into the open again. But it will never be the same like in the past. Many states are no longer lily-white. I believe white supremacy will never take hold in west coast states like California, Washington and Oregon. The population born through inter-racial marriages is growing. My wife is white, and my extended family is like an United Nations.

    Well, that’s my two cents.

    • LaMoy: You and I could very well co-write an essay centering on issues like this “Ketuanan Melayu” perhaps from both of our own worldviews and prisms. The narrative of spending a many sleepovers at my chinese and siamese friends’ houses and they did in mine, running around naked on the beach facing South China Seas, and later in boy scouts activities and at last, the NEP took me away from them to a residential school even though our grades were almost identical. Though being a “chosen one” during those formative years, my heart were always with them but time and distance have their own way of re-creating destiny. That’s why I mourned the passing of personality like Yasmin Ahmad (movie like Sepet, or commercial like Tan Hong Meng in love) because I identify with her spirit and soul.

      I too was born prior to merdeka but in Ulu Kelantan and spent my young years in Bachok. I was at the receiving end of a discrimination too. Because I was not born a Tengku, there were stories to tell without running a risk of fouling the lese majeste and hence began the seeding of intricate desire for greener pasture and becoming a first generation immigrant to the land of the free and the home of the brave.
      I encourage you and LaMoy to do it. Why don’t you initiate the first cut and send it to my bro LaMoy for the final Stanford touch. Bakri Musa has done a lot and written about Ketuanan Melayu. He lives in Morgan-Hill, Los Angeles. I will post the final version with my comments in this blog. We must stop being politically correct and morally equivalent. Let us take the Malay bull by its horn if we desire change.I was never afraid be factual and truthful.–Din Merican

    • Kelantanese:
      Bro Din is absolutely right. He knows very well that I have lost touch with the current affairs in Malaysia. You have to take the initiative to do the writing and maybe I can proof read for you and give you my opinions or some of my stories here and there.

      Din knows I usually do not respond to his post on events of Malaysia. This one happens to be on NEP and I’ve something to say. I’ve read some commentaries in this blog in the past criticizing NEP and I feel they have missed the point, barking at the wrong tree. They failed to understand why the NEP came into existence and how it is being used.

      I believe a certain affirmative action program to help the disadvantage low income citizens is always good. But it is not so in Malaysia. The NEP is used as a political tool to manipulate a certain race of people. And the result is very sad. To quote a Malay-Singaporean who once told me about Malay-Malaysian: “tidak boleh berjalan tanpa tongkat.”

      When I connect NEP to Ketuanan Melayu you were sharp to spot it out. May be we are thinking alike. NEP is not the real problem, Ketuanan Melayu is. All the problems in Malaysia today started with Tun Razak who sowed the seeds of Ketuanan Melayu, fertilized and made it grow strong by Mahathir, and f**ked-up by Najib.

      The Malay privileges promised in the Constitution have become extended Malay rights under Mahathir. And no one questions this because no one understands the difference between a privilege and a right. The two words are used interchangeably in Malaysia. In the same token Malaysian Chinese and Chinese-Malaysian are used interchangeably, and no one questions the difference.

      Kelantanese, my friend, you and I know, and bro Din, too, there was no such thing as racism in Malaya and early Malaysia. Small conflicts here and there, of course, even the siblings of the same family have some quarrels. With my Malay friends, arms on each other’s shoulders, we walked to school together, learned together, played together, ate together, and slept together. Where did this harmony go? Who and what have divided us? UMNO and Ketuanan Melayu.

      We have to think of a way to exchange email. Maybe bro Din can help. Since we met at this blog, maybe bro Din has both our emails, and can forward each other’s email to us.

  10. ……..the nep may not be able to build a strong economy but a strong economy will be able to build a stong nep…………………………………………………………………………..(99)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s