Infernal Ramblings
A Malaysian Perspective on Politics, Society and Economics

Expanding the New Economic Policy's Reach

Written by johnleemk on 7:04:58 am Mar 26, 2007.
Categories: ,

After I reviewed a blog where a Malay male slammed Malaysian Malaysia and the opposition, helen wrote in response:

Under extreme unfavourable circumstances, how could you possibly expect the Opposition to get their views across to the non-Bumis let alone Bumis? You can't even get a mainstream paper to do a considerably unbiased report on the Opposition. :-)

When a learned bumi like Amir finds DAP's Malaysian Malaysia ambiguous, that says it all doesn't it? How ambiguous and hard to grasp is it? Certainly non-bumis have no problem grasping the phrase.

Many bumis are against NEP. Rephrase, against the inequality of the NEP benefiting certain quarters of the bumi race whom are born with connections. They are not against handouts. They are against the inequality of the handouts. This sudden sense of justice against NEP is not in any way related to how they see injustice done to non-bumis via the government's policy.

When the Opposition party fight for equality for all Malaysians, of course it's going to be a tall order. Not only they have to go against the current admin, they have to go against basic human nature, greed and self-preservation.

Regarding the problem of publicity, I think nobody would deny that the opposition has a major problem in that regard. Reaching out to the electorate will be a slow and troublesome process, thanks to the restrictions on freedom of speech in the country.

Nevertheless, what troubles me and people like Amir Hafizi, who penned the original blog post in question, is that even when people are aware of the opposition, they are about equally often as repulsed as attracted. This is so even for some of the most enlightened and educated Malaysians.

Take Dr. Bakri Musa, for example. This is a man with very clear and levelheaded ideas for fixing up our country and setting it on the right path. But in his terrific book, The Malay Dilemma Revisited, he argues that the opposition at present cannot be relied on, and notes his fears of the Democratic Action Party, which he labels as chauvinistically Chinese.

That's how terrible the opposition's public relations are. If they can't even convince educated and informed people such as Dr. Bakri Musa that they are worth giving a chance, what's the point of raising awareness amongst other voters? As Amir said, the opposition has to listen to voters' concerns, and address them.

I think those who think a "Malaysian Malaysia" is ambiguous are perhaps unable to step into the shoes of the typical Malay. The historical context of this phrase is inexorably associated with the abolition of Article 153 of the Constitution, which provides for the Yang di-Pertuan Agong to safeguard all the communities of Malaysia — the Bumiputra community being the only one specifically named, and having specific measures given to enforce its protection.

Like it or not, this phrase is damaged goods. Using it is like committing political suicide, and the DAP has wisely retired it. There's nothing wrong with it at face value, but it has been forever damaged by how it was portrayed in the 1960s, just as how the swastika — a symbol of peace for the Hindus — has been forever damaged by its usage in the early 20th century.

At an emotional and visceral level, the Malay associates a "Malaysian Malaysia" with taking away his rights and his opportunities in his homeland. These are legitimate concerns that need to be addressed, even if they are unfounded concerns.

It is not enough to say "well, we're all going to be equal, so you just run along and do your best to compete". The Malay has already been hobbled for over a century by protectionist British colonial policies, and further by even more protectionist pro-Malay government policies. How can we expect him to fairly compete on a level playing field?

Amir wisely commented in another piece on the three steps to successfully fighting for true political and economic equality of opportunity:


- Say it. Say it, motherfucker! Otherwise, no normal Malay will ever vote your ass.


- Shut up when I'm talking to you. Shut your yapping righteous, indignant, arrogant mouths and say this line, stupid. You've been a loser for more than a century and it's time you hear from the greatest political mind this world has ever seen.


- Show case studies and examples of poor people from other races. Some, or maybe most Malays have never seen or heard of poor people from other races. At least, those poorer than them. So you must make it crystal clear that you are asking them to help their fellow fucked up Malaysian.

Amir says exactly what I have been saying for almost two years now. I am an advocate of expanding the scope of the NEP to all Malaysians below a certain income line. Moreover, I support expanding the scope of opportunities — not just mere handouts — for all Malaysians to advance themselves and make themselves useful in our society. We all benefit when we are able to better utilise our human resources.

In this sense, the opposition does not have to fight human nature. It is in the self-interest of all Malaysians to expand the scope of the NEP laterally while restricting it vertically. (i.e. making it reach out to all Malaysians regardless of race, while reducing its reach to Malaysians who have more than a certain income.)

Furthermore, it is in the individual self-interest of each voter below the threshold for support under this expanded NEP to support it. When the opportunities all currently going to already rich Bumiputras are made available to the poor Buimputras and non-Bumiputras, do you think the latter two groups would vote against it?

Amir's rantings may occasionally sound like those of a lunatic. But his rantings are worth paying heed, because he is speaking the minds of Malays out there. As a Malay, he understands how they approach the problems of politics in Malaysia. It would be foolish to ignore his wisdom and retreat into our usual non-Malay view of things, because if we want to effect change, we will need the support of the Malays. And it is in the self-interest of everyone, Malay or otherwise, to do this.

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