Half truths and semi-lies
Believe it or not, MCA once had the gumption to provide an articulate critique of the NEP.
COMMENTPolitical language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, according to George Orwell.
Hence, when Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak told the World Economic Forum that the non-Bumiputera community did not oppose his government’s affirmative action policies in favour of Malays and other natives of Malaysia, he raised eyebrows even among some leaders of his Barisan Nasional coalition.
News reports quoted him as saying: “By and large, the non-Malays in Malaysia, the non-Bumis, don’t actually oppose affirmative action. But what they want is the way you implement the policy should be done in a more transparent way.”
One could, of course, interpret this as an admission that there had in fact been consistent and persistent opposition to this controversial policy.
Barisan Nasional has been holding on to this policy for more than 30 years – and particularly doggedly during the prime ministership of Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
Has it been a disastrous failure? Has the nation become more divided rather than more united? Has the policy fuelled greed and corruption while making the Bumiputeras even more dependent on government patronage rather than more confident of their ability to compete in the marketplace of business and employment?
An ever-increasing number of Malaysians are inclined to answer “Yes” to these questions, if we go by commentaries on the more respectable blogs and news portals.
It seems that more and more Malaysians are becoming aware that our politicians are long on rhetoric and short when it comes to substance.
MCA’s true stand
Indeed, even senior BN member MCA has often – but only in the past – questioned the effectiveness of the New Economic Policy.
For example, a memorandum circulated among the party’s leaders in 2005 gave a list of the adverse effects of the NEP. We quote it here verbatim:
Agriculture and smallholders and estate workers gained little from the poverty eradication programmes as they were systematically denied fair access of land.
Petty traders received no government assistance while large development expenditures were given to Malays.
Low-cost housing, hawking facilities, and stalls were not allocated to non-Malays.
Non-Malay small businesses tend to be subjected to political, bureaucratic control and harassment for things like taxi licences, micro-credit facilities, factory sites, trade licences, import permits, and even applications for utilities. Since small businesses tend to be run by families who are generally not well educated, they have little means and knowledge on how to circumvent the bureaucracy. As a result, they resort to bribery and corruption.
District development machinery took upon itself to implement NEP, thus denying much needed funds to villages. This exacerbated the poverty among the non-Malays.
While large foreign companies were not subjected to the NEP rule, large domestic companies were forced to sell their 30% below market value. In cases where foreign ownership was shared, they were allowed to sell their equity at fair market.
NEP was deliberately distorted to apply to select companies to reserve senior positions for the Bumiputeras.
Privatisation projects went without tendering exercise and excluded the participation by non-Malays. This is a clear violation of the constitutional rights of non-Malays.
The practice of making developers allocate at least 30% and some even up to 70% of the houses to the Bumis led to price distortions. Often these quotas were not fulfilled, resulting in further holding costs. On top of it, discounts of 7% must be obliged to Bumis. Developers were requested to restructure their equity when applying for planning approvals.
Employment in the public sector did not reflect the racial composition of the country.
Racial considerations in the recruitment, promotion exercise, training opportunities overriding meritocracy, ability and seniority became universally adopted.
Non-Financial Public Enterprises (NFPE) which operate as commercial enterprises were treated as an employment domain for the Malays.
Chinese schools were not given equal treatment as the national schools in terms of funding allocation and teaching resources.
The quota at the tertiary level also meant that when Bumi quota is not filled, other races are denied entry also just to maintain the percentage.
Teaching of history almost obliterates the contributions of the non-Malays. Discriminatory acts are often found in classes.
It may surprise today’s MCA detractors that the party could be so honest with itself and so daring in its criticism of a BN policy.
But that was in 2005.
Today, under the presidency of Dr Chua Soi Lek, MCA is in constant denial and is never shy of heaping praise on BN for its policies even if the community it is supposed to represent continues to suffer discrimination.
Stanley Koh is a former head of MCA’s research unit. He is a FMT columnist.