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Speech at The "Anak Malaysia" Convention On The Theme “Definitions, Issues & Key Challenges Of Bangsa Malaysia-The Making Of Towering Malaysians?” Organised By Parti Gerakan Rakyat Malaysia.
by Lim Guan Eng
(Hotel Grand Season, Saturday):
On 5 February 2005, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called for UMNO to be the agent of towering Malays, which he defined as a personality with good values, high calibre, capability and talent equipped with learning, knowledge and wisdom to motivate not only the Malays but also the country's other races.
When Malaysians waited with bated breath for the towering Malay to appear in the recent UMNO General Assembly last month, they did not have in mind a towering UMNO Malay brandishing a keris and thrusting it in a war-like manner into the air to champion Malay rights against imaginary enemies.
Neither did they expect the towering UMNO Malay to be one who relied on outdated, backward divisive and failed policies that do not promote the national economic interest.
Nor did they forsee another towering UMNO Malay to shed bitter tears of sorrow at being so misunderstood and the injustice of being criticized for distributing government largesse to the few instead of the many.
Or the towering UMNO Malay pandering to emotion by opposing the building of new Chinese primary schools in congested urban areas when this should be based on educational needs.
And yet we do not see the same courage to stand up and protest against the Indonesian government for failing to exercise their responsibility to seek international assistance to put out the fires that caused this terrible haze forcing 25 million Malaysians to damage our health by breathing in this poisonous air continuously 24 hours a day.
Malaysians still do not know who the towering Malays in UMNO are. But I am not here to talk about the towering Malay but to point out the fundamental flaw with the Prime Minister’s concept of a towering Malay is its utter incompatibility with the vision of moulding a bangsa Malaysia. Is the towering Malay not a Malaysian? Why should we not describe him/her as a towering Malaysian first rather than a towering Malay?
Focusing on the towering Malay instead of a towering Malaysian is socially exclusive and nationally divisive. Just as the slogan of “demi agama bangsa dan negara” is seen by non-Malays as meant for only one race and one religion instead of being inclusively multi-religious, for a multi-racial bangsa Malaysia in one nation.
As the magazine Aliran wrote, the attributes and values that Abdullah spoke of and cherished are universal and shared by all Malaysians: high intellect, a high value system, successful careers, good economic standing, and well-respected culture and religion. I do not intend to identify who the towering Malaysians are but to focus on the conditions necessary towards producing towering Malaysians, instead of towering Malays, towering Chinese, towering Indians, towering Kadazans and towering Ibans.
Need For Towering Institutions
Only with “towering” institutions can towering Malaysian personalities emerge. There must be a “towering” Parliament, “towering” judiciary, “towering” universities and education system, “towering” police force and the ACA, “towering” civil service, “towering” free press and a “towering” enforcement system that acts without fear or favour against corruption.
We must institutionalize the 8 basic tenets of democracy, rule of law, equal opportunity, wealth creation with equitable distribution, ethical, good governance, accountability and transparency where:
The Asiaweek Best
Universities 2000 where regionally, University of Malaya was ranked a lowly
47th position out of 77 universities, with Universiti Putra Malaysia in 52nd
and Universiti Sains Malaysia in 57th position.
The Times Higher
Education Supplement (THES) global ranking of the world’s best 200
universities in November 2004, with University of Malaya ranked No. 89 (17
places behind University of Singapore although both Universities share a
common origin with the establishment of King Edward VII Medical School in
1905) and the Universiti Sains Malaysia ranked No. 111; and
Ø The Shanghai Jiao Tong University 2004 World’s Best 500 universities, where not a single Malaysian university was listed.
A “web” ranking of
1,000 Universities, by the Madrid-based Internet Lab (Observatorio de
Ciencia y Tecnologia en Internet), and there was not a single Malaysian
· Without freedom of information and a free press, we can not create a knowledge-based society. Unless this freedom is granted, Malaysians would be denied the freedom of choice to make the most informed decision on their elected representatives, allocative efficiency and economic competitiveness. As Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen said, rights are meaningless if there is no full capability to exercise them.
The proposal to revive the NEP as part of a Malay agenda is a step backward, divisive, breeds corruption and malpractices as well as contrary to the national economic interest of the country. Malaysians, both non-Malays and poor Malays, will not be convinced that the NEP has fulfilled its function of wealth creation and equitable wealth distribution.
The New Economic Policy(NEP) must recognize its failure to unite Malaysians. The NEP’s stated goal of eradication of poverty and economic restructuring so as to eliminate the identification of ethnicity with economic function. However its discriminatory quotas in housing, ownership of public company stock, government contracts, university places and government scholarships, has not only failed to achieve these twin objectives but deeply divided Malaysians between bumis and non-bumis.
Eradication of poverty has succeeded only in absolute terms. Relative poverty persists and is particularly evident in urban areas. How NEP has failed can be shown by the latest United Nations Human Development (UNHDP) Report 2004 that shows Malaysia has the worst income disparity between the rich and poor in South East Asia. The UNHDP Report 2004 shows the richest 10% in Malaysia controls 38.4% of our economic income as compared to our poorest 10% controlling only 1.7%.
The reason why ordinary Malays do not benefit is that the distribution of this bumi equity is not fair or equitable due to corruption and inefficiencies as it is concentrated only amongst the few.. The NEP has been exploited to breed corruption, malpractice and cronyism. This is shown by the issuance of millions of ringgit of shares to son-in-laws and sons of Ministers and Deputy Ministers. How many ordinary Malays own shares or APs?
The recent AP controversy exposed by former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad where 12,600 Approved Permits(APs) were given to 82 companies but 54,600 APs to only 20 “selected” companies is another example of malpractice and abuse of power. By asking for the full 30% ownership equity, only the few rich Malays benefit from such cronyism and government patronage.
We should not forget that this bumi equity ownership is basically Malay dominated and neglects bumis from Sabah, Sarawak and orang Asli. Stressing on a Malay agenda ignores the reality that bumis from Sabah, Sarawak and orang Asli are marginalized and do not have any equity ownership.
Another beneficiary of the NEP is former Sabah Chief Minister Datuk Osu Sukam who instead of using his wealth fruitfully, found it fit to gamble RM 160 million in a London casino and incurring losses of RM 31 million. Malaysians are fed up of such accumulation of wealth by questionable means.
Another example of such distortion is reflected by the high number of Indians professionals in proportion to their population but hides the large number of Indian poor. Indians hold only 1.5% of equity ownerhip or RM 3.2 billion. By stressing on race, the government also ignored the plight of non-bumi lower class and poor, in particular the Indians who were completely marginalized. Such neglect breeds resentment as shown by the violence and high incidence of crime involving the poor Indians.
There is no substitute for excellence and meritocracy. If we continue to deny deserving students of their university places because of the colour of their skin, then not only will innocent young Malaysians be victimized but the country’s international standards and economy will lose out. The government should learn that as far as allocative efficiency is concerned, competition and merit rather than ownership is the crucial issue in ensuring wealth creation and a fair distribution of wealth.
South Korea is a very good example of making the correct choice on allocative efficiency. In 1966 annual per capita GNP was less than US$ 150 as compared to Malaysia’s US$350.. By 2003 GNP per capita in Korea had far exceeded Malaysia at US$12,033 as compared to Malaysia’s US$3,880 in 2003 according to the World Bank. From a situation where Malaysia is twice more prosperous than Korea in 1966, Korea is now more than 3 times more prosperous than Malaysia. Malaysia would do well not to make the same mistakes by resorting to the NEP and set us even further back.
So long as Malays can sell their shares to realize short-term profits, Malay equity ownership would never reach 30% even if the NEP was extended for another 100 years. If the Malays had held on and not sold the shares, the Malay equity would have reached 30% by its stated period of 1990. An estimated 40% of the Malay preferential shares given were sold for profit gains.
Documented verification is provided by an academic working paper titled, “Privatisation of Ports: A Malaysian Case Study” by Associate Professor Malcolm Tull and Dr James Revely of Murdoch University in January 2001,
“… By 1995 the privatised companies accounted for 22.1 per cent of the total market capitalisation of the KLSE. Many shareholders took advantage of the opportunity to realise short-term capital gains and sold their shares. The sale of shares in Klang Container Terminal and other privatised companies has, however, led to a dilution of Bumiputra equity: between 1983 and 1990 it declined from 65 per cent to 38 per cent of total paid up capital on the KLSE.”
This Australian study showed that almost 41% of the shares in privatized companies held by the rich Malays were sold. Applying this rough ratio would mean that the 19.3% of Malay shares in 1990 only represented 60% of the shares given by the government. In other words Malays had sold 12.9% equity stake. If Malays had held on to every share given, they would have a total 32.2% equity stake, far exceeding the 30% target in 1990.
Instead of stressing on a divisive Malay-only agenda, DAP calls for a Malaysian agenda that benefit and unite all regardless of race and religion to build a harmonius society and seek social justice for all Malaysians whether poor bumis, poor Malays, poor Chinese, poor Kadazans, poor Ibans and poor orang Aslis?
The time has come to build a nation on the bedrock of needs, merit, hard work, moral and ethical values and not appeal to keris-wielding, extremist and destructive emotions. Let me quote former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s words when introducing the Third Outline Perspective Plan 2001-2010:-
“High on our priority list is forging a united nation consisting of a progressive and dynamic Bangsa Malaysia that lives in harmony and imbued with strong moral and ethical values. Diligence, discipline, credibility, pride in one’s work and achievements, as well as the relentless pursuit towards continuous self-improvement and output are important values and attitudes for all Malaysians to develop. It is also important for the Malaysian society to show political maturity by avoiding extremism or parochialism. We must never cease to remember that the vital ingredient for sustainable growth is a harmonious society. “
Let me therefore close with the hope for this conference the immortal words of St Francis of Assisi, "Where there is discord may we bring harmony, where there is error may we bring truth, where there is doubt may we bring faith, and where there is despair may we bring hope.”