Thursday, August 26, 2010

NEM : Najib & Pakatan Rakyat’s Miscalculations

Following up with the ending paragraph of my recent article, With all the recent debate on race, one thing is quite clear, Malaysia is not ready to do away with racial policies and politics.

Post 2008 Elections : False Sense of Realisation

Further to 2008 Tsunami, I did write that Pakatan Rakyat won because Rakyat was angry with BN and Pak Lah. Each community (read RACE) had their own grouses with the government of the day, hence BN lost 5 states, and not because Malaysians are ready to do away with race based policies or politics.

Pakatan Rakyat leaders and some liberal analyst went to town claiming that Malaysians are ready for change and Pakatan will bring an end to racial politics. Anwar then launched his Sept 16 drive (this day has now been made a Public Holiday) which he sold ‘Ketuanan Rakyat’ as an alternative to ‘Ketuanan Melayu’, which Pakatan Rakyat’s leaders claimed as racist.

Anwar said many time that if Pakatan Rakyat takes over Putrajaya, policies would be changed to reflect needs based affirmative action policies rather than race based. Perkasa had few members then, so not many made much noise. DAP were ecstatic but PAS was silent in agreement. Like Pah Lah, Pakatan is also prone to flip -flop statements.

There was also a time went all Pakatan Leaders called up press and announced that they will respect the constitution in terms of Bumiputra rights and privileges. But calls for equality and reforms on NEP continued in most Pakatan rallies, some of which I attended.

Post 2008 elections with many pro-opposition Malay bloggers supporting the dismantling of NEP associated policies, there were some sense of realisation amongst politicians that Malaysians are ready to do away with raced based policies and politics.

In BN, Gerakan sounded warning that BN raced based parties have to change. At one point even threatening to leave BN if there are no reforms. MCA & MIC were also taken in by all the noise in the blogsphere by numerous calls for their members to serve all races rather than representing and supporting their own race. UMNO and UMNO Youth were also advocating services to all races. PPP went further by suggesting that BN coalition to be merged into one party.

At one point, Malaysian public were also led to believe that we are ready for change, influenced by small number of arm-chaired, well to do, prominent political critics and analyst writing their rather skewed opinions in their blogs.

Post 2008 Elections : Reactions

Then came One Malaysia blog by Najib, just before he took over from Pak Lah. Najib’s One Malaysia concept appeared to be his reaction to calls to do away with racial politics and NEP. I knew at that point that he was wrong and that Najib was another victim of online onslaught on NEP and raced based politics. Will touch on Najib later.

There were also several incidents which tested Pakatan’s ‘Ketuanan Rakyat’ resolve. The were huge protest over Selangor MB Khalid’s suggestions to open up UiTM to non-Malays. Though the issue lasted just for couple of weeks, it was actually a message to Pakatan that Malays are not willing to do away with all these.

There was also protests over increased bumiputra quota imposed by the Kedah government on housing projects in the state. This time it was the opposite, non-malays, at the politicians protested and the issue had died down since. Note that the so-called liberal Malays did not make any noise.

There was also severals protest by villagers, mostly Malay over relocation of pig farms in Selangor. There were some issues as well with exhumation and relocation of Indian cemetery in Kedah. No non-Indians were seen protesting along with Indians. These incidents itself had proven that we Malaysians still will look at everything from the racial angle first and foremost.

Authorities now even afraid to demolish any illegal, largely not patronized, individual owned, ill-maintained Hindu temple just because’ it is a sensitive issue’. So race takes precedence over law of the land. Even Pakatan Rakyat will not uphold the law and demolish any temple because certain race will get offended, no matter that the illegal Hindu temple stands in way of some far more useful infrastructure that will benefit large number of constituents, such as roads or hospitals.

Emergence of Perkasa & Najib’s Miscalculations

With the emergence of Perkasa as an alternative voice for the Malays, my doubts has been proven. Najib promotion of 1Malaysia has prompted UMNO’s leaders to tone down their race based rhetorics. Some UMNO leaders actually wanted to wait and see if Najib’s 1Malaysia, New Economic Model (NEM) will gain support from the masses, especially the Malays and were reluctant to speak up.

Perkasa took the opportunity and has been vociferously vocal on defending Malay rights and privileges. With membership now said to number 300,000, they can be said to be bigger than most of BN member parties and even DAP and PKR. Ibrahim Ali’s rhetorics, joined by Majlis Perundingan Melayu (MPM) , with the support of Tun Mahathir has riled both UMNO and Opposition.

They have been lashing out at both BN and Pakatan based on several small incident including the so-called marginalization of Malays in Penang and calling BN stupid for being too generous with non-Malays, the recent ones being donations to Chinese schools in Hulu Selangor and Sibu.

Post 2008, influenced by the need to be in touch with the seemingly influential online community, Najib took the initiative to be more inclusive and promoted his 1Malaysia. The 1Malaysia catchphrase and sloganeering has been, his own words, fairly successful and as famous as McDonalds.

While he has managed to reach out to the young and those who are more inclined to believe what is on the net, he forgot that large number of Malays still those who are conservative where Malay culture, privileges, subsidies and government assistance are still important and relevant to them. This is where Najib has miscalculated the sentiments of conservative Malays. While too busy trying to reach out to the young and largely urban voters, he forgot UMNO’s traditional supporters, who are now the main supporters of Perkasa and MPM.

The last straw for Perkasa and MPM came with the introduction of New Economic Policy by Najib. Perkasa and MPM organized a forum and slammed NEM and openly, inNajib’s presence, pronounced that NEM is a threat to Bumiputra rights and privileges.

Najib has been check mated and responded with assurance that bumiputra rights and privileges would be restored, which directly contradicts his own NEM. Najib had since never recovered and details of NEM implementation has not been forthcoming. His speech at MCA Economic Congress had no mention whether NEM would stick to his earlier miscalculated promise of market based reforms which includes liberalization of various economic sectors, which also means doing away with NEP.

Recent survey by Merdeka centre also revealed that Malays still favour NEP.

Pakatan Rakyat : False Promises of Change??

Ok, fine, let’s vote out Najib and BN and let Pakatan Rakyat take over Putrajaya. Will they be able to make a difference?

While Mr Lim Kit Siang and other opposition leaders has been mocking 1Malaysia concept, criticizing Najib lack of follow up on NEM and Najib’s about turn on market reforms, Pakatan Rakyat is actually doing the same mistake as Najib by promising equality and meritocracy to potential voters, when large number of Malay conservatives are still in favour of the old NEP

How sure is Pakatan Rakyat that they will do away with NEP when they take over Putrajaya. Will Anwar stick to his words that he will replace NEP with his version of Affirmative Action based on needs rather than race, which effectively mean doing away with Malay rights and privileges?

Why there was a silence from DAP and PKR when PAS President Hadi Awang opposed to doing away with housing discounts for bumiputra. Hadi went on to say that we should uphold bumiputra rights and privileges. Where was Lim Kit Siang then ??

Will Pakatan Rakyat do away with various race based institution such as Mara? Can Anwar open UiTM to non-malays keeping in mind that the same suggestion by Selangor MB Khalid met with street protest. Will DAP economic advisor dare to ask all race based institutions and business cartels such as Chinese Chamber of Commerce, it’s Indian and Malay equivalent to merge? Will a future DAP Minister of Finance dare to implement open tender process for all government contracts?

What is Anwar, Lim Kit Siang’s strategy against PAS seemingly reluctance to do away with NEP. How will Anwar and DAP face protest from Perkasa and MPM in their pursuit of market reforms and needs based affirmative actions when even Najib is unable to take the heat?

Improve NEP Implementation, Not Abolish, At Least for now

Until and unless there are marked presence of Malay in businesses and equity ownership across the board, doing away with NEP at this stage will be impossible. With Chinese dominance of almost all sectors, they should learn to share the cake and focus on growing globally rather than focusing on the small market in Malaysia.

What interested party, BN or opposition should do is remove corruption, cronyism and nepotism and ensure meritocracy within the share of whatever allocated to bumiputras, eg scholarship meant for bumiputras should be only provided to poor Malays rather than son a Malay millionaire.

In summary both Najib and Pakatan Rakyat leaders have miscalculated the sentiments on the ground and no matter who is at helm in Putrajaya, NEP is there to stay until Malays have a respectable (not majority or significant) share of the nation’s wealth, at least that is what Malays want.

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