A perspective from an unbiased source…

…and this article was entitled “Better to call a spade a spade” and was posted in Guess Columnist of  MT by Kim Quek on Sunday,  September 24, 2006  8:16pm and I reproduced here for convenient and easy to read and this is a great food for thought…The original essay can be read here.  Read on…

In the chorus of angry protests against Singapore Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew’s recent remark that Chinese Malaysians have been marginalised, can these angry protesters answer one simple question? If there has been no racial marginalisation, why has the word meritocracy been a taboo in Malaysian politics ever since the racial riot of May 13, 1969 – the only country in the world doing that?

A few more simple questions:

Why have there been massive and unrelenting brain drains ever since the infamous debacle in 1969, resulting in countless Chinese Malaysians excelling in many fields in foreign lands?

Why has there been a virtual monopoly by one race – numerically as a whole as well as the top hierarchy – in the entire spectrum of the public sector, namely, the army, the police, the civil service, the judiciary, public universities, semi and quasi government bodies, government controlled financial institutions and enterprises?

Why have there been, year after year, the spectres of top Chinese Malaysian students being barred from universities, only to be admitted later (only for some) upon begging by Chinese ministers in the Cabinet?

No doubt Lee Kuan Yew may be faulted for lacking diplomatic niceties in his remarks, but he has spoken the truth. And I think every Malaysian irrespective of race knows that, at least in the deepest part of his heart if not outwardly.

Yes, we have been practicing racial discrimination, and that is a zero sum game. When race A is barred so that race B can get in, it is one side’s loss to another side’s gain, as simple as that. It is sheer dishonesty and hypocrisy to deny that any race has suffered a disadvantage as a result of this policy.

But the real question is: is such policy justified?

To answer that question, we have to go back to where such policy started – the New Economic Policy (NEP), formulated after the racial riots in 1969. It is necessary to refresh our memory over the original concept of this NEP, since it has almost become a dirty word now, having been hijacked by politicians for self-gain and for perpetuating political hegemony.

The prime objective of NEP was to achieve national unity, and the strategy to achieve that was two-pronged: to eradicate poverty irrespective of race, and to restructure society so as to eliminate the identification of race with economic function.

There is nothing wrong with such an affirmative action policy, but the tragedy is that over the years, through racial hegemony, it has been transformed into a policy synonymous with racial privileges, totally forgetting the over-arching objective of national unity and eliminating poverty across racial lines. Through two decades of dictatorial rule by former premier Mahathir Mohamad, the NEP had been blatantly abused to justify uncontrolled corruption, cronyism and nepotism, which have continued to rage unabated under the present prime minister.

There is no question that in spite of these abuses, the NEP has achieved its limited objective of having elevated the status of Malays in the economic and educational fields to a respectable level, compared to those of other races. But the fallout of such abuses is devastating indeed, which is nothing less than the drastic plunge of the ethos of the Malaysian society tantamount to a virtual breakdown of morality and law and order.

The chief setbacks of the abuses of NEP are rampant corruption and cronyism, worsening racial polarization, unrelenting brain drains, warped educational system, thwarted economic competitiveness, ineffectual bureaucracy, retarded economic growth and perverted social values.

Such anachronistic and regressive policy has no place in the present globalizing world, and for that matter, in any civilized society. As it is, the pressure to dismantle such policy does not come from within the country – as the deprived races seem powerless to redress this wrong – but from the whole wide world who are our trading partners. Our trade negotiators should be able to testify how tough the going is when it comes to negotiating free trade agreements with foreign parties whether it is regional marketing pacts (Afta, WTO) or bi-lateral agreements such as those involving Japan, US, Australia, China and India (through Asean), etc due to the presence of Malaysia’s race-based protectionist policies. Invariably, these NEP inspired policies stand as stumbling blocks to the opening of a wider window for two-way trades and investments for this country.

World trade liberalisation is a one way road, and there is no turning back, whether we like it or not. So, for how long can Malaysia buck the world trend without causing unacceptable damage to its own economy?

Even worse than the anticipated trade frictions is the loss of Malaysia’s economic competitiveness in the face of heightening competition from abroad. Our prime minister has correctly diagnosed this malaise as the prevalence of our third world mentality, but he has done nothing to correct our uncompetitive culture or to stamp the worsening racial and religious dissension within the country. In fact, he has done the opposite by intensifying the imprint of the perverted NEP philosophy on our economic plans, and prohibiting inter-religious and inter-racial discourse which would otherwise have contributed to greater understanding and harmony among the races.

Lee Kuan Yew’s comments have understandably riled many Malaysian leaders particularly those in the ruling coalition, but he should also have struck resonance among many who have silently put up with these unjust policies all these years.

As for the great silent majority in this country, they should now ponder what would serve their interests best: to save face by angrily rebutting Lee Kuan Yew or to stare at the ugly truth bravely and institute changes that will put the nation on the right path?

I think we have reached a stage in our history critical enough to warrant caution in putting too much trust in the incumbent leaders. The people of Malaysia have traditionally placed much trust in the ruling power, perhaps more than they should, as evident from the fragrant abuses of government authorities. The fact that we have scraped through as a nation in the past despite such serious misrule does not guarantee that we will be similarly lucky in the future. This is due to the fact that both internal and external circumstances have so radically altered that we can no longer commit such major errors in policies and in the choice of leadership without putting our future in peril.

Looking from this perspective, Lee Kuan Yew’s bitter medicine may yet work to our advantage if we are humble and brave enough to take this as a challenge to do some serious introspection that may eventually lead to our common good.

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