Honourable Dato Speaker,
Critical Economic Structural Reforms
I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the parliamentary debate on the 10th Malaysian Plan. It is heartening to know that the Government finally acknowledges the country needs critical economic structural reforms. The Government proposes to make this transformation under the New Economic Model. Pakatan Rakyat had prior to the 12th General Elections warned that dire reforms are needed and had proposed the New Economic Agenda. BN and PR therefore share a common platform that reforms are needed. The difference lies in political will.
Courage and Conviction
Pakatan Rakyat’s struggle for reform is based on courage and conviction. Courage based on knowledge of the truth. Conviction based on the faith in the people’s desire for change.
1,500 delegates from Keadilan, DAPand PAS have given full endorsement for the New Economic Agenda at PR’s Convention on 19th December 2009. No UMNO or any BN division has given support to the NEM. In fact, not only UMNO members but even ministers have attended and supported anti-NEM forums. Perkasa, UMNO members and Bumiputra NGOs and movements such as “Bangkit Melayu” led by the previous Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir, have objected to the NEM. They claimed that the Malays are still poor and are economically disadvantaged. They fear that if the NEP’s affirmative policy is abolished the Malays will suffer. They have called for a “May 13 Rally” to remind the people of the riots when Malay rights are not respected. Due to these pressures, the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, officers in the Economic Planning Unit and government officials have disowned the National Economic Advisory Council (“NEAC”) and disclaimed the NEM as government policy. The Prime Minister, Dato Sri Najib Tun Razak declared at the Bumiputra Economic Congress on 31st May 2010 that he would not betray the NEP policies.
In the light of this development, the Government’s political will to make the changes is suspect. The Government needs to show that it has the political will and conviction to carry out the promised reforms. It is therefore imperative for the Government to carry out the following actions.
Firstly: Establishing a Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal on the May 13 Incident.
The Government must firstly acknowledge that the May 13 Incident was a political coup d’etat and not a racial problem. The cornerstone of the NEP has been the May 13 Incident. There must be a Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal to investigate whether “the May 13 Incident” was a ploy by Malay capitalists to depose Tunku Abdul Rahman as prime minister and not a racial riot.
Tunku referred to such a plot in the book “K. Das and the Tunku Tapes” :
“You know Harun was one of those-Harun, Mahathir, Ghazali Shafie-who were all working with Razak to oust me, to take over my place…”
Subki Latiff, a journalist wrote in 1977:
“The May 13 Incident did not occur spontaneously. It was planned quickly and purposely. The identity of the planners of the incident cannot be stated with accuracy. But whatever it was that happened, the May 13 Incident was a form of coup d’etat directed against Tunku Abdul Rahman. The Tunku’s power in fact ended from then onwards. Although he continued to be Prime Minister and President of UMNO, he was no more than a figurehead.”
(Dr Kua Kia Soong “May 13 Declassified Documents on the Malaysian Riots of 1969)
Recently, Tan Sri Abdullah Ahmad, who was Tun Razak’s political secretary prior, during and after the May 13 Incident wrote an article about the incident. He said that the tragic and vicious incident need not have happened had Tun Razak’s message to Dato’ Harun Idris, the Menteri Besar of Selangor, reached him 30 minutes earlier or had Tan Sri David Tan Chee Khoon and Tun Lim Chong Eu spoken to Tun Razak 30 minutes earlier to relay their message that they would not cooperate with DAP to form the state government of Selangor nor work together in Perak and elsewhere. Tan Sri Abdullah said he was beside Tun Razak when he took the calls. He recalled clearly what Tun Razak told Dato Harun:
“…the good news is you will continue to run Selangor. Chee Khoon and Chong Eu have just spoken to me and they want the status preserved. So tell the people gathering at your house to disperse.”
Dato Harun thanked Tun Razak and asked him to convey his gratitude to the two statesmen. Between five and ten minutes after that, Dato Harun rang Tun Razak to say it was too late. As he was persuading them to disperse, news reached the crowd that clashes had begun in Chow Kit area and beyond.
The New Economic Policy was created in the aftermath of the May 13 Incident. Since then “the spectre of May 13” is raised whenever the supremacy of UMNO is threatened or civil rights issues are raised. From above accounts a Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal must be established to ascertain whether the tragic clashes were to oust the Tunku, or to enable Dato Harun Idris to be retained as Chief Minister or due to racial disharmony. This country has been caught in a quagmire of racial politics for 40 years. As the nation searches for a new direction, it is imperative that the Government acknowledges the facts behind the May 13 Incident. For this nation to move forward in the future, it must be anchored on a past grounded on solid truth and not a tissue of lies.
Secondly: It must be acknowledged not all Malays benefited from the NEP.
The Government must secondly acknowledge that the NEP benefited only a select few. The argument for maintaining the NEP is Malay poverty.
Based upon Government Statistics, after 40 years of the NEP, 62% of the Malays earn RM3,000.00 or less. They are farmers, rubber tappers, fishermen, factory workers and small traders. 34% of Malay households earn between RM3,000.00 and RM10,000.00. They are government servants, officers in government linked companies, contractors and traders. Only 2.8% of Malay households earn between RM10,000.00 and RM20,000.00. They are senior executives in GLCs, big contractors and professionals. Only 0.5% of the Malay households earn more than RM20,000.00. The claim that NEP benefited all Malays therefore cannot withstand scrutiny. Only the select few benefited while the majority remains in poverty or trapped in the lower income group.
The Prime Minister in his answer to my parliamentary question on 10 June 2010 said the Government acknowledged that Malays form 80% of the lowest 40% income group in the rural areas. Malays constitute 53% in the urban areas.
The Prime Minister explained that the reasons for this predicament are caused by the lack of capacity and ability to take advantage of economic opportunities, lack of capital resources, low level of education and skills, staying in rural areas and in the interior and being involved in low productivity activities.
It is only the select few who have taken advantage of the economic activities generated by the NEP. They also do not have capital resources but bank loans are arranged for them and they are bailed out when they face financial troubles. They have been given RM54 Billion worth of Bumiputra shares, privatized contracts, APs and licenses.
The Government must explain to the 80% lower income group of Malays and the Malay students why under the DEB, they have to repay the Government student loans, why they have to repay these loans with interests, are black listed when they default in repayments and are declared bankrupts when they fail. While on the other hand the select few are bailed out when they are in trouble such as the Government buying MAS shares from Tajudin Ramli at RM8.00 each when the market price was only RM3.62.
Tun Dr. Mahathir explained this in 1998 “The Way Forward” London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson) when he said:
“The NEP, it must be iterated, was not concerned in making all the bumiputras earned equally or share equally the wealth distributed amongst them. … the intention of the NEP was to create in the bumiputra community the same division of labour and rewards as was found in the non-bumiputra communities, particular, the Chinese. … the equitableness was not to be between individuals but between communities.”
The Honourable Member from Gua Musang in his speech on launching the second edition of the late James Puthucheary’s book “No Cowardly Past” on 22 March 2010 referred to this concept of creating a group of a few Bumiputra capitalists. He said that the NEP was intended as a unifying policy. There is no mention of race in the policy. It was subsequently reinvented as an inalienable platform for a Malay agenda. This group asserted the incongruous fiction of a Malay supremacy that requires affirmative action for a permanently dependant Malay. In its implementation, it became a project to enrich a selection of Malay capitalists. James Puthucheary warned back in 1959 that this was bound to fail:
“The presence of Chinese capitalists has not noticeably helped solve the poverty of Chinese households. Those who think that the economic position of the Malays can be improved by creating a few Malay capitalists, thus, making a few Malays well to do, will have to think again.”
Today, we asked those who oppose the structural reforms to think again. We are facing a crisis that threatens the political and economical foundation of our nation. We have come to the end of the road for the myth of the Malay Dilemma. It is important that the Government has the courage to acknowledge that the NEP did not provide for all the Malays but instead benefited only a select few. It is necessary to have a new policy such as Pakatan Rakyat’s New Economic Agenda for an affirmative action programme based on needs and not race. The Government must have the courage to acknowledge that a policy that is sustained through the rhetoric of ethnicity cannot succeed.
The Government must show it has the political will to make the critical changes needed. The Government must have the courage to face the truth. It is only when the truth is known can the nation find the strength to change. We have reached the cross roads of our nation’s development. The Government must not allow emotional issues of race to shroud the NEP’s failure to the nation in general and the Malays in particular. A Truth and Reconciliation Tribunal will allow proper closure of the May 13 Incident. It has haunted the nation for 40 years. The nation has not healed because we continue to fear. It is a fear built into our political system. This fear is rooted in the ignorance of the truth. We must as a nation exorcise the ghost of the May 13 Incident. As long as the truth remains hidden, we will not mature as a people and as a nation.
William Leong Jee Keen
Member of Parliament for Selayang
21 June 2010