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Responding to Muhyiddin on Bumiputera Agenda

I refer to the recent statement by the DPM, Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin.

Muhyiddin was quoted by Bernama on 14 September 2013 as saying:

“We are not apologetic or worried if the non-Bumiputeras or even the international communities see this as something concerning only a certain group. For us, what matters most is the Bumiputera agenda”

Muhyiddin was of course referring to PM Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s announcement that their Government would expend several billions in ringgit on new initiatives to empower the Bumiputera community.

Uplifting the Bumiputera community is of course an important issue. It is and will remain a crucial challenge for Malaysia.

However the PM, DPM and their UMNO party owe an explanation to all Malaysians—whatever their race or religion— as to why under the Bumiputera community has remained so weak under their stewardship?

UMNO has after all been in power—via the Alliance and BN— since Malaya became independent in 1957 and the formation of Malaysia in 1963—some 56 years at the helm of the country.

It has, for most of that time enjoyed sizeable majorities in Parliament and brooked very little opposition—political or otherwise—to its governing agenda.
The NEP, which it takes such pride in, was enacted 42 years ago. Indeed, it remains a cornerstone in the rhetoric of UMNO as well as its surrogates, despite the NEP theoretically having come to an end in 1990.
And yet, no one can deny that the Bumiputera community remains in a precarious position today on many fronts.

On the eve of Malaysia Day it is worth noting too that UMNO often uses the term Malay and Bumiputera interchangeably yet the conditions of the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak leave much to be desired compared to their counterparts in Peninsular Malaysia.

The PM’s speech highlighted many of the shortcomings of the Bumiputera community, including the fact that the average monthly income of the Chinese Malaysian community is higher than the Bumiputeras by a ratio of 1: 1.43 and that the effective Bumiputera control on corporate companies currently is only around 10%.

To this must be added the continued difficulties facing Bumiputera graduates in finding private sector employment as indicated in the paper “Does race matter for getting an interview? A field experiment on hiring discrimination in Malaysia” by academicians Hwok-Aun Lee and Muhammad Abdul Khalid in 2012.

All this is on top of problems facing all Malaysians—especially young ones—including increasingly unaffordable housing and transportation, crushing household debt at 83% of the GDP and rising crime.

This Government must explain to all Malaysians why our economy has been brought to this state, until Fitch Ratings saw fit to downgrade our sovereign credit rating outlook citing a lack of clear indicators on fiscal reform.

This Government must explain to all Malaysians why—despite years of the NEP and billions spent—the Bumiputera community’s social mobility remains so fragile and in need of constant Government support.
Three years ago Najib admitted that out of RM54 billion worth of shares allocated to the Bumiputera community, a mere RM2 billion remain in the community’s hands. Where did the rest go?

Social mobility is worthwhile and sustainable only if it can stand on its own, if—and only if—it can be transferred to other generations without renewed handouts.

Most importantly, this Government must explain why it appears that the socioeconomic gap is increasing within the Bumiputera community.

UMNO cannot fault the Bumiputeras because it has always called on us to put our trust and support in that party—and that party alone—to do what’s best for us. Any Bumiputeras who thought otherwise were and continue to be condemned as traitors to the race, faith and nation.

Like it or not, the blame for the continued weakness of the Bumiputera community must rest solely on the door of UMNO.

As I said before, no one is questioning the need to improve the lot of the majority Bumiputera community. However, we have to realize that the failures of this Government have come at a great cost to the rakyat.

How many billions of ringgit has been lost to corruption and mismanagement?

How much human capital—Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera—has flowed out from the country as the best and the brightest talent seek a more level playing field to prove themselves?

How long must the addressing of the legitimate needs and problems of the non-Bumiputera be postponed or ignored while the Government fans the sentiment of the Bumiputera community, to the detriment of communal relations?

All Malaysians are paying for the failed policies of this Government and its predecessors—that were more concerned with spin rather than substance, preferring to throw money at problems in the hope that they would go away.

The Bumiputeras in particular are paying for UMNO-BN’s hysterical intolerance of any dissent on the so-called “Bumiputera Agenda” or “Malay Agenda”, especially when emanates from within the community.

The recent initiatives by the PM give little confidence that the core issues facing the Bumiputera community—of making it stable and prosperous without constant state intervention—will be addressed.

Indeed, the recent measures are more geared to ensure the political survival of certain individuals rather than any concern about uplifting the Bumiputeras.

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and hoping for a different result.

Malaysia—Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera alike—desperately need a new way of governance to move this country forward.