Soi Lek denies questioning NEP

By Yow Hong Chieh, The Malaysian Insider

MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Chua Soi Lek has denied questioning the New Economic Policy (NEP) at the Chinese Economic Congress (CEC), saying he merely suggested ways to increase the country’s competitiveness and achieve the Najib administration’s high-income goal.

His denial was carried in an interview with Berita Minggu today, the Sunday edition from the Umno-controlled The New Straits Times Press (M) Bhd.

“I never touched on the NEP… Look at my (Chinese Economic Congress) speech, I didn’t touch on one thing,” Dr Chua said in the interview.

“What I raised had to do with reality, how non-Bumiputeras can help the government to achieve the aims of the 10th Malaysia Plan (10MP) and New Economic Model (NEM).”

At the MCA-sponsored Chinese Economic Congress last weekend, Dr Chua had urged Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to abolish the 30 per cent bumiputera equity and to open up the boards of government-linked companies (GLCs) to non-Bumiputera talent.

This led to a war of words between Umno and MCA that involved Umno deputy president Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin and vice-president Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein, who both reminded Dr Chua not to forget about Barisan Nasional’s (BN) struggles while fighting for the rights of the Chinese community.

Muhyiddin also reminded the MCA that the unfair distribution of wealth had resulted in the 1969 racial riots, the worst in the multi-racial country’s history.

Without missing a beat, Dr Chua shot back with a retaliation of his own, citing his disappointment with Muhyiddin for using the 1969 riots to warn him.

He also said that Hishammuddin’s response was an indication that “some BN leaders” had failed to learn from the coalition’s failures in Election 2008, which saw the ruling coalition lose its two-thirds parliamentary majority.

“The competition is not between Chinese and Malay or Indian, but at an international level… If we continue to be oblivious to this, we will continue to fall, complacent in the notion that competition is between ourselves,” Dr Chua continued in his interview.

He added that he had only been speaking of national development and stressed that it was not zero-sum game where one community benefits at the expense of another.

However, this soft-pedalling was in contrast to the tone of Dr Chua’s keynote speech a week ago, where he asked Najib to “be flexible” in enforcing the 30 per cent Bumiputera equity requirement following the removal of such quotas for 27 services sub-sectors and initial public offerings (IPOs).

“Rather than enforcing the 30 per cent Bumi equity requirement across the board, a more flexible system in the form of a margin-of-preference system should be implemented on a sector by sector basis,” he had said then.

He continued, “Globalisation has presented Malaysians many opportunities but it has also forced us to continue to be a competitive nation. Malaysians cannot remain globally competitive unless we go a merit-based system.”

Dr Chua added that the country’s immediate priority was to jointly grow the economic pie rather than debate over which slice belonged to whom.

“Make no mistake, failure is not an option,” he had warned ominously.

He had even concluded his speech with a quote from Confucius meant to spur Najib to take up the unenviable task of paring down Bumiputera perks: “Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change, and for one to know what is right and not to do it, is the worst type of cowardice.”