Dr M’s selfish plea for the Umno upper class

By Joe Fernandez, FMT

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad, 86, appeared on national television Wednesday night on a TV3 programme to flog the age-old line that has so far benefited only a mere handful of “Malays” at the expense of the community itself and the nation.

Oblivious to continuing criticism of his “Malay Dilemma” approach, Mahathir reiterated that “the Malay struggle” – whatever it means – was still not over.

He argued that the community still needed to be protected by the government until they “duduk sama rendah, berdiri sama tinggi dengan kaum kaum lain”.

He made no mention, during his selfish plea, of the large numbers of natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli who lie at the bottom of the heap.

This kind of skewered political thinking fails to take into account the stark reality that it was the distortions and deviations in the implementation of key legislation and government policy that did and continues to do the Malays in.

Besides, it has created a situation where as many Malays as non-Malays continue to flee the country in record numbers to escape the mediocrity culture that has gripped the country.

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, and by extension the New Economic Policy (1979-1990), lie at the heart of the so-called Malay Dilemma.

The Federal Constitution, it must be stressed, does not state that the Malays are the natives or original people of Peninsular Malaysia. Nevertheless, Article 153 promises a special position – not special privileges as often claimed by Umno – for the Malays, along with the natives of Sabah and Sarawak and the Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia.

The special position reserves, for the aforesaid communities, a reasonable proportion of opportunities in four areas viz. intake into the civil service; intake into government-owned institutions of learning and training privileges; government scholarships; and opportunities from the government to do business.

Article 153 is not a “sapu bersih” (clean sweep) provision in the Federal Constitution. It recognizes, at the same time, the legitimate aspirations of the non-Malay communities i.e. meaning those other than Orang Asli and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

The bottomline line is that except for a handful of Malays from the ruling elite, the vast majority of Malays like other Malaysians are being denied the fruits of Article 153.

Ali Baba syndrome

Likewise, the NEP which is an extension of the fourth special position in Article 153, has been an abysmal failure in the wake of the Ali Baba syndrome and successive kleptocratic chief executives heading the federal and state governments.

Any business with and from the government – be it contracts, tenders, procurements and the like – cost the tax payer, in the ultimate analysis, anything from twice to ten times the actual figure.

The difference is pocketed by the many on the gravy train created by the politics of patronage. This is akin to stealing from the public treasury.

One result has been that the Umno government has failed to ensure that the Orang Asli, natives and Malays will own, manage and control 30 per cent of the nation’s corporate wealth – i.e. the publicly listed companies – by 1990.

Twenty years after the NEP was to have officially ended, the state and federal GLCs are being passed off as the 30 per cent.

State-owned assets cannot, by any stretch of the imagination, be considered as being owned by just one community in Malaysia, and to the exclusion of other citizens.