Abolishing NEP: The Most Serious Omission in PR Manifesto


Yes, we have heard the lesser PR lieutenants saying that we will see the gradual withering away of the NEP and DSAI has also told BFM that the NEP will be “fragmentalised” or something to that effect…But why is the abolition of the NEP not in the PR manifesto? 

Dr Kua Kia Soong, SUARAM Adviser

Out of all the policy changes we want to see in Malaysia, the New Economic Policy (NEP) must surely be of topmost priority. This “Never Ending Policy” that was introduced in 1971, was supposed to have run out in 1990, as all “sunset clauses” are supposed to do. All these years, the abuse of the NEP has led to a nation more polarized than it has ever been since independence in 1957 and an economy warped by rent seekers and private monopolists. 

The NEP was imposed as a fait accompli after the May 13 pogrom in 1969. The constitution was amended with a new 8A to Article 153, thus allowing for the implementation of the “quota system”. This has been abused to the extent that public institutions such as UiTM and other MARA schools and colleges can be justified as 100 per cent “bumiputera” with a former Higher Education minister even vowing at an UMNO general assembly that he would not allow a single non-bumiputera to be admitted to UiTM. Try justifying this to an international court as “affirmative action”. 

We have had to tolerate this blatant racial discrimination for more than forty years now, with generations of Malaysians labelled by this unconvincing racial divide between “bumiputeras” and “non-bumiputeras”. Apart from preferential treatment regarding entry into tertiary institutions and the allocation of scholarships and loans, “racial” discrimination stretches to discounts in purchasing houses and other properties, APs, licences. Imagine “bumiputeras” who can afford RM2.5 million houses wanting 5 to 10% discount as well! Try justifying that in an international court as “affirmative action”! 

While the middle class among the non-bumiputeras have adapted as best they can to this racially discriminatory policy, the working class and the poor among the non-bumiputeras have had to cope with a life of abject poverty and marginalization. This gave rise in 2007, to the historic phenomenon of Hindraf. The non-bumiputeras have also been forced to pay exorbitant fees in the private colleges and universities which have grown out of the discriminatory policies operating in the public tertiary institutions. 

These abuses go beyond what our founding fathers had envisioned in Article 153 of the Federal Constitution at Independence. There was no such concept of “bumiputera” or “ketuanan Melayu” in neither the 1957 constitution nor the 1963 Malaysia Agreement. Does the so-called “social contract” refer to Merdeka in 1957 or has the goal post been shifted to 1971? 

Until this racial discrimination is abolished, the hype about “1Malaysia” will only be so much hot air. The UMNO leaders know this and so do the MCA and MIC leaders. The pity of it all is, political masters live in their own bubble of reality and besides, they have too much to gain from the NEP – besides the material gain, and they gain electoral support through the ideological/populist appeal to “bumiputera interests”. Nevertheless, in recent years the “revolution of rising expectations” has led to more and more Malays becoming disaffected with UMNO as they see Umnoputras creaming off more than their share of the economic pie.


Malaysia is ready: What about PR?

On 23 February 2013, Malaysian civil society declared that “MALAYSIA IS READY: SAY NO TO RACISM!” Among other things, Concerned Malaysian NGOs demanded that Malaysia ratifies the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) forthwith. Malaysia stands alongside a small number of countries including North Korea and Burma that has still not ratified the ICERD.

Telling that to BN is like asking the fat cat to give up his pot of cream. But what about PR’s stand on the NEP? Isn’t it time for change? Isn’t it time for real change that will set our nation on a new footing of reconciliation and reconstruction, when we are no longer divided into “races” and progressive policies can be put in place to help the truly needy? What happened to the DAP manifesto drafters? Can they give the same excuse that they were not in the drafting committee when they were confronted by Hindraf? That is the lamest excuse I have heard in a long time!

On 6 March 2013, Malaysian civil society released “Twenty 13GE Demands “on political parties and candidates. The very first demand is this:

“1. Eradicate Institutional Racism
1.1. Abolish the “New Economic Policy” – corrective action in all economic and education policies must be based on need or sector or class and not on race with priority given to indigenous people, marginalised and poor communities;
1.2. Repeal amendment (8A) of Article 153 that was passed during the state of emergency in 1971 and was not in the original 1957 federal constitution;
1.3. Institutionalize means testing for any access to scholarships or other entitlements;
1.4. Implement merit-based recruitment in civil & armed services;
1.5. Enact an Equality Act to promote equality and non-discrimination irrespective of race, creed, religion, gender or disability with provision for an Equality & Human Rights Commission;
1.6. Institutionalise equality and human rights education at all decision-making levels, including state and non-state actors/ institutions;
1.7. Ratify the International Convention on the Eradication of Racial Discrimination (ICERD);…”

So far, we have not heard any response from the political parties to these twenty demands. Let us remind the parties that they are supposed to respond to the peoples’ demands and not the other way round. Their manifestoes are supposed to reflect the peoples’ demands. So let us start with this first and most important demand.

Yes, we have heard the lesser PR lieutenants saying that we will see the gradual withering away of the NEP and DSAI has also told BFM that the NEP will be “fragmentalised” or something to that effect…But why is the abolition of the NEP not in the PR manifesto?

When confronted with the question of the stateless, PR has responded by saying it will be solved within 100 days after they come into office. Can we expect that upon coming into federal power, PR will announce an early date for the abolition of the NEP and the ratification of the ICERD? If not, why not?