A gross distortion of history

Raja Sara Petra

In Mariam Mokhtar’s article — Talk is cheap, KJ — published in Free Malaysia Today yesterday (READ HERE), she said, amongst other things:

“Many of the affirmative action policies were put in place after the May 1969 riots as a means of balancing the distribution of wealth and improving the economic wellbeing of the Malays. Soon after they were implemented, we were made to understand that they would undergo evaluation after twenty years. They have now been in place for nearly 50 years. This has undermined trust and respect for the Malays.”

This is not really true. The Majlis Amanah Rakyat or MARA, which used to be called RIDA (the Rural Industrial Development Authority) was set up by the British in 1951, six years before Merdeka in 1957. This is because the British were worried that the Malays were economically and educationally being left behind while the non-Malays were getting ahead. And the British realised that a situation where the minority are on top while the majority are scraping the bottom is a recipe for disaster. And, as Mariam pointed out, the 13th May 1969 riots proved the British right.

Kampong Baru, in the heart of Kuala Lumpur, was set up as a Malay enclave by the British in 1900 because, again, they were worried that the non-Malays were monopolising the urban areas while the Malays were being confined to the rural areas. So the British wanted to urbanise some of the Malays to balance the non-Malay population in the towns and cities.

In 1905 the British set up the Malay College Kuala Kangsar (MCKK) so that Malays could be groomed to eventually take over the running of the country. And the early graduates from that elite school were given positions in government although mainly as assistants to the British administrators. By the time of Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein in 1970, half the Federal Cabinet were said to be graduates of MCKK — just like in Britain where you need to be schooled in Eton to get ahead in the government (which was why MCKK was called ‘the Eton of the East’).

So, for Mariam to equate the New Economic Policy (NEP) of 1970 as being about quotas for the Malays is historically wrong. The NEP was actually about balancing between the different races AND about reducing the gap between the rich and the poor of ALL races. Furthermore, the British, as mediators, negotiated the Social Contract between the Malays and the non-Malays whereby Malaya would be granted Merdeka if the Malays granted the non-Malays citizenship while the non-Malays, in turn, recognised the special position of the Malays in the newly drafted Federal Constitution of Malaya.

In a democracy you are free to oppose the NEP, the affirmative action plan, the special position of the Malays, and so on. Nothing wrong with that. But please do not distort history and misinform Malaysians about what really happened.