Anwar: Malays need time to accept eradication of racial NEP

(MMO) – It will take time for Malays to accept a shift from race-based to needs-based affirmative action, Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim said.

Speaking to Bloomberg Television chief international correspondent Haslinda Amin at Bloomberg New Economy Forum in Singapore today, the PKR president-elect was asked to respond whether he envisioned a day when Bumiputera policy will no longer be in place.

“It is now shifting to an extent because we take on affirmative action based on needs than race and it will certainly take time for the Malays to accept it.

“For the past 40 years, they have been indoctrinated with this clear policy [that] to survive means economic policy in favour of your race, but now we say to survive means the economy has to grow, investments have to come in, but at the same time we will not forget the poor or marginalised,” he said.

During the interview titled Malaysia’s quest for democratic accountability’, Anwar explained that at a particular time, the majority of Malays in the country were deprived of economic opportunities and the New Economic Policy (NEP) was put in place to uplift them, but it has now been rendered obsolete as the understanding of Malaysians has changed.

“Let us be clear on the fundamentals,” Anwar said. “The country has to prepare its economy and to do that it has to be attractive for FDI (foreign direct investment).

“Our policies must be transparent. We acknowledge that.”

The NEP was first introduced in 1970 as part of a package of measures introduced after the race riots of May 1969. It officially ended in 1990, but race-based policies in favour of the Malay majority continue to this day.

The NEP had sought to eradicate poverty and restructure society to eliminate the identification of race with economic function in order to create the conditions for national unity.

Anwar further pointed out that he had been calling for the dismantling of the NEP since 2007 as he wanted the economy to be more vibrant and Malaysians to be more competitive as the country had the resources to grow.

“However, I am strong on the issue of affirmative action as countries that opt purely for growth and prosperity while ignoring the plight of the poor will not succeed if we do not show enough empathy or concern.

“Ultimately the Malays or the poor, the Chinese in urban squatters, or the Indians in the estate will not lose,” he said.