Will Anwar roll back Mahathir’s Bumiputera policies?

Kua Kia Soong, Free Malaysia Today

PKR president Anwar Ibrahim’s statement that he will accelerate the transition from race-based affirmative action economic plans to one that is needs-based when he becomes the prime minister will only be credible if he tells us what he intends to do with Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s Bumiputera Agenda, only announced at the Bumiputera Congress in September last year.

We are by now all too familiar with “Bumiputera doublespeak”.

In his keynote address at the 2018 Bumiputera Congress, Mahathir questioned critics of affirmative action policies aimed at helping Bumiputera businessmen and tried to justify his past actions by saying that those labelled as cronies were actually those who were successful.

There was a touch of irony in the fact that the congress coincided with the 20th anniversary of the dramatic sacking of Anwar as the deputy PM, on the back of his allegations of cronyism and nepotism against Mahathir’s government.

In 1998, Anwar alleged that Mahathir had a penchant for awarding huge state contracts to his cronies.

As recently as Feb 12, 2015, DAP’s supremo Lim Kit Siang said that it was during Mahathir’s 22-year tenure as prime minister that Malaysia first began to “rot”, thanks to corruption and rampant power abuse.

He pointed out that it was during the Mahathir administration that “he single-handedly destroyed the independence, impartiality and professionalism not only of the judiciary, but also of other important national institutions like the police, the Election Commission, the anti-corruption agency, and the civil service”.

Apart from these two politicians, academic Barry Wain wrote in his biography of the “Malaysian Maverick” that during the Mahathir administration, there was wholesale distribution of tens of millions of shares in Bursa Malaysia under guise of the New Economic Policy (NEP) to cronies.

So, it is patently untrue what the prime minister claimed, that those labelled as cronies were actually those who were successful.

During the last Bumiputera Congress, the prime minister announced his intention to privatise our national asset, Khazanah, to “Bumiputera entrepreneurs” and the process has started.

In the first place, this national asset belongs to all Malaysian taxpayers and there is no reason to privatise this GLC.

Thus, if Anwar is to be believed, he must tell us what he intends to do when or if he becomes PM, namely:

* Will he carry out the Bumiputera Agenda of the last Bumiputera Congress?

* Will he privatise Khazanah and other GLCs to “Bumiputera entrepreneurs”?

* Will he emulate Nelson Mandela by changing the “apartheid policy” at UiTM and other Mara institutions to make them more inclusive, as he has just vowed to do?

Kua Kia Soong is Suaram adviser.