Syed Husin Ali
Excerpts of the speech on June 14, on the launching of his book, "The Malays: Their Problems and Future."
"....It is true:
- incidence of absolute poverty among Malays has decreased, but relative poverty has increased as the gap between the rich (Malay) minority and the poor (Malay) majority has WIDENED.
- there are more Malay new rich produced through the government development programmes, but concentration of wealth and corruption are becoming more chronic especially at the HIGHEST level in Malay society.
- many new towns have been built with beautiful roads and unnecessary decorative bridges, but the condition of some Malay villages appear to have remained the same since Merdeka.
- there are more Malays who are highly educated and have become successful professionals, but there is alarming deterioration in moral and ethical values among a growing number of Malays, including those holding important public offices (and) increase in all kinds of criminal as well as anti-social activities.
- there are many Malays who have built ostentatious palaces for themselves from the country's wealth they have robbed, but many in the rural areas still live in run-down huts and study in ill-equipped schools, sans electricity and tap water, while a large number in urban slum areas are living in constant fear of forcible eviction.
These are (not) exclusively Malay problems. They are also shared by other communities – the Chinese, Indian, Iban, Kadazandusun and many others. But comparatively a larger proportion of Malays are still lagging behind the Chinese especially and even the Indians too, in income, education, housing and so forth.
This, ironically, prevails despite the:
- so-called ‘ketuanan Melayu’ (Malay supremacy),
- constitutional guarantees on the Malay special position and
- New Economic Policy (NEP).
There is more allocation on wasteful mega projects to provide big contracts and commissions to cronies rather than providing social facilities for greater benefit and welfare of the ordinary people, especially the disadvantaged groups.
Who do I mean by the disadvantaged groups? Of course, basically they are :
- the poor in the lower class.
- the middle income groups who can hardly afford decent living because of their big family to support and the ever rising prices of daily needs.
- the professionals, executives, businessmen and others in the upper middle class who often face discrimination because of their ethnic background or political association
These disadvantaged groups are from different ethnic groups and NOT confined only to the Malays. But those who form the majority are the poor and low income groups, the bulk of whom are Malays.
In the process of development, the perception and the reality to large extent is that the Malays from the privileged groups are the greatest beneficiaries. Even the poor and disadvantaged Malays are NOT given their due share.
Several observations need to be emphasised here.
- Poverty and low income are NOT exclusively Malay problems. There are Orang Asli in the Peninsula and Orang Asal in Sabah and Sarawak who are in more oppressive conditions than a large number of the Malay poor. There are Indians and Chinese in the estates and slum areas who are poor too.
But just because their number is small it does not mean we can afford to neglect and exclude them from the development process.
The Malays constitute the big majority of the poor and deprived in the country. So, primary attention must justifiably be focused on them; but there is no justification for neglecting the non-Malays with similar or sometimes worse plights.
- In the name of the Malays as a whole, a SMALL coterie of those in advantageous positions have managed to use or abuse the NEP and the constitutional provisions on Malay special position to enrich themselves. In most cases they succeed, though many of them only temporarily, on the basis of ‘know who’ and not ‘know how’. The privileges THEY enjoy are often MISinterpreted as those of the WHOLE Malay community.
At the same time, many non-Malay capitalists have become wealthier than the leading Malay corporate figures enjoying special support and sponsorship. They are able enjoy the benefits from the big allocations for development under NEP projects primarily through their ‘know who’ links with powerful politicians whom they can often easily buy off. They certainly have more privileges than the ordinary Malays.
- The persistence of absolute poverty and deterioration of relative poverty affect the access to good education, health services, housing and so forth among the poor. Since the majority of Malays are poor, consequently they are most adversely affected (but) these plights are not the monopoly of just the Malays for they are shared also by the poor from other ethnic groups.
After nearly forty years, there is need to reappraise the NEP and replace it with a new Malaysian Economic Agenda (MEA) as mooted by Anwar and accepted as PKR party policy. This agenda contains the following important ingredients:
- it focuses on the poor and disadvantaged, with social facilities provided more for their welfare and emancipation,
- it introduces poverty alleviation and development programmes for the Malay rural poor, but providing similar opportunities and treatment to the other ethnic groups, cutting across ethnic boundaries,
- it restricts powerful political leaders and their cronies accumulating wealth from filthy sources and by dirty means,
- it wages effective war against corruption, waste and mismanagement, and
- it empowers the people, particularly the poor and disadvantaged Malays, so that they they can be liberated from slavish mentality and have the courage to promote and defend their basic economic and social rights.
The idea of replacing the NEP with the MEA is to generate balanced development to achieve social justice through fair and equitable distribution of the country's economic and social resources.
Since the policy and orientation of MEA is based on the dictum of kepedulian rakyat i.e. concern for the plight of the people, the poor in particular, it will certainly be most advantageous to the Malays who form the majority poor. At the same time it can guarantee greater ethnic stability because the non-Malays are included in the equation.
What is needed is KETUANAN RAKYAT (People's Supremacy).
This is the way forward.
- Dr. Syed Husin Ali
From "kupas",a reader of Malaysia-Today: Read here
"....People with close connections within the corridors of power ensure that their gravy train move smoothly by appointing their relatives as their proxies whilst still being employed by the govt.
Apart from this they ensure all their children are educated overseas and by the time they graduated they would be appointed at high levels in the GLCs and newly set up companies such as those highlighted in this article.
(This is the reason why they are adamant to ensure that the medium of education is Bahasa Malaysia. If you may recall KJ wants science and maths to be taught in Bahasa Malaysia. This would forever put all our children at a disadvantage.)
These are the Malays who had benefited from the BN govt. The rest of the Malays do not enjoy these priviledges. They had to slog just like the rest of the other communities.
Some Malays are just more equal than other Malays and other communities. This privileege few are very protective of one another.
Since the other Malays and other communities form the majority they would have to stand up and be counted.
Do not allow these bunch of monkeys to bully the majority into submission even in our daily lives. We need not wait until the next election to put things in the right perspective. The power is within all of us. Do not give it away to this group of bullies. Demand for equal rights and fair play. It is our right."