Aug 30, 2010

Tun Mahathir warns NEP removal could lead to revolution

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 30 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad predicted today that there would be an escalation in racial tension and division should NEP-style policies be removed, likening the situation to the Communist revolution in Europe.

He stressed that the time was not right to introduce any policy which would “disregard the disparities between races in the interest of equity and merit.”

“Take away the minor protection afforded by the NEP and the bumis will lose whatever that they may have. Then racial division will be deepened by wealth division. I don’t think this would be good for the country. Remember it was the disparity between rich and poor in Europe which led to the violence of the Communist revolution.

“I may be labelled a racist but fear of the label will not stop me from working for what I think is the good of the country. Nothing will be gained by dividing the people of Malaysia into poor Bumis and rich non-Bumis. The time is not right for disregarding the disparities between the races in the interest of equity and merit,” said Dr Mahathir in a posting on his blog today.

The former PM continued his stout defence of the pro-Bumiputera New Economic Policy (NEP) style policies in his blog post, by suggesting an indefinite continuation of affirmative action programmes.

The former prime minister admitted today that he was “not proud” of the NEP which accorded protection to the Bumiputeras, but stressed that such protection was still necessary and that a 20 year-timeline was not enough for Malays to be economically on par with other races.

Malaysia’s NEP, put in place in 1971, officially ended in 1990, but many of its programmes are still being continued. Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak has said he plans to remove subsidies and many of the pro-Bumiputera quotas under economic reforms. But Dr Mahathir and many Malay groups are opposed to the removal of quotas and equity targets, despite evidence suggesting Malaysia is being handicapped economically and is less competitive globally as a result of such policies.

“I am not proud of the protection afforded the Bumiputeras. It implies weakness. I don’t think Malays and other Bumiputeras like to think that they are inferior in any way.

“But the reality is that in Malaysia the Bumiputeras need new skills and a new culture even. These cannot be had by them in a mere 20 years. The original planners of the NEP were too optimistic,” said Dr Mahathir in a blog posting today although he did not provide or suggest a time frame in which the NEP would no longer be needed.

Using education as an example, Dr Mahathir lashed out at critics who have attacked the government for maintaining a 60 per cent quota for Bumiputeras in local universities.

The former PM said that if the current Bumiputera quota in public universities was reduced, more Bumiputeras should be then allowed to enter private universities which he claimed only consisted of 10 per cent Bumiputeras.

“Even the 10 per cent Bumis are there because of scholarships by MARA. Take the scholarships away and there would be practically none.

“Why is it that the focus is only on what is done by the government? If the Bumis in government universities should be reduced, then the Bumis in the private universities should be increased. Or else meritocracy would reduce the number of Bumiputeras getting university education. Or is it the intention to deny Bumis higher education? They are not the best but they are qualified,” said Dr Mahathir.

The outspoken politician claimed that there were more non-Bumiputeras in foreign universities than local universities because Bumiputeras still could not afford to pay for private tertiary education, and cautioned that this would inevitably result in the Bumiputeras lagging behind in education.

“Because they can afford it there are more non-Bumis than Bumis in foreign universities. This must increase the disparities in higher education between different races,” he said.

Dr Mahathir has been increasingly vocal in speaking out against the New Economic Model (NEM) introduced by Najib, saying that affirmative action must still be carried out, signaling fears that Malays and Bumiputeras would stand lose out the most if the administration were to implement a hundred percent meritocracy-based system.

The former prime minister revealed last week that he had written to the prime minister to offer his advice and let him know what he thought of the New Economic Model (NEM).

However, Dr Mahathir said he did not expect Najib to consider his recommendations.

Citing another case, the veteran politician alleged that even with the existing Bumiputera quotas in government contracts, there was still no guarantee that the contracts would actually be awarded to Bumiputeras.

“As for contracts even with the 5 per cent advantage given to Bumi contractors, many of the Government contracts do not go to them because of their lack of capacity. Even if they do get, non-Bumi contractors get most of the sub-contracts etc.

“Actually construction by the private sector is bigger than the public sector. In the private sector the Bumi contractors get next to nothing. I suppose this is because the private contracts are given based on merit. Or maybe it is not. I don’t know,” said the former Prime Minister.

In justifying his arguments, Dr Mahathir said that during his tenure as Prime Minister and under the implementation of the NEP, Malaysia enjoyed stability and good economic growth.

He noted that despite increased talks about “meritocracy,” the races in the country are more divided today than ever before.

“For 46 years this country enjoyed relative stability and consequently good growth. But today the races are more divided than ever. Everyone has become racist, talks about meritocracy notwithstanding. Everyone is thinking about his own race. If I am included it is because I think it is dangerous for the rich to take away what little the poor has,” added Dr Mahathir.

Dr Mahathir has appeared to be highly critical of Najib and Umno in recent remarks, suggesting recently that the ruling party was weak and mismanaged.

The feisty ex-premier had also mocked proponents of meritocracy last week, calling them racist and decried Malays who supported meritocracy as having misplaced pride.

His comments come after recent remarks by top Malaysian banker Datuk Seri Nazir Razak — the CIMB group chief executive and the brother of the PM — who said that the NEP had been “bastardised.”

Nazir has been pushing for reforms while Dr Mahathir has been putting his weight behind right wing Malay groups such as Perkasa, who believe Bumiputera quotas were a “right” of the Malays.

Dr Mahathir has also denied that the NEP had been an obstacle to the country’s development.

He has also mocked proponents of meritocracy, calling them “meritocrats” who are pushing for dominance by one race in all aspects of the country.

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