IN a recent interview, two-times former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said that the preferential treatment for the Bumiputera community must continue because they are not competitive as opposed to the Chinese.
According to him, the Chinese, given their long civilisational strength, can compete and prosper under most extreme conditions. However, the Malays are unable to compete with the more robust Chinese.
Given this, it was necessary to continue the preferential treatment for the Malays until such time that they will be on par with the Chinese.
Looking back to history, this was the same argument used decades ago to defend the introduction of the New Economic Policy (NEP) and Mahathir is just parroting the same statement.
He also dismissed the idea of a need-based policy that would address poverty across the country’s population’ whether Malays, Chinese or Indians.
And his justification against a need-based policy makes no sense at all. In fact, one could not be faulted if they come to a conclusion that Mahathir still thinks the Chinese and Indians are foreigners.
It is clear that Mahathir’s justification for a need-based policy is premised on racial ground; that the Malays being the indigenous people, conveniently forgetting the Orang Asli community, need special attention.
But my question is very simple, which had also been asked many times by others without getting proper answer: Why after so many decades of preferential treatment in place, with different prime ministers, the Government had yet to make NEP as success among the Malays?
Back to Mahathir, the nonagenarian conveniently forgot to mention that the NEP has been hijacked by the politically connected elites; pushing the poor Malays further into doldrums.
Mahathir cannot deny the fact that politicians associated with UMNO, a party he led once for 22 years, had reaped immense material benefits using the NEP, including his own family members.
Besides, it is not that his children and their families are paupers, who are badly in need of a preferential treatment. It is not the families and children of the politicians succeeded through hard work and in competition with the Chinese or others.
And to hide the exploitation of NEP by the elites, the latter added a racial and supremacist ideology to the “superstructure”, to maintain a facade of Chinese exploitation of the Malays.
The elites keep ordinary Malays poor
In actual fact, the Malay elites were the ones exploiting ordinary Malays; keeping the latter as a “buffer” against any attempt to dismantle the corrupt status-quo.
But the sad truth was not able to sink in among the masses due to lack of alternative ideas on political mobilisation.
The racial ideology of UMNO and its enablers were too strong to be diluted and defeated. The greedy enrichment process of the Malay elites was a continuous one. This is the reason why NEP was never given an expiry date!
The tenacity of the racial ideology and why it was maintained at the cost of deep divisions in the society was related to the non-stop “leeching” process by the elites.
When such a process was impeded by some external events, new measures will be introduced to ensure the exclusive extraction process is not interrupted. The attempt to increase the Bumiputera equity to 51% in the freight forwarding businesses is one example.
As for Mahathir, he is no innocent bystander in the scheme of things. In fact, he was one of the chief perpetrators of the system that gave preferential treatment to the political elite in the name of addressing the special needs of the poor Malays.
He also diverted the Malay minds into thinking that the Chinese ad Indians were their enemies, which is not only wrong but dangerous to our multicultural society.
But Mahathir is unrepented despite being in his late 90s. He continued with his lies and unfortunately, there are some segment in the society who still believes him.
Mahathir continues to sing the old song. There might be some who are foolishly willing to listen. Nevertheless, it is tragic that his bigoted and outdated views are still being recycled by the press now and then. – Oct 17, 2021
Ramasamy Palanisamy is the state assemblyperson for Perai. He is also Deputy Chief Minister II of Penang.
The views expressed are solely of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Focus Malaysia.