Speech (2) by Lim Kit Siang at the opening of the 2008 DAP Federal Territory State Convention at the Federal Hotel, Kuala Lumpur on Sunday, 2nd November 2008 at 10 am: 

After March 8 "political tsunami", Malaysia must move into the new politics of "Beyond NEP" to create an united, just, competitive, progressive and prosperous Malaysia 

I am still recovering from my shock in Parliament on Thursday night when the Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department, Datuk Amirsham Aziz former CEO of Maybank, pleaded ignorance when I asked him whether he agreed that the New Economic Policy (NEP) cannot be equated with Article 153 of the Constitution. Amirsham claimed that he was no expert on constitutional law!

It is outrageous that after more than half-a-century of nationhood, Barisan Nasional (BN) Ministers and leaders cannot or dare not answer a simple question – whether they agree that the NEP cannot be equated with Article 153 on special provision for Malays and the bumiputeras in Sabah and Sarawak.

As I argued in Parliament when I posed the question to Amirsham, if NEP is equated with Article 153, then Deputy Prime Minister-cum-Finance Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak would be guilty of challenging Article 153 and Malay special rights when he told Bloomberg recently that “all the elements of NEP” would be phased out in stages, adding “If we do not change, the people will change us”.

The NEP had been a divisive instrument in nation-building, even more so today, as it is being used to benefit rich and privileged Umnoputras rather than the poor bumiputras.

Amirsham was unable to give any satisfactory response to my contention that the methodology used by the Economic Planning Unit (EPU) to compute bumiputera equity figures was obsolete and unreliable, as Amirsham admitted that the EPU methodology used the par value of the shares some 40 years ago in 1970 and the calculations excluded equity data from GLCs.

Independent professional studies have shown that the target of 30% bumiputra equity ownership had been fulfilled, for instance:

• the Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) report by Prof. Dr. Lim Teck Ghee putting bumiputera equity ownership at about 45 per cent; and

• the University of Malaya research study entitled “Bumiputeras in the Corporate Sector – Three decades of performance 1970-2000”, by Dr. M. Fazilah Abdul Samad that the 30 percent bumiputera equity ownership as targeted under the government’s New Economic Policy had already been achieved about a decade ago when it hit 33.7 percent in 1997.

The NEP has become not only a source of national discord and disunity but an important factor causing inefficiency, waste and corruption as well as inhibiting Malaysia’s economic growth and development.

After the March 8 “political tsunami”, Malaysia must move into the new politics of “Beyond NEP” to create an united, just, competitive, progressive and prosperous Malaysia.

I fully agree with the article in the Star yesterday entitled “Remove /equity target”, by P. Gunasegaram, giving three reasons why the BN Government should do away with the equity target for bumiputra ownership of companies under the NEP, viz:

1. The measurement itself is fatally flawed.

2. As it is structured now, it involves too low a proportion of bumiputra population and leads to the well-known Ali Baba syndrome where the bumiputra participation is in name only while non-bumiputras run virtually the whole show.

3. It puts far too much emphasis on an ephemeral, badly measured target at the expense of other, far more encompassing and important aims of the noble NEP, which include the eradication of poverty irrespective of race and the restructuring of society to eliminate the identification of race with economic function.

The message from the March 8 political tsunami is clear – the time has come for all Malaysians to rise above their differences to make a success of a Malaysian-centric nation-building programme and national economic policy which goes “Beyond NEP” to create a Bangsa Malaysia out of the diverses races and religions in the country.

* Lim Kit Siang,  DAP Parliamentary leader & MP for Ipoh Timor