Speech by Lim Kit Siang in Parliament on the 10th Malaysia Plan on Monday, 21st June 2010:
Tenth Malaysia Plan: Long live NEP - RIP NEM
The signature theme of Datuk Seri Najib Razak on his accession as Prime Minister in April last year was the national transformation of Malaysia, which is anchored on four critical pillars:
The Prime Minister unveiled the New Economic Model on 30th March and presented the Tenth Malaysia Plan in Parliament on 10th June. A sea-change took place in the intervening two months, with Najib retreating from his national transformation programme when he succumbed to pressures from extremist groups making baseless and incendiary claims such as that the Malays are under siege and that the Chinese would take over the economy and country.
As a result, instead of the first policy operationalisation of the NEM, the Tenth Malaysia Plan is a funeral requiem for the NEM.
The NEM admission that "the excessive focus on ethnicity-based distribution of resources has contributed to growing separateness and dissension" is completely absent in the Prime Minister's presentation of the Tenth Malaysia Plan.
This prepared the way for the Tenth Malaysia Plan's abandonment of the most important of the eight Strategic Reform Initiative (SRI) described as "fundamental to achieving the NEM - on "Transparent and market-friendly affirmative action".
As stated in Chapter 6 of NEM (p. 117):
"Existing affirmative action programme and institutions will continue in NEM but, in line with views of the main stakeholders, will be revamped to remove the rent seeking and market distorting features which have blemished the effectiveness of the programme. Affirmative action will consider all ethnic groups fairly and equally as long as they are in the low income 40% of the households. Affirmative action action programmes would be based on market-friendly and market-based criteria together taking into consideration the need and merits of the applicants. An Equal Opportunities Commission will be established to ensure fairness and address undue discrimination when occasional abuses by dominant groups are encountered."
The promises of the NEM of a needs-and-merit based transformation of the affirmative programme, to promote building of capacity and capability, which will mean a dismanting of ethnic quotas, preferences, APs, closed tenders and other non-competitive processes, were very short-lived - all because of failure of political will and leadership.
I call on the Prime Minister, all MPs and all stakeholders in the country to revisit the warning of NEM on the dire consequences of failure of political will and leadership to carry out far-reaching national political, economic, social and government transformation.
As Chapter 7 of NEM warned: "The time for change is now - Malaysia deserves no less."
The NEM rightly identified the most important enablers of the NEM are political will and leadership to break the log-jam of resistance by vested interest groups and preparing the rakyat to support deep-seated changes in policy directions.
It called for political will and leadership to put emphasis on coherent explanation of the vision and agenda of the NEM and transformation process and "to put in place a critical mass of bold measures" to "create an unstoppable wave of support from all segments of society for this vision".
"The government must take prompt action when resistance is encountered and stay the course".
This is where the Najib administration has failed for when it faced resistance to the NEM proposals, it failed to stay the course.
Cabinet Ministers should explain why they fail to ensure that the NEM is adopted as official policy if the government is serious that it should be the third critical pillar of the far-reaching national transformation programme?
As it is, the message of the Tenth Malaysia Plan is - Long live NEP. Rest in Peace (RIP) NEM!
In fact, the lack of the political will and leadership to defend the NEP and to stay the course when encountering any resistance is manifestly clear when the Bahasa Malaysia version of the NEM is still not available online up to now. In fact, is there a Bahasa Malaysia version of the full NEM report?
When the NEM was unveiled just some two months ago, the country was warned of the dire consequences of the failure to undertake a major economic transformation.
The NEM said:
"Our shortcoming are preventing us from getting out of the middle income trap. Almost all economies of South East Asia are poised to achieve high economic growth in this decade. But Malaysia runs the imminent risk of a downward spiral and faces the painful possibility of stagnation."
The NEM warning and the sense of urgency that "There is a serious risk that the economy may regress if fundamental changes are not made" is still to be discerned in the introductory chapter of the Tenth Malaysia Plan when it was distributed under embargo to MPs on the first day of the present meeting of Parliament on 7th June 2009.
It stressed: "We need to see the reality for what it is: we are on a burning platform."
But this dire warning that Malaysia is on "a burning platform" was conspicuously omitted in the Bahasa Malaysia version of the Tenth Malaysia Plan and by the time of Najib's presentation of the Tenth Malaysia Plan speech, the sense of urgency that Malaysia has no choice but to opt for a New Economic Model has disappeared.
1Malaysia and GTP - Great deficit between proclamation and reality
In a matter of two months, one of the four pillars of the Najib national transformation programme had been removed. But the other two pillars are not in better shape.
For instance, 1Malaysia concept. Many have forgotten as to the overriding objective of National Economic Policy - which is to promote national unity.
There is one rare admission of the dismal failure of the NEP in the 1Malaysia GTP Roadmap, of the "unintended outcome of the NEP" - a sense of deprivation, discrimination and even resentment felt by the non-Bumiputeras. (This was accompanied by the admission of "a widening of the income gap within the Bumiputera community "leading to rising discontent amongst certain segments of that community").
It is sad and tragic that 53 years after Merdeka and 47 years after the formation of Malaysia with Sabah and Sarawak, the country is even further away from the 1Malaysia objective than ever.
I had posed a question on 1Malaysia on the first day of Parliament on 7th June - "minta Perdana Menteri menyatakan berapa Menteri (dengan nama-nama mereka) dalam Jemaah Menteri yang menganggap dirinya rakyat Malaysia dahulu dan kaum masing-masing kemudian, selaras dengan dasar 1Malaysia."
I asked this question because the 1Malaysia GTP Roadmap released in January by the Prime Minister had defined the goal of 1Malaysia ultimately a greater nation - a nation where every Malaysian perceives himself or heself as Malaysian first and by race, religion, geographical region or socio-economic background second.
But this question was disallowed on the ground of running afoul of Standing Order 23(1) (h) in seeking an expression of opinion, the solution fo an abstract legal case or the answer to a hypothetical proposition.
What credibility and legitimacy can there be for the Prime Minister's 1Malaysia objective when he is unable and unwilling to answer such a simple and straightforward question as to how many and who are the Cabinet Ministers who regard themselves as Malaysian first and their race second?
Deputy Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin has declared that he is Malay first and Malaysian second, while no other Cabinet Minister whether from Umno, MCA, Gerakan, MIC or the Sabah and Sarawak BN parties had dared to declare his or her position.
This goes to the very root of credibility and legitimacy of the Prime Minister's 1Malaysia signature theme C for if after 53 years of nationhood and 47 years of formation of Malaysia, there is not a single Minister who regard himself or herself as Malaysian first and race second, what is this 1Malaysia campaign which is the centerpiece of the Najib premiership?
Is it just an empty slogan?
As for the GTP, NKRAs and PKIs, the government has claimed success although with little credibility. This is another illustration of the great deficit between proclamations and slogans of the Najib administration and reality.
How can the government convince Malaysians that the Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) has turned the tide against corruption, in particular in the war against "grand corruption":
The Prime Minister, the Home Minister and the Inspector-General of Police have all claimed success for the police in the NKRA to reduce crime index and street crime, but are they aware that the Malaysian public do not feel that they are comparatively safer from crime or from the fear of crime as more guarded-and-gated communities are mushrooming in the country rather than the reverse. Coupled with the inability of the police to keep the streets, public places and homes free from crime and free Malaysians from the fear of crime, there is the grave problem of police accountability and integrity highlighted by the high rate of deaths caused by police, like the cases of Kugan and 14-year-old Form II student Aminulrashid Amzah shot to death near his Shah Alam home in April.
DAP MP for Sibu Wong Ho Leng in his maiden speech last Tuesday had spoken not only for people of Sibu, but also Sarawak and Sabah about their grievances and feelings of being treated like colonies by West Malaysia 47 years with their complaints of development neglect and not being given rightful place under the Malaysian sun, despite the Inter-Government Committee (IGC) and London Agreements providing equality to Sabah and Sarawak with the states of Malaya in the formation of the nation.
Do the Barisan Nasional MPs from Sabah and Sarawak agree with the MP for Sibu and the MP for Kota Kinabalu, who had also spoken during the debate?
I just visited Labuan, Pitas and Kota Marudu and such sense of frustration and alienation which are prevalent in Sabah and Sarawak must be given serious attention if the 1Malaysia concept is to have any real meaning.
There should be a Royal Commission of Inquiry on 1Malaysia, which should not only investigate as to why 53 years after nationhood, no Minister is prepared to declare that he or she is Malaysian first and race second; progress in building a united nation after 53 years of Merdeka; and thirdly, specifically address the sense of alienation and discontent of the people of Sabah and Sarawak at not being given a rightful place under the Malaysian sun in the past 47 years.
Umno and Barisan Nasional have taken Sabah and Sarawak for granted, regarding them as "fixed deposit" states, for too long.
The political tsunami of the 2008 general elections, which saw the fall of another four states apart from Kelantan to Pakatan Rakyat in Peninsular Malaysia, and the end of the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority, did not really cross South China Sea.
Thanks to the support of the parliamentary seats in Sabah and Sarawak, Najib is today the Prime Minister or he will be the Parliamentary Opposition Leader.
It was only then that Umno and Barisan Nasional woke up to the critical importance of Sabah and Sarawak in holding on to power in Putrajaya.
This is why there is a Foreign Minister from Sabah. The Parliament Speaker and a deputy speaker is from Sabah while another deputy speaker is from Sarawak. The Barisan Nasional BBC Chairman is from Sarawak and deputy chairman from Sabah.
This state of affairs would have unthinkable before the March 8, 2008 general elections.
Undoubtedly, in the past two years, Barisan Nasional leaders have benefited considerably from this new awareness of the importance of Sabah and Sarawak to Umno/BN hold to power in Putrajaya. But have the people of Sabah and Sarawak really benefited.
Sabah was even promised RM1 billion special allocation by the former Prime Minister, Tun Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, after the 2008 general election but has this allocation been released to Sabah and directly benefited the people of Sabah?
In Pitas and Kota Marudu during the weekend, the native customary rights of some 23,000 people were trampled upon in a land grab involving a state government crony company.
A 1Malaysia Royal Commission of Inquiry should hear these issues as this was not the purpose for which Sabah and Sarawak joined 47 years ago to form Malaysia.
*Lim Kit Siang, DAP Parliamentary Leader & MP for Ipoh Timor