In pursuit of Malaysian Dream – Malaysians must be prepared for a reset of nation-building policies including a review of NEP

Two days ago, at the launch of the Impian Theatre, I quoted a recent Facebook post by Yusuf Hashim, photographer and gypsetter, when congratulating Lee Zii Jia for winning the All-England Badminton Singles’ Title, and said:

“The moment we forsake meritocracy over a long period, a nation will be doomed.

“For a short temporary period, in order to address a specific imbalance, setting meritocracy aside is probably tolerable and manageable.

“If it is practiced over an extended period, it could mutate into a dangerous norm, with terrible, and irreparable long term consequences, for the nation.”

Recently, there have been a lot a talk of Malays Unite and Muslims Unite, which is antithetical to the Malaysian Dream to be a world-class great nation.

If the Malaysian Dream is to be realised, it must be a great Malaysian nation, not a great Malay nation, great Chinese nation or a great Indian nation.

The 32 million Malaysians of diverse race, language, religion and culture cannot build a great Malay nation, a great Chinese nation or a great Indian nation for that will be a formula for great divisiveness and discord in Malaysia – but we can together build a great Malaysian nation.

In fact, as the confluence of four great civilisations in the world – Malay/Islamic, Chinese, Indian and Western - we are well poised to be a successful example of Alliance of Civilisations and not an example of failure from Clash of Civilisations as Malaysia should leverage on the best values and virtues of the world’s four great civilisations to be “a beacon of light to a difficult and distracted world”.

However, for Malaysia to return to the Malaysian Dream, we must be courageous to learn from the mistakes and setbacks of the past, which had caused Malaysia to regressed from the Malaysian Dream to be a world-class great nation.

Today, corporate figure Nazir Razak, the son of Malaysia’s second prime minister and New Economic Policy (NEP) architect Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, said many of the principles in the New Economic Policy (NEP) no longer work and have instead led to dysfunctional politics and growing divisions among Malaysia’s communities.

He said the status quo was quickly becoming untenable and asked if the country’s leaders had the initiative to develop and implement new political, economic and social system as the NEP was not meant to be a permanent solution.

He warned that festering issues would boil over if the country’s leaders failed to act with urgency to institute reforms.

“Do we have to wait for fighting in the streets or for us to be a failed state before we deal with reforms?”

Nasir said the current state of emergency, political instability and public frustrations should be proof enough that changes were needed.

“Shouldn’t our leaders sit down, recognise the problems and go through these reforms now? They should not selfishly say: ‘I’m a beneficiary of the system; so I don’t want to change anything.’

“That’s always the problem with reform. The people in power are kind of saying, ‘This is the system that got me here. Why would I want to change it?’”

He said there was a need to form a group of experts to examine the country’s most pressing and divisive issues.

He said the group could be akin to the National Consultative Council formed following the May 13 riots.

“Today, the world waits for no one. The dynamics are such that if we don’t sort out our democracy and society and collaborate across identity borders now, we are going to get further and further left behind.”

When the NEP was introduced in 1971, it was meant for a time-span of 20 years. It is now 50 years since the launching the NEP. Are we ready for a review of the NEP and return to the days where meritocracy is not a dirty word?

Fifty years ago in February 1971, this is what I said in Parliament:

“ We are dedicated to the abolition of poverty and economic backwardness regardless of race. We want to create a classless community of Malaysians based on fellowship, co-operation and service, where there is no exploitation of man by man, class by class or race by race.

“We support any measure which will help better the lot of the Malay poor. But we are strongly opposed to the use of Malay special rights to enrich the new Malay rich to make them richer, while the mass of peasantry and poor are exploited as ever.

“There is gross social injustice and grave unequal distribution of wealth and income in Malaysia. Over the years, the feudal-compradore and tycoon class have become richer and richer, while the mass of peasantry and workers become more and more downtrodden.

“The problem in Malaysia is complicated by an ostensible double coincidence. Firstly, the class divisions in our country appear very often to coincide with communal division, secondly, the disparity in incomes and productivity between urban and rural areas appear also to coincide along racial lines as towns are predominantly non-Malay while the mass of Malays live in rural areas.

“Such urban-rural economic disparity and imbalance, however, is not a phenomenon peculiar to Malaysia. Similar social, economic and cultural disparities as between rural and urban areas also confront other developing countries. This is indeed a universal problem, reflecting the slower pace of socio-economic process in the rural as compared to the urban areas.

“The key to bridging this urban-rural imbalance is to promote greater and faster economic growth in the rural areas, and not by embracing and implementing an evil, pernicious and racialist doctrine equating economic disparity and imbalance with the racial division in the country.

“Any attempt to impose racial theories and solutions to basically economic problems of the have-nots is dangerous as it will pit one race against another, which must culminate in a racial holocaust. It will also be founded on the monstrous falsehood that all the haves in Malaysia are non-Malays, while the Malays are all the have-nots.

“The basic problems in Malaysia are an economic and class one, and not a racial problem.”

I stressed that the only effective way to uplift the living standard of the have-nots of all races is to execute meaningful policies untinged by racialism, as in carrying out radical land reforms, beginning with the abolition of absentee landlordism in the padi sector and distribution of land to the tenant farmers, the creation of a comprehensive and efficient rural credit, co-operative and marketing infrastructure to free the peasants from the triple curses of fragmentation, landlordism and credit indebtedness; greater diversification of agriculture and the economy; a modern and science-oriented education system to bring the peasants abreast with the techniques and know-how of twentieth-century era; and a greater rate of industrialisation.

I said: “Every Malaysian will support special rights to help the poor Malays, just as every citizen will support any special assistance to non-Malay poor, on the basis of need and not on the basis of colour or race.”

Are we prepared for a reset of nation-building policies in accordance with the Malaysian Constitution and the Rukun Negara principles to realise the Malaysian Dream to be a world-class great nation?

This Impian Theatre is dedicated to the continuation of the Malaysian Dream by new generation of Malaysians to rise from our disappointments after our high hopes in the 14th General Election to continue the mission to unite Malaysia into a world-class great nation to prove Bapa Malaysia right that Malaysia can be “beacon of light to a difficult and distracted world”.

Lim Kit Siang MP for Iskandar Puteri