Perem reminds us that the shadow of the NEP continues to interfere with our pursuit of equality.
The NEP (Malaysian New Economic Policy or Dasar Ekonomi Baru [NEB]) is not something to be swept under the carpet. I say this because the purpose of this policy has long lost its purpose. Before I continue, I would like to provide a bird’s eye view on this policy. It was introduced by Tun Abdul Razak, the second prime minister of Malaysia (1971), to reduce the socioeconomic inequality between races, in particular the Chinese and Malay races. At the time, it was believed that a huge gap existed economically between the two, a problem that could be solved by providing quotas for governmental jobs, and certain shares specifically allocated to the Bumiputeras, among other benefits. This policy was then succeeded by the National Development Policy (NDP) introduced by Tun Dr. Mahathir in 1991 which had benefits similar to those of the NEP.
Although I will not expand on this policy in this article, I believe that Malaysian readers understand what the other benefits provided by the NEP are for certain races (or you can simply Google it). Racial stereotypes have been created as a result of these policies and although not directly so, it would be ignorant to deny that they exist in our society because they do; the Bumiputeras, for example, are labelled many names by other ethnic groups and vice versa. But that is not the most important flaw. As much as we wish to say otherwise, this policy consisted basically of hand-outs by the government.
I personally do not mind the government taking the effort to help those in need. However, what I find odd is the fact that such help is only targeted at a particular race. It is absurd to implement such a policy because the poor are many in other ethnic groups and not everyone of Bumiputera ethnicity (unless you are Orang Asli or Orang Asal) needs government aid. Is this not a form of bias? Is the government trying to improve the lives of one ethnic group and not the rest? The answer may reflect two sides of the coin or unanimous.
Some Bumiputeras will say arrogantly that this is their land, and the other ethnic groups can go back to where they came from if they are not happy with the current arrangement. Meanwhile, the other groups who have succeeded in life will say arrogantly that they are better off than the Bumiputeras because they do not need help from the government in order to succeed. Of course, there will also be some who feel angry because they are not gaining anything from the policy. Whichever category you fall in does not matter because equality in our country is divided not by a thin line, but by a giant longkang (drain) due to this policy. The Bumiputeras are neither a lesser nor superior ethnic group as is clearly stated in Article 8 of the Federal Constitution of Malaysia concerning the equality of all races.
I have to stress that Article 153 has nothing to do with the NEP as this is merely a policy executed by the government and policies can be changed if the government needs to. If a person is born in Malaysia and considers this country as his or her tanah air, then that person – if in need – deserves as much help from the government as anyone else. The government should not only help a certain ethnic group but all groups that are born in Malaysia. Now, would this be too costly an endeavour to undertake? No, because this policy can be modified to help those who have been identified to be of lesser means, not those of a certain ethnicity.
There are many more solutions when it comes to this contentious policy but the point is this: The parliament should be implementing what we require as we are the ones electing them into office to work or fight for our needs. If we require the government to help all races then the government will help all races. The only thing we as citizens have to do is ask about and ponder upon the idea of equality. It is important and I repeat – important – for all citizens of Malaysia to ponder, debate and decide upon the kind of ‘equality’ we want (and therefore, the kind of corresponding policy we want) even if we cannot come to any solutions immediately. We should not allow policies like this to be swept under the carpet along with the other issues beleaguering our nation as they continue to corrupt the image of equality we desire.
This short essay is not be based on research or anything academic. Indeed, it is nothing radical. It is just a mere reminder to all Malaysians that real equality continues to be elusive in a country whose Constitution guarantees it.
(Featured image accompanying article on main page courtesy of saxarocks, source: http://bit.ly/WusFM2)