At the Youth4Change forum on wednesday evening, I shared the floor with two other very eloquent speakers - Nik Nazmi and Amir Sari. Both of them are linked to the Parti Keadilan. The forum was not very well attended though. I was told that several other forums were running at the same time. Nonetheless, participation from the floor was encouraging. Youths of all races spoke in a singular voice.
My speech touched on the definitions of the NEP, the implications of a politicised NEP, NEP and the Malay Agenda and the way forward. On the original definition of the NEP, it was obvious that the language used to frame the policy was non-racial. I argue that the practice of communal politics and selective patronage system has changed both the meaning and the spirit of the policy.
Instead of eradicating poverty regardless of race, the ruling elites are too fixated on corporate wealth ownership which is a bad indicator of social well-being. As a result, Malaysians especially the Malay and indigenous communities who live in states which not on the development belt have suffered tremendous marginalisation. Poverty rates in Kelantan, Perlis, Trengganu, Sabah (24.7% - the worst) and Sarawak are well below the national average of 5.7%.
While the NEP has helped to create a larger Malay middle-class, it has also neglected many whom initially the policy was aimed at.
Later, the politicisation of the NEP took place. The policy was highjacked by the Malay ruling elites and used it to justify the Malay Agenda or 'ketuanan Melayu' (Malay supremacism). The original spirit of the NEP was twisted beyond acceptance by the non-Malay communities.
Special privileges to help the bumiputera to be able to compete on equal terms have been reinterpreted as special rights and linked to the social contract made between leaders representing the Chinese, Indian and Malay communities. It is this social contract that UMNO does not want to be questioned and probed. It is supposed to be sacred.
Unfortunate, power corrupts and the abuse of the policy has created deep-rooted corruption in the society. Who can deny that there are many Ali Babas and rent-seekers amongst us?
I argue that even the original NEP objectives are outdated. It was relevant when it was first introduced. Additional elements must be considered e.g. competitiveness, knowledge acquisition and globalisation.
Unfortunately, the ruling elites want the status quo to remain. It is unprecedented for any government to insist on a status quo of 50 years old to be respected without considering the 50 years of contributions and sacrifices made by all Malaysians to help make Malaysia what it is today.
The implications are obvious e.g. corruption (nexus between politics and economy), polarisation (Malay Agenda and 'Ketuanan Melayu' and brain drain.
I told the audience that towering personalities are not skin deep. They nodded with agreement.
Malaysians must move forward and break the racial barriers erected by these elites so that they can divide and rule us. It is time that we give back the rightful recognition and respect to the Malays who have succeeded through their own effort, hardwork and tenacity. With the NEP, many people will remain cynical of their achievements.