NEP and the issue of race-affirmative action has stirred up some uneasy debates. A few months ago, the former director of ASLI CPPS, Dr Lim Teck Ghee, revealed in his report that the bumiputera equity ownership has reached the 30 percent target and can be as high as 45 percent.
His report was immediately shot down. The government promised to reveal its methodology of calculating the equity ownership. A government policy maker even alleged that the method of calculation used is approved by the World Bank. During the parliamentary Q&A, both the EPU and the Ministry of Finance gave conflicting percentages of the bumiputera equity ownership.
Due to intense pressure from the government, ASLI's Chairman Mirzan Mahathir and its CEO Michael Yeoh refuted the report. In defence of scholarly independence, Dr Lim resigned from his post at CPPS. Unfortunately, we have not heard from the government on the methodology. We are still waiting.
On Friday, Rommel was quoted by AP as saying that the NEP was discriminatory and amounted to protectionism against foreign companies.
He added that the Government was using the NEP as an excuse to practise “significant protectionism of its own market,” including the automotive sector, steel, consumer goods, agricultural products, services and government contracts.
The EU's ambassador to Malaysia said he had no intention of meddling in the country's affairs by criticising its policies favouring ethnic Malays as a diplomatic row brewed on the issue. He said he was only thinking of the economic impact of Malaysia's affirmative action policies. .
But his remark has attracted serious criticism from several top Umno leaders including Prime Miniser Abdullah, Deputy PM Najib Razak and others.
Malaysia will send an official protest note to the European Union over the remarks made by its ambassador Thierry Rommel, which Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar has described as an interference in the country's internal affairs.
I think they should try to divert the attention away from the real issue. The statement should not merit an inteference of our national affairs. Malaysian government has issued sterner statements against US and its policy on Iraq, the Palestinian cause and others.
The real issue is whether the NEP is detrimental to our economic progress? Whether the NEP has outlived its purpose?
In the advent of globalisation, it is difficult for us to imagine sticking to a 37 years old policy and make no attempt to adjust accordingly to global changes.
We should conduct a study to find out if Rommel allegation is true - Malaysia's affirmative action policies were "about discrimination and protectionism" which would make trade negotiations with the EU "not so easy."
Many, including BN policy makers, admitted that the NEP has been abused over the last 3 decades and something must be done to address some serious issues which were created due to the misimplementation and abuse of the policy.
Two things must be given serious attention: intra-community income gap and corruption.
If Rommel, a foreigner, is seen as intefering with Malaysian affairs, many of us are waiting for the government to give us a fair and transparent disclosure of the NEP and its abuses.
So, why make us wait?