The Prime Minister, Dato Hussein Onn, in his foreword to the Third Malaysia Plan, said: “A major assault on poverty, a vigorous and continuous effort in the task of restructuring society as well as the strengthening of our national security., are the triple thrusts of the Third Malaysia Plan
This is probably the most significant and revealing statement in the whole 430-page Third Malaysia Plan.
The Second Malaysia Plan 1971-1975 incorporated a two-pronged New Economic Policy for development. The first prong was to reduce and eventually eradicate poverty, by raising income levels and increasing employment opportunities for all Malaysians, irrespective of race. The second prong aimed at accelerating the process of restructuring Malaysian society to correct economic imbalance, so as to reduce and eventually eliminate the identification of race with economic function.
Both prongs were designed to facilitate the achievement of the over-riding objective of the country, that of national unity.
The elevation of “the strengthening of our national security” to be the third prong objective of the Third Malaysia Plan is both an admission of the failure of the Second Malaysia Plan to achieve or facilitate the achievement of this overriding objective, and of the serious national crisis of identity confronting Malaysia.
It is self-evident that if the Second Malaysia Plan had progressed satisfactorily and successfully in achieving greater national unity, then Malaysia would not be confronted with an increasingly serious security and guerrilla war.
Thinking Malaysians had long been concerned with the grave setbacks to the task of nation-building over the years. Despite the fact that a whole new generation of Malaysians have grown up and been educated since Merdeka, national unity remains as elusive as ever. This was why at the recent Parliamentary debate on the Royal Address on 31.3.1976, 1 had called for a Royal Commission of Inquiry to study into the entire question of national unity, on which Malaysia’s national survival depends.
The Prime Minister had replied that this was unnecessary on the ground that all government policies were geared to national unity.
It was with interest that I noted at the end of last month a call by no less a person than Bapa Merdeka and the first Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tunku Abdul Rahman, urging for a review of government policy in order to strengthen the solidarity among the people.
Tunku Abdul Rahman has not become a DAP member, but these are fundamental issues which the government and country can ignore only at our own national peril!
Before I proceed further, let me declare that we in the DAP are not interested in finding faults with the Third Malaysia Plan for the sake of finding fault. There are more serious and fundamental issues at stake than just finding fault.
Malaysia is poised at the cross-roads of her destiny. One way leads to national unity and salvation, while the other points to national disunity and disintegration. If Malaysia is to choose the correct way, then we must first of all be able to identify the basic national problems for there can be no solution to a problem which is not identified, either through failure or unwillingness to recognise it.
More balanced document than Second Malaysia Plan
When I read the Third Malaysia Plan, my first impression is that this is a more balanced and rounded document than the Second Malaysia Plan. Several DAP criticisms during the Second Malaysia Plan period had been taken into account. For instance, in the first prong objective of elimination of poverty regardless of race, there is a greater recognition of poverty groups which had at first been ignored. The plight of the 750,000 new villagers and the estate workers are good examples.
Thus, on 13th December 1971, during the debate on the 1972 Development Estimates, I took up in Parliament the 20-year neglect of the socio-economic development of the 450 new villages and called on the government to plan the social and economic reconstruction of the new villages to give the 750,000 new villagers in West Malaysia a new hope and an equal stake in the socio-economic development of the country.
At that time, I was attacked as a ‘chauvinist’. The Third Malaysia Plan now identifies residents in New Villages and estate workers as specific ‘poverty groups’
Again, during the Debate on the Mid-Term Review of the Second Malaysia Plan on 27.11.1973, I had criticised the restructuring efforts citing as an example, FELDA, where. till the end of 1973, the 29,000 families settled were overwhelmingly weighted towards one racial group. As the net result of such settlement is to perpetuate the identification of one ethnic group with a particular vocation, I had called for real efforts to get non-Malays into government agricultural settlement schemes.
In the Third Malaysia Plan, the government now recognises that the non-Malays have been left behind in the agricultural and land settlement schemes.
Government Perception not deep or broad enough
I do not know whether this greater political perception of the root causes of the socio-economic problems in Malaysia, which is not as broad and deep as I would like it to be, is accompanied by the political will to result in effective policies to eliminate such problems, or whether such perceptions have percolated down the entire government and administrative machinery and not merely confined to a handful of policy makers.
I will however leave what I have to say about the separate performances of the two prongs of the Second Malaysia Plan later.
My second impression reading the Third Malaysia Plan is a sense of unreality.
The many projections, prospects and plans not only for the next five years but for the next 15 years till 1990 are all predicated on Malaysia being a nation of peace, prosperity and racial harmony.
This is a very great assumption as shown by the elevation of strengthening of national security as the third prong in the Third Malaysia Plan.
Under the Third Malaysia Plan, expenditures for defence and security would double that during the Second Malaysia Plan and though presently earmarked at $2,200 million (or 11.9 per cent of total public development expenditure under Third Malaysia Pian), final expenditures would outrun the original estimates as happened under the Second Malaysia Plan.
One might legitimately ask whether taking $1,000 million from the defence and security allocations to invest in, say, a more energetic and vigorous solution of acute poverty in kampongs, new villages, and estates in the country might not be more productive in creating a more stable society, where lessened race tensions and class bitterness would appreciably improve the security situation.
This is because the security crisis faced by Malaysia is not a war of aggression by an external enemy, but what had been described by both the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister as a ‘people’s war’, ‘a battle for the hearts and minds of the people’.
I note that there is now, especially among the top government leaders, a greater political appreciation of the seriousness and nature of the ‘people’s war’, as evidenced by the two articles by the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamed in the New Straits Times over the weekend.
If the government had been more receptive to what we in the DAP had been saying in this House not only during this session, but also during the last session, the nation would probably need not spend such an astronomical sum of $2,200 million on defence and security for the next five years.
I still remember that sometime in 1971, when I had said in this House that if the government continued to ignore the legitimate aspirations of all classes and races in Malaysia, and if the democratic system is rendered meaningless and ineffective, then the people in despair would turn to those who advocate violence and revolution. The then Deputy Prime Minister, the late Tun Dr.Ismail, said he did not want to hear any more about ‘revolutions’. Closing one’s ears and shutting one’s eyes will not make unpleasant truths disappear into thin air. The unpreparedness to face unpleasant truths only makes the problem more difficult to solve.
And if the Government continues to ignore what we in the DAP have to say, and to disregard the genuine needs of all classes and races in Malaysia, then $2,200 million expenditures on defence and security would not be able to buy security, peace and harmony, and the total amount of $18,000 million public expenditures under the Third Malaysia Plan would go down the drain.
The Government must bear part responsibility for the worsening security situation and the increasingly serious challenge mounted by the communist guerrillas, because by its long-standing indifference and refusal to heed the voice and sufferings of the people on the ground, to recognize and resolve their frustrations, discontents and dissatisfactions of all classes and races, the Government had created the very seed-beds on which communist cadres, propagandists and activists can thrive.
Although there is a greater political perception of the political challenge represented by the communist guerrilla movement, for the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamed, to repeat as he had been doing, that the war waged by the communists is not a class war but an ideological war is to misread and misinterpret the challenge and therefore to fail to face the crux of the problem in Malaysia.
Let there be no mistake about it. The communists represent an appeal to the poor of Malaysia, the have-not classes, especially where they feel that the present political system is incapable of improving their life.
Also let there be no mistake. The communists represent an appeal to the other classes and groups who could find no meaningful alternative to change and reform the present system of its corruption, nepotism, vested interests and authoritarian rule.
History is not deficient in examples where, given the choice between an authoritarian government which is clean, incorrupt, competent and its leaders dedicated to the lot of the masses, and an authoritarian government which is corrupt, incompetent, its leaders dedicated to self-interests and the interests of the moneyed and propertied class, the people preferred the former.
For Dr. Mahathir to go round and say that if the communists win the rich and the poor will equally suffer, will dismay the rich but will not make the poor lose any sleep.
The answer is to end poverty, where there are no more poor in the country, and to root out injustices and inequalities out of the entire national economic system and to give meaning to the democratic process.
The Government does not seem to have fully understood the socioeconomic and political challenge posed by the communists. Last week, the Johore State authorities issued statements to disclose the connections between communist groups and secret societies in an attempt to discredit the communists. But it does not seem to strike the Government that its action might lend respectability to secret societies instead.
A predominantly security response to the mounting communist guerrilla challenge is to completely misread the nature of the communist challenge. Malaysians would prefer to live in a democratic system, where there are no gross extremes of wealth and poverty, and where every individual can develop his talents and inclinations to the fullest. They would lay down their lives for such a system. But where the democratic system is a crippled creature, where discrimination, injustices and inequalities abound in all areas of national life, where there is corruption and greed, it would be difficult to rally the people to help defend and die for such a system, for there is something evil in such a system, There would be no clear-cut moral superiority in the system which is under attack!
The Prime Minister told an UMNO Economic Seminar in May this year that there is a time bomb element in the new economic policy which would be set off by any delay in its success, particularly in reference to the target of 30 % participation of bumiputras in the commercial and industrial activities within 20 years.
In actual fact, there is not one time-bomb ticking away, but several time-bombs tic king away in Malaysia. There are the time bombs of races, and the time bombs of classes.
Unless the government gets down to seriously defuse these time-bombs, Malaysia and all the beautifully-bound five year-development plans can be blown to smithereens.
We in the DAP are Malaysian patriots from all racial backgrounds, who want to see the preservation and strengthening of a democratic political system, where every citizen has an equal stake in the political and economic future of the country, with the right to lead a meaningful life and ample opportunities to achieve self-fulfilment.
It is only such a society that can defuse the multiple time-bombs ticking away in Malaysia, and overcome the security challenge posed by the communists.
The DAP will give the Government every co-operation and support in policies which will contribute to greater national unity, a stronger democratic system, and a more just economic and social order. We will not hesitate however to continue to speak out and oppose what we see as forces and developments and policies which will create greater national disunity and weaken the forces of democracy and social justice.
It is in this spirit that I will turn to the Third Malaysia Plan.
Elimination of Poverty
During the de bate on the Second Malaysia Plan, on 14.7.1971, I expressed fear that the first objective of the New Economic Policy to eradicate poverty irrespective of race, is only incidental to the second objective of the NEP to restructure Malaysian society. This fear seems to be borne out by events.
The Government’s statistics on incomes and incidence of poverty are based on the Post Enumeration Survey of the 1970 Census of Population. The Survey indicates that in 1970 about 27% of households in Peninsular Malaysia had incomes below $100 per month while 58.5% of the households had incomes below $200 a month.
In Paragraphs 236 and 489 of Third Malaysia Plan, we are told that the government has chosen a poverty line income where 49.3% of the households fall below the poverty line. The Third Malaysia Plan states that this poverty line takes account of the basic requirements of an average Malaysian household to maintain a family in good nutritional health a well as provide for minimum needs in respect of clothing, housing, household management and transport.
On the basis of this poverty line income, the Third Malaysia Plan states that the poverty rate had declined from 49.3% in 1970 to 43.9% in 1975.
There are several objections to these statistics. Firstly, household income is not a suitable income concept for studying inequality of incomes and incidence of poverty. This is because variations of household size would distort the living standards of individuals, as a large household is clearly less well off than a small household with the same total household income. A high-income household, therefore, does not necessarily have a high standard of living in terms of per capita income. The incidence of poverty has thus been under-stated by considering household incomes, as is done by the Post Enumeration Survey, rather than on the basis of per capita household income or per capita income. Thus a 10-member household with a household income of $400 a month, giving a per capita household income of $40 is less well off than a two-me mber household with a household income of $200, giving a per capita household income of $100.
In fact, in view of the lower average household size of Malay households (5.070 members per household) than either Chinese (5.819 members) or Indian (5.420 members) households, the true disparity ratios in levels of living between Malays and non-Malays are really lower than they are made out to be in official and government publications and pronouncements. In other words, the inequality of incomes gap between Malays and non-Malays have not been as wide as they had been made out to be by government spokesmen.
Secondly, the selection of a poverty line income common to both rural and urban areas under-estimates the urban poverty relative to rural poverty. This is because the cost of living is higher in urban areas.
How is the Poverty Line Drawn?
Thirdly, we are not told how the Government planners arrive at the poverty line income, where 49.3% of the households are categorised as poor when 58.5% of the households have incomes below $200 a households month.
Recently, the MTUC worked out a minimum family budget for a worker with a wife and three children (based on the average size of household). Two of the children are taken to be school-going and a third non-schooling. Food and Rent constitute the bulk of the expenditure but only the barest needs are provided for: the diet being based on the General Hospital standards. No provision is made for festivals and emergencies, nor is there any provision for medical expenses. The budget for this average family works out as follows:
Food – $ 94.11
Rent including Electricity water, etc – $ 86.13
Education – $ 25.20
Other – $ 24.13
This is an indication of the unacceptability of the Government’s poverty line income, which works out to a household income of about $150 a month.
Fourthly, we are not told how the Government has found that the incidence of poverty, based on the poverty line income, had been reduced from 49.3% in 1970 to 43.9% in 1975. In the absence of data as to how the Government arrived at this figure, we are only left to wonder whether this is an inspired guess of the planners, bearing no relation to facts.
Fifthly, the Government planners appear to have in mind a static poverty line income from 1970 to 1990, as shown in Table 4-13 of the Third Malaysia Plan, without taking into account that rising cost of living will push the frontier of the poverty line income higher and higher. Thus Paragraph 243 of Third Malaysia Plan envisages a marked reduction in the overall incidence of poverty by over one-half from about 50% in 1970 to under 20% in 1990. The incidence of poverty in the rural areas is expected to fall from 59% in 1970 to 23% in 1990 with the number of poor households declining from 706,000 to 390,000. The number of poor households in the urban areas could increase from 86,000 to 125,000, although the incidence of poverty would decline from 21% to 9%.
In view of the above five objections, especially the under-estimation of the percentages of households who are poor, and the unrealistic holding down of a poverty line income for twenty years, the Third Malaysia Plan does not give a true dimension of the problems of poverty in Malaysia. We must also not forget that the poor in Sabah and Sarawak are not included in these figures.
A conspicuous omission in the Third Malaysia Plan is that we do not have a picture of the growing or diminishing share of the poor in the total national income, for this will show us whether there is a fairer redistribution of income and lessening of income inequalities in the country.
In 1970, the lowest 40 per cent of the households account for only about 12% of total income, while the top one-tenth of all households accounted for nearly 40%.
What is the position now? What is the targetted re-distribution of incomes between the poorest sections of the population and the richest? The Third Malaysia Plan and the Outline Perspective Plan 1970-1990 are both silent on this.
I repeat my call which I made during the Mid-Term Review Debate that the government should work out a programme whereby within the 20-year period from 1970-1990, the lowest 40 per cent of the Malaysian poor households will account for at least 30 per cent of the total income.This will be more meaningful in the elimination of poverty and restructuring of society, than to hold to an unrealistic poverty line income for twenty years.
Poverty Groups in Malaysia
There is no evidence that the Second Malaysia Plan had reversed or stopped the trend, discerned from Independence till 1970 and borne out by the Government’s own surveys and census, of a growing inequality of of income, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer.
The majority of the rural poor, in particular farmers and fishermen, have not benefitted materially from government development.
In 1970, the two largest groups in poverty in the rural areas were rubber smallholders, who accounted for 226,000 households or 29% of the total in poverty and padi cultivators who made up 123,000 households or 16%. Three smaller groups were estate workers (about 60,000) fishermen (28,000) and coconut smallholders (17,000). The remainder of the rural poor were engaged in mixed agriculture (126,000), manufacturing industry and services (124,000). Straddling the various sectors of the rural economy are New Village residents and agricultural labourers (excluding estate workers) about 85,000 and 115,000 households respectively were poor. The Orang Asli are another poverty group numbering about 53 000 people (Para 495).
Without structural changes in the agricultural economy, such as radical land reforms, the agricultural poor in the rural areas cannot rise above the poverty trap.
DAP wants Land Reforms to give land to the tillers
According to the Census of Agriculture, 1960, which is the most comprehensive yet available, the average size of rubber smallholdings is 5.2 acres, with about 24 per cent of the farms under 3 acres and about 46 percent under 5 acres. For wet rice, the average size of farms is 2.5 acres, with about 54 per cent of farms under 3 acres and 78 percent under 5 acres.
Sixteen years later, these uneconomic-sized farms have become even smaller from further sub- division. It is no wonder that with such uneconomic-size farms, rubber small-holders and padi cultivators remain well below the poverty line.
The Government has done nothing to deal with this basic cause of rural poverty.
The plight of the padi tenant-cultivators are even worse off than the padi cultivators who own their own farms. According to one study, the incidence of poverty for tenant-cultivators is as high as 80% as compared with 50% for full owners.
The Control of Rent and Security of Tenure law to protect padi tenant-cultivators by fixing maximum chargeable rent and the minimum period of tenure has not been enforced. Generally about one-third of the produce is paid to the landlords. In some places, the proportion is considerably higher. The land-hungry farmers prefer to pay high rents rather than go without employment.
The only effective long-term solution to these basic problems of rural poverty is the adoption of a land reform programme to confer ownership as compared to estate yields
A start should be made in the padi sector. Ownership of agricultural land should be restricted to bona fide farmers only, and there should be a ceiling in the acreage allowed to be owned by an individual farmer or a farming family based mainly on the ability to farm the land.
In the case of rubber smallholders, the RISDA must embark on a major programme to help smallholders with small acreages attain economic sized holdings, improve their annual yield which is now 670 lbs per acre as compared to estate yields of 1.020 lbs. per acre, increase replanting and improve production practices like improved tapping techniques which would limit disease and extend tree life, and more optimal patterns of fertiliser use.
To alleviate poverty among rubber smallholders, which account for some 226,000 households comprising mainly of Malays, the DAP calls for the total exemption of export duty and rubber cess for small holders with less than 15 acres. This will be a significant anti-poverty program me to help the rubber smallholders.
In this connection, there is an urgent need for RISDA to regain smallholder confidence, as many allegations have been made about abuse of power and public funds being misused by top RISDA officials, not connected with the current NBI investigations into RISDA subsidies. The Minister for Primary Industries, other Cabinet Ministers and public officials must have received a detailed five-page letter cataloguing the sins of misuse of funds and abuse of power by RISDA officials. A full and frank public accounting by RISDA and Ministry of Primary Industries on this matter is called for to convince smallholders that their interests are being placed in good hands.
In the previous session of Parliament in 1972, I had called for a special Ministry to look after the plight of the estate workers, because of the high rate of retrenchment of workers in the estate sector.
The Third Malaysia Plan now concedes that the incidence of poverty among estate workers had increased during 1971-1975. This was caused by the slower growth of rubber prices to which wages are tied (1.8% per annum) relative to significant rises in the consumer price index (7.3% per annum) as well as retrenchment arising from the conversion of rubber estates into oil palm.
It is a disgrace that in the Second Malaysia Plan, the retrenched estate workers and their dependants were not given any proper government attention or assistance to settle in public land schemes or emplaced on alternative jobs.
The estate workers have now finally been recognised as a poverty group, and the Third Malaysia Plan promised to help retrenched workers and improve their quality of life.
I cannot help but wonder, however, whether the government is really sincere, when only last week, the Minister of Labour Lee San Choon, brought amendments to the Employment Ordinance 1955 to take away the legal rights of estate workers to retrenchment benefits after three years service. Estate workers are among those who stand to lose the most from such an amendment.
Following the DAP’s championing of the cause of the new villagers, a whole Ministry has been formed. But sad to sav. nothing substantial or significant has been done to modernize new village economies and reduce the incidence of poverty among them.
There are still new villages where residents have not been given titles although they have lived there for a quarter of a century.
The Government must work out effective strategies to modernise new village economies through (1) grant of land to enable new villagers to carry out agricultural activities and (2) the dispersal of industries to new villages to generate jobs and incomes.
The Third Malaysia Plan (Paragraph 553) said: “While the incidence of poverty declined in most sectors, the absolute number of non-agricultural households in poverty expanded by 23% reflecting the upsurge in the size of the urban population during the 1971-1975 period. Even the expanded targets of economic growth and employment of the Third Malaysia Plan will not be sufficient to prevent incre ases in the number of poor urban households during the period.”
In fact, according to Table 4-13, if the Government’s 20-year Plan succeeds, the total number of 85,900 poor households in the urban areas in 1970 would increase to 125,000 poor households in 1990, although the incidence of poverty would fall from 21.3% to 9.1%.
This is a plan for increasing urban poverty, and cannot therefore be acceptable to the people, especially to urban Malaysians.
This is one area where the first-prong objective of elimination of poverty is sacrificed to the restructuring objective. The 85,900 poor urban households have no prospect of rising above the poverty line, and even worse, would have their ranks swelled by another 40,000 poor households in a generation.
This is one reason behind the changes in Malay employment in secondary and tertiary sectors during the 1971-1975 where the unemployment rate (para 247) among the Malays dec lined from 8.1% in 1970 to 6.9% in 1975, which, in absolute terms, was a marginal increase from 126,400 to 128,300. Employment among Chinese and Indians in, absolute terms also increased during the Second Malaysia Plan, but unemployment among them rate. While their shares in secondary and tertiary industries declined, corresponding increases of employment in agriculture did not take place.
Among the Chinese, the unemployment rate increased from 7.0% to 7.2 % or in absolute terms from 77,300 to 93,800 and among Indians, from 11.0% to 12.2% or in absolute terms from 36,800 to 47.300.
Restructuring of Society
In his speech yesterday, The Prime Minister said: “Let us learn from our past mistakes so that we may improve on our future performance.”
To do so, we must first of all know our mistakes. One of the biggest mistakes of the Second Malaysia Plan is that the re-structuring prong is both perceived and seen by the people as a racial programme rather than a Malaysian programme, to reduce and eventually eliminate the identification of race with economic function.
The other great mistake of the Second Malaysia Plan is that the restructuring programme is perceived and seen as an instrument for the enrichment and creation of a new Malay capitalist class in disregard of the genuine Malay poor, and the non-Malay poor.
In moving the motion during the Mid-Term Review of the Second Malaysia Plan, the late Tun Razak had said that the Government did not intend to “transform the present racial imbalances of the Malays and other indigenous people into future imbalances which operate against other Malaysians which will be equally undesirable.”
The Second Malaysia Plan has exactly this effect. The Government has now an opportunity to correct these new imbalances in the Third Malaysia Plan. Although there is acknowledgement, for instance, that Chinese agricultural employment should be increased under the Third Malaysia Plan there are no target plans as to how this is to be achieved, the rate of the multi-racialising of FELDA schemes. The lack of target objectives can only mean that there are no concrete plans as yet.I call for the drawing up of definite target plans for the restructuring of FELDA schemes, so that these settlement would reflect, if not the national population, at least the rural population which is 65% Malays and 35% non-Malays by 1990.
Apart from restructuring Felda schemes, which is a high-cost affair as it costs about $25,000 for each Felda settler-family, the Government should give land to the landless, in particular Chinese and Indians, who had so long been neglected in land-alienation schemes, so that they can cultivate, without high government capital expenditure, by their own hands, sweat, and toil, to make up for the lop-sided agricultural development.
It is also essential, if the Government is to regain the people’s confidence that the restructuring prong of the NEP is not meant for one race only, that it should progressively restructure all areas of national life, where there is pronounced identification of race with economic function, in particular the government services, armed forces and police.
Education – the key to national unity has become a major factor of disunity
As a result of mistakes committed in the Second Malaysia Plan, education, the key to national unity, has become a major factor of disunity.
This stems from the diminished opportunities for non-Malay students to pursue post-secondary, college and university education in Malaysia.
For instance, Malay students have no difficulties in getting HSC and STP places, but non-Malay students, even in middle secondary forms, are already worried about chances of HSC and STP places, regardless of their industry, merit or performance.
The problem is worse when it comes to domestic university education. During the Second Malaysia Plan, the share of the Malays and other indigenous people to total enrolments in domestic tertiary institutions increased from 50% to 65%, or from 6,622 to 20,547- an increase of 13,925. In the same Second Malaysia Plan period, the share of other Malaysian students in domestic tertiary institutions declined from 50% to 35 %, or an increase in absolute terms from 6,702 to 10,982- an increase of only 4,280.
This illustrates vividly the dimunition of higher education opportunities for Malaysian citizens in their own country. This is where the NEP declaration that it would be implemented in a way so as to ensure that “no particular group experiences any loss or feels any sense of deprivation has failed.
The non-Malays do not begrudge the increased opportunities for Malays in domestic tertiary education, as they accept that this is a necessary component in any national strategy to bring about a balanced qualified manpower. However, they are entitled to feel aggrieved when they experience “loss” or feel “deprived” at the dimunition of higher education opportunities for their children in their homeland.
That some 31,500 Malaysian students are enrolled in all overseas institutions in 1975 (where not all are enrolled in tertiary institutions) the majority of whom are self-paying non-Malays, does not make this experience of loss or sense of deprivation any less legitimate, keen or deserving of government concern. On the contrary, the recent prohibitive increase in university fees in UK universities and the progressive restriction of intake of Malaysian students, especially in New Zealand, have served only to sharpen this experience of loss and sense of deprivation.
Educational future – the major cause for professional emigration
The fear of non-Malays about the future educational opportunities of their children is the major cause for the recent exodus of non-Malay professionals like doctors and dentists.
Whenever I raised this matter of the emigration of Malaysian professionals, the government would reply complacently that this is a problem typical of developing countries. The difference is that the brain drain professional men normally occurs with young doctors and professionals on the make, who are attracted by prospects of higher earnings and greater job satisfactions in foreign countries.
In Malaysia, however, a large majority of professional men like doctors and dentists who are emigrating are men in late 30s, 40s and even fifties, who have to uproot homes and well-established practices not for higher incomes or greater job satisfaction abroad. In fact, some of them are emigrating to lower-income practices, no superior job satisfaction, but greater social and family dislocations. They do so because of the future of their children, for they fear that on the basis of past government policies, their children do not stand a fair chance to get a just and equitable educational opportunity in Malaysia.
In this morning’s paper, the Assistant Finance Minister, Richard Ho, criticised Malaysians who migrate, said that they should be pitied as they lacked an understanding of the “multi-racial scheme of things.
If there is to be pity, we should pity Malaysia that the government continue to pursue policies which drive away Malaysians, who want to serve and identify fully with the nation, and yet cannot, because they are made to feel that they and their children do not have an integral stake and part in Malaysia.
Smug comments do not solve problems. This is why one MCA assistant Minister’s own brother is packing up his bags, selling his property, and uprooting his family, to migrate.
The bulk of Malaysian Chinese and non-Malays stay behind, but this does not mean that their fears about the future of their children in terms of education and employment is less intense.
This is not the basis for the building of a resilient and united Malaysian nation, but the basis for fostering divisiveness and disunity.
Malaysians of all races and classes seek to identify themselves with the nation and the destiny of Malaysia. More and more however are being driven away and alienated by policies which treat them as aliens rather than as citizens.
The Prime Minister said yesterday that the government would provide the leadership, the public policy framework and the infrastructure facilities to achieve a peaceful, prosperous and harmonious multi-racial society. It is the people who must achieve.
The crux of the question is whether the government is capable of providing the right leadership, the right public policy framework and the right infrastructure facilities to enable the people to achieve this overriding national objective.
The implementation of the Third Malaysia Plan calls for an efficient, effective, dedicated and honest Administration.
The need for a high degree of efficiency and effectiveness in the government machinery, and a high sense of integrity, incorruptibility, dedication and professionalism have not been sufficiently impressed not only on all public servants, but on all politic al leaders at both the national and state levels.
Thus, at the last Malacca State Assembly meeting, the Chief Minister said that the need to ensure a clean and incorrupt State Government is not the business of the State Government, but that of the NBI and Federal Government.
Planning and implementation machinery at all levels, especially at State and District levels, are deplorable. In Malacca, the State Government built a paltry few hundred low-cost houses for the entire Second Malaysia
Plan and for 114 low-cost housing units in Bandar Hilir Malacca, completed nearly a year ago, they are still unoccupied although some 5,000 persons applied. If it is going to take one year or more just to process applications for low-cost houses completed about a year ago, what type of efficiency and competence can one expect in the Third Malaysia Plan.
The people from all States must be fully involved in the Third Malaysia Plan, and to do so, all State Assemblies should immediately debate the Third Malaysia Plan in so far as it affects them, and not only MPs, but every State Assemblyman in the country should be given copies of the Third Malaysia Plan so that they can fully participate in special Assembly debates on the Third Malaysia Plan, to make the Third Malaysia Plan a Plan which is directly concerned with the everyday lives of ordinary Malaysians.
(Speech by Ketua Pembangkang and DAP member of Parliament for Kota Melaka, Lim Kit Siang, in the Dewan Rakyat on the Third Malaysia Plan debate on July 20, 1976)