MALAYSIA – THE DANGEROUS EIGHTIES
A NATIONAL MOVEMENT TO EDUCATE EVERY MALAYSIAN ABOUT THE MEANING OF MALAYSIAN NATIONALITY
“We do not make secret of the face that we, and the 700,000 voters who voted for the DAP, are not happy with the undemocratic goings-on in the country, and many aspects of the Government’s policies. We want to bring about changes, to educate public opinion and build up pressure by the constitutional and parliamentary process effectchanges.
“This is completely within our rights as citizens of Malaysia. If the Member of Pasir Puteh does not like it, does he want us to tell him to leave Malaysia and get lost?
“The emigration of Malaysian professionals is of fundamental importance because, apart from the question of loss of trained manpower for the development of the country, it highlights the central problem of national unity in the country.
“This professional emigration is a dangerous sickness in Malaysian nation building , and must be stopped for the health and good of nation building.”
“This objective of the restructuring of Malaysian society so as to reduce and eventually eliminate the identification of race with economic function is a laudable objective. But this prong of the NEP will hinder rather than promote national unity if the restructuring is regarded as a process of Malay-isation rather than of Malaysian-isation.
“If national unity is to remain the overriding objective of the NEP, then I call on the Government to demonstrate by action to establish beyond doubt in any quarter, whether among Malays or non-Malays, that restructuring is a process of Malaysianisation of all sectors of Malaysian life, and not Malaysiation!
“The non-Malays perceive themselves as outsiders in the NEP and are alienated. The Malays perceived the NEP as their blueprint for economic upliftment, and when they find that it is the small class of Malay rich who benefit, there will be deep bitterness. The NEP, in its present shape of implementation, holds the dangerous potential of further polarising the people of Malaysia along both class and racial lines.”
“There has been a tendency for the ruling parties to regard its 55% of voters as supporters of peace, harmony and progress; whil the 45% opposition votes as enemies of peave, harmony and progress. I hope this warped and distorted thinking do not reach high up to the councils of State, for it would then give birth to policies which would set Malaysians against Malaysian.”
Speech on the Mid-Term Review of the Third Malaysia Plan on March 22, 1979
Both the Second and Third Malaysia Plan have proclaimed that the overriding objective of the New Economic Policy is the attainment of national unity in the country.
Both prongs of the New Economic Policy, to eradicate poverty regardless of race and the restructuring of Malaysian society, are aimed at this single overriding objective; the attainment of national unity.
But we can search the Mid-Term Review of the Third Malaysia Plan from the first page to page 252, there is not a single reference to national unity. I would expect a whole chapter being devoted to review and access the progress or lack of progress in welding national unity.
This is important because the Government’s implementation of the New Economic Policy is no guarantee that national unity is being fostered or promoted. In fact, if yesterday’s debate on the Mid-Term Review is any guide, it would indicate that we are still very distant from the path of working towards national unity although we are at the stage of reviewing the Mid-Term progress of the Third Malaysia Plan.
I refer in particular to the speech by the Barisan Member for Pasir Puteh, who launched into a tirade against the DAP, accusing the DAP if e being and obstacle to the success of the New Economic Policy. My first impression is that the Government leaders and backbenchers appeared to be preparing the people for failures of government policies and measures and looking for scapegoats. The Hon’ble Member went on to demand that DAP MPs, if they do not like the democracy and the policies being pursued in the country, to leave the country.
I am surprised by the cheek of the Member for Pasir Puteh, for I want to know what right has the Member for Pasir Puteh to ask DAP MPs to leave Malaysia. We are not only elected representatives of the people, who despite all the unfair and undemocratic tricks of the Barisan in the recent general elections, have been elected into this House with and impressive vote and mandate, we are also all Malaysian citizens, just like the Member for Pasir Puteh.
We do not make secret of the fact that we, and the 700,000 votes who voted for the DAP, are not happy with the undemocratic goings-on in the country, and many aspects of the Government’s policies. We want to bring about changes, to educate public opinion and build up pressure by the constitutional and parliamentary process to effect changes.
This is completely within our rights as citizens of Malaysia. If the Member of Pasir Puteh does not like it, does he want us to tell him to leave Malaysia and get lost?
Or does the Member for Pasir Puteh thinks that there are two classes of citizens, the first class citizens who can tell the other citizens to leave the country, and the second-class citizens who can only be told to leave the country by the first-class citizens?
The attitude and mentality of the Member for Pasir Puteh, which unfortunately is not confined to him alone, illustrates the failure of the NEP to fulfil its overriding objective of/national unity in Malaysia. In fact, the Member for Pasir Puteh has no concept or idea about the meaning of national unity at all, for otherwise, he would never ask another citizen, regardless of his racial origin, to leave the country for any reason whatever!
National unity must firstly mean that every citizen is equal, and accepts each other as equal, before the law and in citizenship rights in the country. Secondly, it means that Malaysian citizens, regardless of their race, religion, language or culture, come together in unity on their common basis as a citizen of Malaysia, subordinating their ethnic, religious, linguistic or other cultural origins or affinities.
National unity in Malaysia can only be founded on the common citizenship of the people, in instilling and inculcating Malaysian consciousness and identity. It cannot be built on Malay unity, Chinese unity or Indian unity, or Kadazan unity or Iban unity, for it is the greatest fallacy of Malaysian politics and history that such racialist unities lead inexorably to national unity.
The speech of the Member of Pasir Puteh is the product of the politics of racial unities, not the product of Malaysian national unity.
I call on the Prime Minister and the Barisan Nasional Government to join in condemning and deploring the speech of the Member for Pasir Puteh, in dissociating unequivocably from this mischievous and irresponsible speech, if great harm to inter-racial understanding and national unity is not to be caused.
The case of the Member for Pasir Puteh highlights the urgency and importance of a national movement to educate every Malaysian about the meaning of Malaysian nationality, that it must involve a conscious acceptance of himself and other fellow citizens as Malaysians, all sharing similar and equal citizenship rights as provided by the Constitution; there no one citizen can tell another citizen to leave the country if he does not like things in the land.
Datuk Hussein Onn, in his now famous interview with the Far Eastern Economic Review, in January this year, said he was naïve when Malaysia got independence in thinking that it would take ten years to achieve national consciousness and unity. Now, having grown older and perhaps wiser, he thought that this would take a generation. When asked whether this objective would be achieved at the end of the century, Dato Hussein Onn was non-committal, saying merely, “Well, we could only pray.”
As I understand it, a generation is normally understood to be a span of 20 years. This is means that by the Year 2,000, Malaysia would have had two generation of Malaysians, and not one as envisaged by Datuk Hussein Onn.
This little muddle illustrates the lack of clear thinking or positive results in nation building whether by the Prime Minister himself or by the Government.
A generation of post-Merdeka Malaysians have grown up and taken their places in socity, the complete products of the national education policy of the Alliance and Barisan Nasional governments. Can we say with confidence that the first post-Merdeka generation of Malaysians are imbued with more Malaysian consciousness and identity than the Merdeka generation of Malaysians?
Although the Government had not failed to proclaim national unity as its main objective, the results have been dismal. There could be no denial that the way the NEP was implemented since the early Seventies had in many areas undermined the basis of multi-racialism in Malaysia.
When the Third Malaysian Plan was announced, the Government was at pains to emphasise that the Third Malaysia Plan would correct the mistakes of the implementation of the Second Malaysia Plan.
This is what I said in this House on July 20, 1976 when we debated the Third Malaysia Plan :
“When I read the Third Malaysian Plan, my first impression is that this is a more balanced and rounded document than the Second Malaysian Plan….. 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.”
The Third Malaysia Plan has only 21 months left, but its promise had not been matched by performance. The continued unchecked emigration of Malaysian professionals is proof of this.
The emigration of Malaysian professionals is of fundamental importance because, apart from the question of loss of trained manpower for the development of the country, it highlights the central problem of national unity in the country.
Although eventually, only a small minority of Malaysians would have the means or the qualifications to emigrate, the disenchantment discontent, alienation and bitterness which prompted and motivated this emigration flow are intensely felt by a substantial majority of Malaysians. If this alienation and bitterness among the substantial number of Malaysians are not dealt with, then it would have grave adverse consequences on national unity and resilience.
The Barisan Nasional Government’s oblivious or indifferent attitude to the problem of emigration of Malaysia professionals, it refusal to lift its finger to check this emigration flow, speaks louder than words about lack of will or commitment to find out and resolve the factors of disunity and division among the different peoples in the country. It is just not good enough to brand those who emigrate as ‘disloyal’, or say they are good riddance, or point to Vietnamese refugees as if to emphasise, that things could be worse!
This professional emigration is a dangerous sickness in Malaysian nation building, and must be at stopped for the health and good of nation building.
In this connection, let me inform the Prime Minister that his interview with the Far Eastern Economic Review had upset many Malaysians and caused a setback in nation building. I am referring to his taking to task Tan Sri Lee Yan Lian for complaining about being ‘second class citizens’, and his offer to immediately exchange his rights for the millions and ‘second class citizenship’ of Lee Yan Lian.
I do not hold any watching brief for Lee Yan Lian, but I find this portion of the Prime Minister’s interview most remarkable. Firstly was Datuk Hussein Onn offering to exchange his rights, together with his Prime Ministerial-post, with Tan Sri Lee Yan Lian’s millions and ‘second class citizenship’. If Datuk Hussein Onn was making this offer, then I think Tan Sri Lee Yan Lian would be making a pretty good bargain to accept the exchange.
Secondly, is Datuk Hussein Onn aware that his remarks implied a tacit admission on his part about the existence of ‘second class’ citizens in the country, but that millionaires like Tan Sri Lee Yan Lian should not complain about it. If of course raises the furtner question whether Malaysians who do not have the millions of Lee Yan Lian could then complain about suck ‘second class’ citizenship.
The point I want to make is that the Prime Minister should be very careful in his statemensts and actions to ensure that they positively help toward nation building!
I have said that the Third Malaysia Plan has not lived up to expectations that it would be more rounded and balanced in dealing with the socio-economic problem of a multi-racial society.
A good example is in the field of education. The Third Malaysia Plan, for instance, ignored the grave problem of educational insecurity of Malaysians especially in the matter of higher education opportunities for non-Malay students. It was only after the people demonstrated in a clear and unequivocal fashion in the 1978 general elections their rejection of the education policy of injustice and the national response to the campaign for the establishment of the proposed Merdeka University, that the Barisan Nasional Government was forced to acknowledge the existence of this problem. The Education Minister, Datuk Musa Hitam, had promised in this Dewan on Dec. 11 that the government would increase intake of non-Malay students into the five local universities in the new academic year.
The reply that the Minister of Education has given on Monday in reply to my question as to what steps the Minister has taken to implement his assurance has not pleased anybody.
Let me inform the Minister of Education that public expectation on his fulfilling his promise is very high. In fact, to the non-Malays, the government decision on the intake of university students for the new academic year would be a test case of the Government’s commitment to forge head towards a multi-racial Malaysia. In all sincerity and humility, I urge the Minister of Education to keep faith and not to break the government’s solemn undertaking.
Nobody wants or expects the Minister of Education to reduce by one single place the governments’ proposed intake of Malay students into the universities. Malaysians, including non-Malays, do not begrudge the provision of special assistance to Malay students to attain university education. All that they ask is that, without depriving any Malay students of university place, the Government should also provide university educational opportunities for non-Malay students. It is short-sighted and self-defeating to try to solve old injustices and inequalities by creating new injustices and inequalities.
The gravity of the problem of diminution of higher education opportunities for non-Malays in their own country can be seen from the figures that during the Second Malaysia Plan 1971-1975, the share of the Malays and other indigenous people to total enrolment in domestic tertiary institutions increased from 50% to 65% or from 6,622 to 20,547 – an increase of 13,925. In the same 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. (Source : Third Malaysia Plan).
For the academic year 1977/1978, the five universities took in a total of 5,953 students which is made up of 4,457 Malays, 1,187 Chinese, 226 Indians and 43 others, or a percentage breakdown of 75% Malays and 25% non-Malays.
The anxieties of non-Malay parents about the future of their children is amply justified when we study the figures of student enrolment into the local universities for degree courses. Thus Table 14-3 of the Mid-Term Review:
Malays Chinese Indians Others Total Malays Chinese Indians Others Total
University Malaya 3991 3554 589 160 8294 3935 3440 682 147 8204 University Sains Malaysia 1218 1479 195 21 2913 1759 1302 222 16 3299 University Kebang Malaysia 2396 134 35 5 2570 3975 276 82 6 4339 University Pertanian Malaysia 539 132 24 3 698 1169 181 52 3 1405 University Technologi Malaysia 456 74 3 – 533 702 93 15 7 817
_____ _____ _____ ____ ____ ____ _____ _______ ____ ___ Total 8600 5373 846 189 15008 11540 5292 1053 179 18064
% 57.3 35.8 5.6 1.3 100 63.9 29.3 5.8 1.0 100
These figures of university student enrolment for degree courses from 1975 to 1978 indicate Malay students increased form 8,600 to 11,540 – an increase of 2,940; for the Chinese there has been a decrease from 5,373 in 1975 to 5,292 in 1979 – an decrease of 81;
Another way of looking at these figures for university degree courses is that Malay students increased form 40% of total enrolment in 1970 to 57.2% in 1975 and to 63.9% in 1978; while non-Malay share fell from 60% in 1970 to 42.8% in 1975 and to 36.1% in 1978.
As in 1978, the racial percentage in each of the universities is as follows:
Universiti Malaya: Malays 48% non- Malays 52% Universiti Sains: Malays 53% non- Malays 47% Universiti Kebang Malays 92% non- Malays 8% Universiti Pertanian: Malays 83% non- Malays 17% Universiti Techonologi: Malays 86% no- Malays 14%
According to the Mid-Term Review, there were a total of 17,513 Malaysian students doing university degree courses abroad in 1978, made up of 3,939 Malays, 11,293 Chinese, 2,086 Indians and 197 Others.
This large number of Malaysian students studying overseas is a strong argument for expansion of university places in our own country, for this will not only save foreign exchange, ensure that our students take up courses useful for Malaysian national needs, but also help children of the poor who would otherwise be unable to go overseas to pursue higher studies.
Table 3-4, which shows the distribution of the various job categories in both the public and private sectors among the races in Peninsular Malaysia in 1975 and 1978, throws more light on this problem. The Table shows that while the overall distribution of employment remained consistent with the population composition, some changes occurred within specific job categories. A significant improvement was in the professional and technical jobs category where the share of the Malays and other indigenous people increased from 46.9% in 1975 to 53.1% in 1978. Malaysians laud this improvement of Malay participation in professional and technical job categories, but must be most concerned by the actual figures given:
Occupation 1975 1978
Professional/Technical M C I O Total M C I O Total (000) – 87.9 75.3 20.3 3.8 187.3 116.3 75.9 23.1 3.9 219.2
% – (46.9) (40.2) (10.8) (2.0) (100.0) (53.1) (34.5) (10.6) (1.8) (100.0)
This means that from 1975 to 1978, the number of Malays in professional and technical jobs increased from 87,900 to 116,300 – an increase of 28,400; whereas in these three years, the number of Chinese had increase by the nominal figure of 500; while Indians have increased by 2,800.
When I mentioned all the above figures, I want again to reiterate that no one is suggesting a reduction even by one figure the Malay statistics, but to try to open the eyes of the Government to understand why the stagnation or even decrease of non-Malay opportunities in these fields have created deep-seated alienation and antagonism highly inimical to national unity.
While government efforts to give special assistance to help Malays and others an opportunity to participate in higher education or other fields get the support of all Malaysians, we should not be so obsessed with percentages as to allow the country’s national unity and development to become the victim of percentages.
The objective of the restricting of Malaysian society so as to reduce and eventually eliminate the identification of race with economic function is a laudable objective. But this prong of the NEP will hinder rather than promote national unity if the restructuring is regarded as a process of Malay-isation rather than that of Malaysian-isation.
I said during the debate on the Third Malaysia Plan that the biggest mistake of the Second Malaysia Plan was that the re-structuring prong was both perceived and seen by the people as a racial programme rather than a Malaysian programme.
The greatest disappointment of the Mid-Term Review is that no earnest effort was made in this direction to rectify this defeat. Although the Third Malaysia Plan acknowledged that non-Malay, and in particular Chinese, agricultural employment should be increased under the Third Malaysia Plan very little had been done. During the period under review, some 647,500 acres were opened up for the settlement of landless families as well as for the absorption of underemployed rural labour into full time employment. FELDA and FELCRA developed about 342,300 acres and provided settlement for about 19,800 rural families during 1976-78.
The Mid-Term Review gives a lot of statistics and tables, but the conspicuous absence is statistics and tables about the racial breakdown of Malay and non-Malay settlement on government land schemes, whether FELDA, FELCRA or state settlement schemes.
From all available information, FELDA settlement schemes are virtually all-Malay settlements, which is contrary to the policy and philosophy of restructuring. What has been done in these three years to multi-racialise FELDA settlements?
Out of the 647,500 acres opened up for settlement during the period under review, what percentage are given to Malays and non-Malays?
In the Third Malaysia Plan debate in 1976, I called for the drawing up of a definite plan with time targets for the multi-racialisation of FELDA schemes, so that the new settlements would reflect, if not the national population, at least the rural population which is 65% Malays and 35% non-Malays. Can the Minister concerned tell this House what is that racial ratio of FELDA settlement and other government land settlement schemes during the period under review, or is FELDA and government settlement schemes exempted from the restructuring prong?
I also want to ask what steps the Government has taken to bear in mind the restructuring objective in the implementation of regional development schemes, like Pahang Tenggara, Johor Tenggara, Terengganu Tengah and Kelantan Selatan. From Table 5-7, it is shown that by 1980, Pahang Tenggara would have 145,000 people with 415,600 acres of land developed; Johore Tenggara would have 181,900 persons with 201,000 acres of land developed; and in Terengganu Tengah, 61,200 with 184,000 acres of land developed. What will be racial breakdown of these regional development schemes?
The Mid-Term Review, in paragraph 108, said that the modernization and development of existing New Villages on a multi-racial basis will continue. Any government effort at multi-racialisation will have the DAP support. But this multi-racialisation must be national and across-the-board and not selective, because it then ceases to be Malaysian-nisation.
We in the DAP point out these fundamental weaknesses of the Government’s implementation of the NEP, not because we want to find fault or to obstruct and sabotage the NEP as irresponsibly alleged by the Member for Pasir Puteh yesterday, but because we have the interests of the nation and people at heart. We want these weaknesses and defects to be remedied, for it is these mistakes and defects which are obstructing and impeding national unity.
We know there are mindless people who will attack ever DAP statement or criticism as destructive or even anti-national. We in the DAP are prepared to stand on our record in Parliament or even in the State Assemblies as to the role we have played in not only being the spokesmen of the ordinary people of Malaysia, nut in highlighting deviations of government policies.
For instance, for the last few years, the DAP Malacca State Assemblymen had repeatedly criticised the performance of the Malacca SEDC in the Malacca State Assembly, for its incompetence, inefficiency and waste of public funds. All these statements and speeches were denied by the then Malacca State Chief Minister, Ghani Ali, and the DAP State Assemblymen in Malacca were denounced by the other Barisan assemblymen as obstructing the NEP. But today, the new Malacca Chief Minister, Adib Adam, has admitted that what the DAP State Assemblymen had been saying about the Malacca SEDC was right, and he pledged to clean up and reform the SEDC. We in the DAP therefore have seen the kind of the Member of Pasir Puteh – who will be judged by history as mere ‘Yes Man’ of the Ruling Party with no minds of their own.
If national unity is to remain the overriding objective of the NEP, then I call on the Government to demonstrate by action to establish/beyond doubt/ in any quarter, whether among Malays or non-Malays, that restructuring is a process of Malaysianisation of all sectors of Malaysia life, and not Malaysiation!
For this to succeed, there must be greater multi-racial effort to ‘restructure’ thinking, attitudes and consciousness – to Malaysianise the outlook of the people. Unfortunately, there are still many who regards Malaysianisation as equivalent to Malayisation. This is wrong and against the whole basis of Malaysian nationhood, just as it would be wrong and unacceptable to regard Malaysianisation as equivalent to Chinese-isation or Indianisation.
Recently, the Petaling Jaya Municipal Authorities issued a directive that the road name of a highway in Damansara Utama, Lebohraya Datuk Teo Han Sam, should be taken down because the road-name was contrary to “national characteristic”.
This has upset many non Malaysians, for is the naming of a road after a Chinese Malaysians or is the name of a Chinese Malaysian, contrary to “ national characteristics”? By this argument, then should road names like Jalan Tun Tan Cheng Lock in Malacca, Jalan. Seenivasagm in Ipoh, Jalan Lim Lean Teng in Penang, or Jalan Loke Yew and Jalan Yap Ah Loy in Kuala Lumpur, be removed and altered on the ground of being counter to ‘national characteristics’?
We in the DAP believe that roads and places should be named after prominent Malaysians, regardless of race, for their contribution to Malaysia; and that such honour should be conferred only after the person to be honoured as passed away or retired from public life. But for any governmental authority to say that a non-Malay name is against ‘national characteristics’ is to strike at the very basis of the multi-racial foundation of the country, and to raise anew the question, “Is the Barisan Nasional Government committed to the establishment of a genuine multi-racial Malaysia?”
Redistribution of Income and Wealth
The Mid-Term Third Malaysia Plan reported that the overall incidence of poverty in Peninsular Malaysia has declined from about 44% in 1975 to about 3% in 1978. These statistics appear to be magic figures taken out of a magician’s bag of tricks, for me are not told how the poverty line is drawn and how the latest figures are derived. The last three years have been good years in terms of commodity prices. The country has been blessed being endowed with such vast natural resources. Crude oil is fast becoming fourth in terms of export earning to second place. In 1980, crude oil production is expected to increase from its present 229,000 barrels a day to 300,000 barrels a day, bringing export earnings of $3,962 million – which is expected to displace rubber for the first time as the leading foreign exchanger earner. The export earnings for rubber in 1980 is expected to bring in $3,870 million.
It should be noted that the production of 300,000 barrels a day estimated to be reached in 1980 is a cry from the Government estimates five years ago that crude oil production by 1980 would reach 500,000 barrels a day. From present projection of prices, production of half a million barrels a day by 1980 would involve export value of $6,603 million – which would enable crude oil alone to nearly match rubber, tin and palm oil put together.
The government’s projection of 500,000 barrels a day crude oil production by 1980 was made before foreign investors shied away from Malaysia because of the Petroleum Development Act and the Industrial Co-ordination Act which the Mid-Term have now admitted has caused real private investment to decline significantly by 25% in 1975.
Be that as it may, the Malaysian government and nation has now a new source of revenue which by 1980 will be the No.1 foreign exchange earner, and by 1990 probably all the foreign earning of the other exports added up together. The country has a great responsibility and trust to use this oil money to eliminate poverty, narrow the gap between the haves and the nave-nots. We must learn from the lessons of other oil countries which use their oil revenues to enrich a small privileged class, while the masses remain poor and dispossessed, leading to social unrest and revolutions.
In this connection, the Petronas will play a more and more pivotal role in Malaysian economy. There have been uncertainly as to whether Petronas is one of the institutions established by the Government to help bumiputras in commerce and industry, or whether it is an institution aimed at serving all Malaysians. I call on the Prime Minister to make a clear statement on this, as Petronas has been given responsibility and charge of the most precious resource in the country, and it is a depleting asset, there must be a clear-out government policy statement as to how the Government proposes to use the oil revenues to benefit the poor and needy of all races and groups in the country.
In view of the vast sums of money which Petronas will be holding or handling in trust, there must be the closest and strictest supervision of Petronas affairs by Parliament, and I am shocked that Petronas is not required to submit annual reports to Parliament. I call on the Prime Minister to take the necessary steps to bring Petronas under direct Parliamentary control. The country can ill afford another Bank Rakyat scandal – which has still not been unscrambled.
Even now, thorough investigations of the various government agencies like SEDS, MARAs or UDAs would probably bring to light Bank Rakyat- type of scandals because of lack of public accountability of public enterprises. As billions of dollars of public funds are involved, I call on the Prime Minister to establish a Commission of inquire into the workings of all the public authorities and government companies like UDA, MARA, Prenas, DEDCs, Petronas, to assess as to whether the lack of public accountability of these institutions using public funds had led to more Bank Rakyat scandals, and to take remedial steps.
I want to stress here however that the vast expenditure of public funds by itself does not guareantee achievement of the NEP objective of redistribution of income and wealth to reduce economic inequalities and imbalances in the country.
From the implementation of the NEP, it is clear that by redistribution, the Government means a special kind of redistribution. When the NEP was launched, Government Ministers rejected growth as the sole economic goal in itself. But strangely enough, the Government did not at the same time reject the concomitant theory that the benefits of growth would eventually extend to all sectors of society. This is what is called the tenet of the ‘trickle down effect’ or more optimistically the ‘spread effect’ where it is argued that the diffusion of benefits however modest, would take place, and that the co-existence in sharp contrast, of wealth and poverty, is a necessary stage in the process of development.
In fact, the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, is one of the foremost exponents of the ‘trickle down effect’ or to use his words, ‘the spin off’ effect.
Last March when opening the Bumiputra Economic Convention at Universiti Kebangsaan in Bangi, Dr. Mahathir said the Malay poor should not be envious and jealous of the rich, as the rich carried a burden which was not easy for the poor to understand. To enlighten the poor about the rich man’s burden, Dr. Mahathir used the spurious argument that the poor should imagine that he earned $100 and had to give the Government $55, left with only $45 Dr. Mahathir also waxed eloquent about the ‘spin off’ effects of the activities, including the consumption habits, of the rich, and their benefits to the poor.
The redistribution objective of the NEP is therefore a myth, for it does not mean redistribution of income and wealth to reduce poverty and inequality. What the NEP wants is an ethinc redistribution of wealth and income within ethinic communities, or whether the net result is an increased inequality of income and wealth within the Malay community.
This is best but by Dr. Mahathir himself, in the March issue of the Malaysian Business:
“The Government says that we want to help the bumiputras. It does not mean that we are going to make bumiputras millionaires. All we say is that there should be equitability among all the different races. For example, if there is a certain number of rich non-bumiputras, there should be also a certain number of rich bumiputras are more poor than the non-bumiputras, then we have problems. We don’t mean that all bumiputras should be millionaires and the rest left behind.”
The redistribution of wealth and income to a new class of politically well-connected Malays, whom I would call the UMNO-putras, is presented to the non-Malays as a perequisite to inter-racial harmony and national unity; while explained to the Malay poor as a pre-condition for the trickling down to them of economic benefits!
The Third Malaysia Plan had stressed that “it is most important that all programmes are not perceived nor construed in terms of ethnological interest.” It is equally important that when programmes are perceived and construed in ethnological terms, by both Malays and non-Malays, that the Government should go out of its way to remove such misperceptions. It should not give cause to buttress such perceptions. For instance, it would not escape notice that the Government sponsored Bumiputra Economic Conventions and set up high-powered Ministerial committees to implement their resolutions; while in the case of the Chinese Economic Convention organised by the Associated Chinese Chamber of Commerce last year, the Government showed little interest of attention – either to its Conference proceedings or resolutions.
Such ethic perceptions wield a power of their own in a plural society like Malaysia, and must be dealt with by the Government as a political fact and reality. Then non- Malays perceive themselves as outsiders for economic upliftment, and when they find that it is the small class of Malay rich who benefit, there will be deep bitterness. The NEP, in its present shape of implementation, holds the dangerous potential of further polarising the people of Malaysia along both class and racial lines.
The Mid-Term Review said that the incidence of poverty among padi farmers has declined from 77% in 1975 to 74% in 1978. The Government has spent billions of dollars in gigantic irrigation schemes and in providing agricultural said and even in terms of price supports for the padi farmers, who constitute a big group of rural Malay poor. Why have these vast expenditures of public money failed to tackle more vigorously the problem of rural Malay poverty in the padi sector? The answer is the uneconomic holdings and the tenancy position of the farmers. The DAP repeats our call for radical land reforms to ensure that the padi farmers own the land they till, and that the billions of dollars of public funds spent on the padi sector do not go to make absentee landlords even richer.
Although the Third Malaysia Plan has recognised the new village residents as a poverty group, very little has been done in the period under review to solve new village poverty.
The Mid-Term Review has completely failed to make progress with the problem of inadequate land among residents of New Villages, whose population have outgrown the new village limits set 39 years ago. I call on the Prime Minister to set up a National Committee on Land for New Villages comprising the Minister for New Villagers and the Mentri Besar or Chief Minister of each State, to work out a concrete programme to overcome the problem of land hunger of new villagers. Although land is a state matter, so long as the Central Government has the political will, it could make progress, as shown by the example of FELDA settlement schemes.
Call for inclusion of residents of the Portuguese settlement in Malacca a ‘poverty group’
The residents of t the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca belong to the poorest of the poor in Malaysia. They have very lowly-paid jobs and very limited socio-economic opportunities for advancement. Because of their small numbers, they lack political weight to make their grievances and sufferings receive due official notice and action. I urge the Government to classify the residents of the Portuguese Settlement in Malacca as a ‘poverty group’ and to work out a scheme to provide for the socio-economic upliftment of the Malaysia Portuguese in Malacca.
In any battle against poverty, housing must constitute a main strategy because of the central importance of housing in the life of every person.
According to Mid-Term Review Figures, there are 262,000 poor households (below the poverty line) in 1978, which will increase to 296,000 poor households in 1980 for the non-agricultural, urban sector. This means that if the government is to help them to combat poverty, it should provide them with low-cost housing. What are the government’s low-cost housing programmes from now till 1980?
According tl the Chapter XV on Housing, there are 28,065 low-cost houses in various stages of implementation in Peninsular Malaysia, which will be less than 10% of the estimated urban poor households. This is clearly a drop in the ocean, and government low-cost housing projects must be at least greatly increased if it is to meet the housing needs of the poor. The time has come for the centralisation of public low-cost housing in one National Housing Authority entrusted with the task of building low-cost houses for the poor, and I urge the Prime Minister to give this matter priority.
Barisan National must not regard its elections victory as a blank cheque
The Prime Minister, in his speech introducing the motion, referred to the last general elections. He said the Government had been given a big majority and a clear mandate, and that it would carry out its promises.
Let me remind the Prme Minister that the majority is not as overwhelming majority which tantamount to giving the Government a blank cheque. In fact, the Barisan Nasional collected only 55% of the votes.
The Government cannot disregard the hopes, wishes and aspirations of the other 45% of the voters, if parliamentary democracy is to continue to work and Malaysia t hold together as a nation.
There has been a tendency for the ruling parties to regard its 55% of voters as supporters of peace, harmony and progress; while the 45% opposition votes as enemies of peace, harmony and progress. I hope this warped and distorted thinking do not reach high up to the councils of State, for it would then give birth to policies which would set Malaysians against Malaysians.
In a parliamentary democracy, the Government must also respect the wishes of those who had voted against the ruling parties, for the simple reason that they are citizens of the country. In the same way, the DAP’s views are entitled to the fullest respect for it is the views of a significant section of the people.
If we go by legitimacy to speak up and articulate the views of the people, probably there are only three Parties in this House, so far as Peninsular Malaysia is concerned – namely UMNO, DAP and PAS. All the other Barisan component parties, whether MCA, Gerakan or MIC, do not have the legitimacy to represent anybody apart from themselves. The MCA represents nobody, as seen by its total rout in the recent Selangor Chinese Chamber of Commerce elections where the MCA, through the Multi-Purpose Holdings, Tries to stage a take-over.
In a parliamentary democracy, the views of elected representatives who legitimately represent the voters and the people, must be given fullest respect and consideration. Such views can only be spurned at the expense of national development and unity. I hope that the DAP’s vies would be taken in this sprit.