PETALING JAYA: A veteran economist has denounced a call for new legislation to benefit Bumiputeras, calling it “daft and utterly unMalaysian”.
Commenting on a statement by the Malay Economic Action Council (MTEM), Asli Centre for Public Policy Studies chairman Ramon Navaratnam said “more than 40 years of help” should be enough for the Malays and other Bumiputeras.
“The NEP (National Economic Policy) did a great thing for the Bumiputeras,” he told FMT. “Unfortunately, it was disproportionate and quite possibly led to the current structuring of religion and race we see now in Malaysia.
“If they still need a leg up, then what about the poor and underprivileged? What about the other Malaysian races?
“Any measure to introduce laws to continue help for just one group will only aggravate the situation on the ground further. Do we want people who genuinely deserve help from the government to rock the boat?”
Last Thursday, MTEM CEO Ahmad Yazid Othman said certain quarters had taken advantage of the Bumiputera agenda for their own gain, pointing to instances where scholarships meant for the hardcore poor were given instead to students from high-income Bumiputera households.
He said those living in the rural areas deserved a fair chance to climb up the social ladder and should be given opportunities to compete against both the well-off Bumiputeras and other races.
Navaratnam, who helped draft the NEP when he was a civil servant, acknowledged that it was now a “skewed and archaic” document and said the Pakatan Harapan government was “doing a good thing” in revamping it to benefit the poor of all races.
Minister for Economic Affairs Azmin Ali said last month that the move to change the NEP from a race-based system to one that would be needs-based was aimed at protecting all classes of Malaysians.
DAP veteran Boo Cheng Hau agreed with Yazid that most Bumiputeras, including the indigenous races, still needed help, but said it was time to change the “generalised apartheid system” that protected only certain groups.
“I agree that the rich and upper-class Malays have exploited privileges given under the purview of Bumiputeraism to profiteer themselves at the expense of the underprivileged poor Bumiputeras,” he said. “This isn’t right.
“Affirmative action is definitely needed to help the poor in relation to education and technical and vocational training, but this has to be granted without special preferences unless they are deserving candidates.
“Poor non-Malays should be entitled to preferential treatment too. So don’t shut the doors on them.”