KUALA LUMPUR: Dr Mahathir Mohamad today warned that the government will cancel the contracts and licences of Bumiputeras who do not deliver or sell them to non-Bumiputeras.
The prime minister lambasted Bumiputeras for seeking easy money, including handouts such as BR1M, and not making full use of the opportunities under the New Economic Policy and its successors to improve their lot.
He said there was no point talking about ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ if they were “someone’s coolie”.
He noted, however, that while the NEP had not met its target, the government’s affirmative action policies had brought results. For instance, he said, 40% of doctors today are Bumiputeras, up from 2% previously.
Delivering the keynote address at the Congress on the Future of the Bumiputeras and Nation 2018 at KLCC, Mahathir said it is not race that determines success or failure but the culture and values and that Bumiputeras had to change if they wanted to succeed.
“We must remember, we pray for God’s help, but we need to work to succeed. If we want to succeed, we have to work for what we want with God’s blessing.”
Recounting the earlier Bumputera congresses, he said the first resulted in the setting up of Mara and the second in the NEP. This, he said, is the third such congress.
He said the government had tried to improve the lot of the Bumiputeras in many ways, some of which had made non-Bumiputeras uneasy.
“One method that worked, but is rarely spoken of, is that we gave many scholarships to Bumiputeras that were not based on merit. If based on merit, only those who get top results will get scholarships. When we gave scholarships we also gave to those in second, third, fourth, fifth places. Even though they weren’t the best, their performance was encouraging and they could excel in exams here and abroad.”
He said through the provision of scholarships the government had managed to increase the percentage of Bumiputera doctors in the country from 2% to 40%.
“It is the same with other professions, like architects and engineers. We gave scholarships to those who didn’t get top spots. They had the ability but needed the opportunity. If we don’t give scholarships to Bumiputeras who aren’t number one, they will become secretaries like during the colonial era.”
However, he said, some Bumiputeras were ungrateful and were now saying this was an injustice to others and criticised the government for giving scholarships not based on merit.
On accusations of cronyism, Mahathir said: “In truth, many get opportunities but don’t succeed. But because they don’t succeed, they are not seen as cronies. From every 100, maybe four or five succeed. They become famous and are labelled as cronies.”
He said many failed not because they were not cronies but because they did not work hard and use the opportunities well.
He said it was easy to accuse people of cronyism and giving help to only those who succeeded. “Everyone is given the same opportunities. People see successful ones become millionaires and billionaires, then jealousy sets in and they accuse the government of cronyism. If they don’t want to be labelled as cronies they should fail.
“We introduced things like direct negotiations. Many Bumis got an opportunity they wouldn’t have otherwise got. We gave contracts, APs (approved permits) to make the NEP a success.”
Taking the case of the automotive industry, he said the government gave APs to Bumiputeras to bring in reconditioned cars as before that the sector was dominated by non-Bumiputeras.
“But many who got APs and sold their APs, became AP traders. They got APs for free from the government but sold it for as much as RM8,000 for one. They got 10 and sold all and got RM80,000 a month.”
He said those who did not sell the APs but worked to develop their companies became successful.
“It is the same with contracts. We give Bumis contracts, they sell the contracts. We gave Bumis contracts to build computer labs but they sold it off. So the subcontractors made profits building labs with lousy materials and before we could use the lab they collapsed. This is my experience. This is widespread.
“This is why the NEP didn’t meet it’s target. We did a lot to give Bumiputeras opportunities. But the attitude of wanting to get rich quick resulted in them not succeeding.”
Saying one could only become rich in business, he noted that cities had grown because they absorbed non-urban areas.
The poor sold their land because the offer was too good and moved further away from the city. “This is happening because we don’t try to become entrepreneurs and businessmen. Many Malay villages in KL are no more.”
He said there were skyscrapers but Bumiputeras did not live there because they were poor. “Maybe because the NEP didn’t work,” he said, adding when they were poor they would be subject to pressure from the rich.
“We sell our land to the point we live at the edge of forests. If we do not change our ways, this country will see the city owned by one race, and rural areas owned by another.
“We might think this is okay, but we must keep in mind that those who are poor are at the mercy of the rich. We feel proud to call ourselves Tuan. But when you are a driver or wash shoes are you the Tuan? No point saying Ketuanan Melayu if you are someone’s coolie.”
He urged Bumiputeras to change their values. This included working hard and not selling off “opportunities” given to them. “This habit must be eliminated.”
So long as Bumiputeras did not change, he said, they would fail, especially if they continued to be exposed to easy money, BR1M payments and fishermen’s allowances. “We don’t work but wait for money to come to us.”
He said the new govt would not help those seeking to get rich quick.
“We will cancel contracts of those who sell their contracts, if you are not able to deliver, don’t hope for a contract. The government will be strict to avoid such things.”
“This is why the NEP didn’t meet it’s target. We did a lot to give Bumiputeras opportunities. But the attitude of wanting to get rich quick resulted in not succeeding,” he said.