Present white paper on new Bumiputera policy too, Zaid tells Azmin

Former minister Zaid Ibrahim says the government must disclose the process it intends to use to ensure that deserving Bumiputeras can be helped.

PETALING JAYA: A former minister has called on Putrajaya to present a white paper on how to get the Bumiputera policy right.

Zaid Ibrahim said Economic Affairs Minister Mohamed Azmin Ali should provide a comprehensive outline of the new philosophy and what the new approach would be like in the paper which should carry the title “Getting the Bumiputera policy right”.

What Azmin should do, Zaid said, is to clearly define what characteristics deserving Bumiputeras should possess, and that such characteristics must be objectively verifiable, otherwise subjective selection will recur.

“Next, the government must disclose the process it intends to use to ensure that deserving Bumiputeras can be helped.

“The government must also account for the different types of problems facing non-Malay Bumiputeras: how will the new approach help them?” he wrote in a blog post today.

Zaid’s suggestion comes on the back of Azmin’s reply in Dewan Rakyat today that a white paper to reduce the Federal Land Development Authority (Felda) debt of RM8 billion will be presented at the current Parliament sitting.

The former minister said while many might be looking forward to the new Bumiputera policy, he was not too excited about it as it might be more of the same.

“Many fear that it will be yet more humbug – more of the same excuses to gain political support but will bring no real benefit to ordinary people.

“Many feel that this so-called ‘new approach’ will be the same as before: recipients of benefits will be decided by some people at the top for reasons known only to themselves,” he said.

Azmin had previously given the assurance that this policy would differ from its predecessors and that, this time, the government would get it right.

He had also previously said that Bumiputeras were not being sidelined in Putrajaya’s needs-based policies.

Meanwhile, Zaid related a true story of a minister who had offered a Malay “of some ability” a certain position in a government body, but the offer was withdrawn by someone higher up, “or perhaps, more powerful”.

He claimed that this same person was then given another offer by another minister, but this offer was also withdrawn.

“I have much sympathy for this unfortunate Malay because, for reasons unknown to him, he is regarded as a national risk and not a team-player.

“I find that surprising because I know this Malay reasonably well. He will not do what is wrong, nor has he the habit of ‘closing one eye’ and covering up the misdeeds of his boss.

“Beyond that, he is a man of integrity and a team-player. He is the kind of person a reformist government needs,” he said.

Zaid said the incident involving the unfortunate Malay was not important in the larger scheme of things, but the way decisions were made by the new government should worry Malaysians.

“The most important question is: do our ministers operate under the surveillance of some ‘higher power’?

“If ministers are not empowered and allowed to decide what is good for his or her ministry on small matters such as appointments, how can we expect our ministers to do great and difficult things for the country?

“Ministers will not be able to make difficult decisions in future because they might be overruled, publicly embarrassed or even reprimanded by some Cabinet committee,” he said.

Zaid cited the example of the deferred East Coast Rail Link (ECRL) project, where the usual amount of compensation for termination of this nature would have cost the government at least RM20 billion.

“Why not pay RM50 billion for the project to be completed? Again who is behind this decision, the ministers collectively or some power from above?” he asked.