Sunday, March 16, 2008

NEP: Badge or crutch?

This bit of news jolted my memory. Yes, there was a review of the NEP as this report clarifies. According to Sabah Progressive Party president Datuk Yong Teck Lee, the New Economic Policy expired in 1990 and was superseded by the National Development Policy (NDP).

He questioned why politicians on both sides of the political divide, in Penang particularly, were still harping in the issue of the NEP that had expired in the 1990s and replaced with the NDP.

He said back in 1989-90 the National Economic Consultative Committee (MAPEN) was formed to formulate a post-NEP policy in which he was among the representatives from Sabah for the committee chaired by Tan Sri Ghazali Shafie.

“The successor to the NEP was the NDP,” he said, adding that overtime Vision 2020, 10-year Outline Perspective Plan (OPP), five-year Malaysia Plans and other policies overshadowed the NDP.

But it seems to me that however the alphabet soup is stirred, it still tastes the same. The NDP might as well be called NEP - either because of a similar and overriding ideological thrust or its underlying intention .

Again, back to Dr Mavis Puthucheary’s essay. The notion of NEP and Malay dominance was first touted as a social contract by Ahmad Abdullah (quoted in The Star 31 Aug 1986). The former MP of Kok Lanas and one time group editor-in chief of NST wrote:

The political system of Malay dominance was born out of the sacrosanct social contract which preceded national independence. Let us never forget that in the Malaysian political system the Malay position must be preserved and that Malay expectations must be met. There have been moves to question, to set aside and to violate this contract that have threatened the stability of the system.

The NEP must continue to sustain Malay dominance in the political system in line with the contract of 1957. Even after 1990 there must be mechanisms of preservation,protection and expansion in an evolving system.

So, the NEP is a kind of badge of distinction to perpetuate racial dominance.

But here's what happened. Former PM Dr Mahathir came up with another policy that apparently subsumed that erstwhile NDP and fired the imagination of all Malaysians. He called it Vision 2020. (Actually it was the brainchild of Dr M's key advisor, the late ISIS chairman Noordin Sopiee). 9 challenges were listed as crucial to the development of a united Malaysian nation and the attainment of developed nation status. Its ambition was,

...establishing a united Malaysian nation with a sense of common and shared destiny. This must be a nation at peace with itself, territorially and ethnically integrated, living in harmony and full and fair partnership, made up of one ‘Bangsa Malaysia’ with political loyalty and dedication to the nation [More].

I personally find this document very progressive and attractive, genuinely visionary in its scope. If only it was properly pursued and implemented. To think that in recent years, some UMNO big guns have been pooh-poohing the term 'Bangsa Malaysia' as a mere indefinable 'state of mind' not even worthy as a unifying ideal. And no, I also did not mind that Dr M did not forget the needs of the Bumiputra majority.

In the development of human resources we cannot afford to neglect half the population i.e. the Bumiputeras. If they are not brought into the mainstream, if their potentials are not fully developed, if they are allowed to be a millstone around the national neck, then our progress is going to be retarded by that much. No nation can achieve full progress with only half its human resources harnessed. What may be considered a burden now can, with the correct attitude and management be the force that lightens our burden and hasten our progress. The Bumiputeras must play their part fully in the achievement of the national goal.[More]

Fair enough. Yet after 50 years of 'affirmative action' (positive discrimination?) why are Malays still wearing that metaphorical millstone? We know why, don't we? On the other hand let's not forget that no less a personage than present PM Abdullah who issued this warning against over-dependence on the NEP:

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia, in his maiden speech as United Malays National Organization (UMNO) president to the UMNO general assembly in 2004 stated “Let’s not use the crutches for support all the time, the knee will become weak”. Badawi went on to state that continued usage of crutches would eventually result in needing a wheelchair instead.

Now, why would any community want to hazard such an eventuality? As an Anak Bangsa Malaysia, my vote is against NEP - for the sake of the community it was designed to help, and for the good of ALL communities who make up this nation .

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