Saturday, April 17, 2010

Mahathir says those who want to take away Malay rights are selfish

Dr M says those who want to take away Malay crutches are selfish
By Leslie Lau

KUALA LUMPUR, April 17 — Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad continued to stir the debate over the special rights of the Malays today by describing those who advocate the removal of affirmative action policies that benefit Bumiputeras as selfish.

“In making use of the provision for the ‘special positions’ of the Malays, the post-1969 leaders came up with affirmative action.

“These are undoubtedly ‘crutches’ and crutches should be discarded as soon as strength is gained. Only the selfish would advocate throwing away the crutches of others simply because they have already made good use of their own,” the former prime minister wrote in a posting on his blog today.

The debate over the special rights of Malays has gained traction since Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak introduced the outline of his New Economic Model (NEM) which promises the continuation of affirmative action which is based on needs and not race.

The PM has been sensitive to the potential controversy over such an inclusive approach by arguing that a needs-based approach would still largely benefit Bumiputeras.

But a number of Malay groups have been advocating an entrenchment of NEP-style affirmative action policies as part of Malay special rights even though the PM has admitted the current approach of giving a leg-up to Malays and Bumiputeras has promoted rent-seeking and patronage.

Dr Mahathir argued today that while the constitution did not mention Malay rights, “the mention of the special position of the Malays implies recognition of certain positions and privileges that they hold.”

“The leaders of the time, the Tunku, Tun Razak, Tun Sambanthan and Tun Tan Siew Sin understood the ‘special position’ of the Malays as the indigenous people of Tanah Melayu, the ‘Malay Land’.

“For this recognition by the non-Malay leaders, something had to be done to reciprocate their acceptance. The Tunku agreed to waive the conditions for becoming citizens so that one million non-Malays could become citizens with all the citizenship rights, ignoring the required qualifying conditions.”

Social contracts, Dr Mahathir pointed out, are obviously unwritten, and is an understanding based on trust.

He said it was a measure of Malay trust of the non-Malays that they were prepared to give up what they had gained in the fight against the Malayan Union to accommodate those whose loyalty to the country was unproven.

Since last year, the Najib administration has been walking a tightrope in gradually liberalising the economy, introducing a number of measures to allow the economy to embrace a more free-market approach.

In trying to open up the economy Najib has also had to manage the emergence of Malay groups such as Perkasa who advocate fighting for Malay rights.

Dr Mahathir has emerged as an important patron of Perkasa, a group which has warned that the Chinese community were determine to take control of the country.

Perkasa, while not openly endorsed by Najib, consists of mainly Umno members who still wield influence in the ruling party.

A growing number of non-Malays and even Malays, particularly those born in the country after Merdeka, are unhappy with the perception among such groups like Perkasa who appear to see affirmative action policies as part of Malay rights.

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