Malay Nationalists Trash Premier’s Economic Plan

Asia Sentinel
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak gets a cold reception

Just how difficult it will be to modify Malaysia’s affirmative action program for its majority ethnic Malays came clear over the weekend when some 1,500 members of the Malay Consultative Council summarily rejected Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s plans to replace it with what the premier calls the New Economic Model.

Najib was due to unveil his NEM, as he calls it, on June 10 in conjunction with the publication of the 10th Malaysia Plan. But so far no details have been released, with less than two weeks to go before its publication, and it is questionable what will be in it. The consultative council turned it down without bothering with the details.

Since he came into office as premier in April of 2009, Najib has been attempting to get Malays, who make up roughly 60 percent of the country’s 27 million people, to give up some of the perks that they have enjoyed since the New Economic Policy was promulgated in the wake of bloody 1969 riots that took the lives of hundreds of Malays and Chinese alike. Modifying the NEP, originally designed to remain in place only until 1990, has become the third rail of Malay politics.

The vote of the council, made up of 76 Malay-rights organizations, amounts to a stinging rebuke of the prime minister’s policy even before it is announced. Ibrahim Ali, the head of Perkasa, the most strident of the Malay nationalist organizations and an ally of former Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, told Najib publicly that the vote amounted to a vote of no-confidence in him. Rather than ratifying in principle Najib’s plans, the council instead passed a 31-point resolution demanding that the essentials of the NEP remain in place.

In particular, the Malay Consultative Council is demanding guarantees of what they call the special rights of ethnic Malays in return for granting citizenship to non-Malays – who have been here for generations. Chinese make up about 25 percent of the population, Indians another 8 percent, with the rest other races. Critics say that amounts to apartheid by another name.

The National Economic Advisory Council, hand-picked by Najib to write the new economic framework, came under particular fire. The NEAC, as it is known, is made up of nine academicians, economic experts and consultants including some of Malaysia’s most distinguished economists. However, Ibrahim told the conference, some of the members are non-Malays who would have no way of knowing the Malay soul, and the Malays who are there are liberals who have forgotten their roots.

The prime minister’s cause probably wasn’t helped much by the Saturday release of the annual Forbes List of richest Malaysians. Of the top 10, eight are Chinese and not a single one is an ethnic Malay. Second on the list, after Robert Kuok with US$12 billion in assets, is telecommunications tycoon Tatparanandam Ananda Krishnan, an ethnic Indian. At eighth is the only other non-Chinese, Syed Mokhtar AlBukhyary,who is of Arab descent.

The Forbes List of Malaysia’s 10 Richest

1) Robert Kuok; US$12 billion
2) T. Ananda Krishnan; US$8.1 billion
3) Lee Shin Cheng; US$4.6 billion
4) Sri Lee Kim Hua; US$3.9 billion
5) Quek Leng Chan; US$3.85 billion
6) Teh Hong Piow; US$3.8 billion
7) Yeoh Tiong Lay; US$2.5 billion
8) Syed Mokhtar AlBukhary; US$1.7 billion
9) Vincent Tan; US$1.6 billion
10) Tiong Hiew King; US$1.2 billion

The vote presents Najib with a seemingly insoluble political dilemma. He needs to eliminate costly subsidies that stifle both personal and corporate competitiveness. According to one account, in 2009 the government spent RM74 billion (US$22.7 billion) in subsidies for sugar, fuel and other items. Subsidy expenditure was 11 percent of nominal gross domestic product according to these figures between 2006 and 2009. But as Badawi learned, cutting subsidies is dangerous. A cut in fuel subsidies contributed to his unpopularity.

Najib’s move last year to cut a long-standing requirement mandating ethnic Malay participation in 27 economic sub-sectors and remove another that 30 percent of shares in IPOs go to ethnic Malays was one of the developments led to rising Malay irritation. His weekend comments to the Consultative Congress that the government is still in the process of gathering feedback before implementing his new policy – just 11 days before it is supposed to be tabled – is an indication that he and his advisors have little idea of how to do it.

In particular, while there has been no break with former Prime Minister Mahathir, Mahathir has been attending Perkasa rallies and in some cases leading them, and, witnesses say, some of them have turned pretty ugly. Najib had to step in to cancel one that Mahathir had called on May 13, the 41st anniversary of the 1969 riots that brought about the NEP in the first place. That rally now is to be revived for June 14. Originally expected to draw 10,000 Malays in a state of ferment that resembles the Tea Parties in the United States, the rally is now expected to draw double that. The 84-year-old Mahathir is expected to be the keynote speaker.

The premier is aware that Mahathir’s implacable enmity played a major role in bringing down Abdullah Ahmad Badawi. Although Najib’s public approval rating is now 68 percent, up from a disastrous 44 percent when he took office, he faces the possibility of rivals in UMNO if he pushes too hard – including his deputy prime minister, Muhyiddin Yassin, who is also the deputy president of UMNO.

Najib has repeatedly vowed to clean up corruption in UMNO, which has abysmal public approval ratings, according to an April survey by the respected Merdeka Center, a Kuala Lumpur-based think-tank, and despite his own reputation for questionable contracts when he was minister of defense. The survey found that only 22 percent of Malaysians placed their trust in UMNO, which has largely run the country since its inception. That has been borne out by a long series of by-elections since national polls in March 2008. The Barisan Nasional has lost eight of the 11 by-elections and only won on in Kuala Selangor by a relatively small margin of votes.

Najib has said repeatedly that the country can no longer rely on a few sectors like oil palm plantations and crude oil sales to drive growth, instead calling for diversification and incentives for new strategic industries. The education system – which critics say now gives ethnic Malays virtually blanket passes with little academic rigor – must be reevaluated and improved, he says, to reward excellence and nurture talented graduates who excel in strategic and creative thinking, and entrepreneurial and leadership skills that will drive success in the decades ahead. A flock of bloated state-owned or government linked companies continue to swallow up money – the latest being the plantation giant Sime Darby, which recently reported as much as US$1 billion in writeoffs for bad investments, or the chronically money-losing Proton national car.

But in order to do any of that, he stands a strong chance of alienating his political base – or, in the case of the Proton, Mahathir. He has also demanded an end to practices that support the behavior of rent-seeking and patronage. But doing so would take away a major reason for the existence of UMNO, which is regarded as hopelessly corrupt by a large segment of the population – and thus the 22 percent approval rating for the party.

“Obviously, I as the president of Umno cannot forsake the interests of the Malays who form the majority in Malaysia,” Najib said when closing the Bumiputera Economic Congress organized by the Malay Consultative Council.

As the son of the founder of the New Economic Policy (NEP) the late Abdul Razak Hussein — Malaysia’s second prime minister — in no way would he betray his father’s struggle, he said. However, he didn’t point out to the crowd that when his father and other UMNO leaders implemented the NEP, they designed it to end in 1990.

  1. #1 by monsterball on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 9:22 am

    hahahahaha….Try to please Chinese ad other races…Najib got fired by Malays.
    Yes….play race and politics have made all to identify races…and not as Malaysians.
    Najib is the leader of the Malay race party.
    As long as you have UMNO…no way Najib can prove he is treating all races equal and all are proud to be known as Malaysians..race second.
    UMNO B needs to be voted out…and takes at least a decade to drum into all be proud Malaysians and maybe by that time…all race councils should be abolished and have only a Malaysian council.
    Like I said…Mahathir had all the opportunity to unite all as Malaysians ..but he kept playing race and religion dirty politics.. and encouraged corruptions…to be what we are today.
    Of all the people..Najib should know that too well.
    Performing as the leader of double headed snakes…Najib “1Malaysia” is actually like before…no many.

  2. #2 by monsterball on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 9:50 am

    hahahahahhaha….Unity by diversity nonsense backfired.
    A Malaysian Malaysia so easy to unite…why make things difficult?
    Keep juggling…keep twisting….keep fooling Malaysians…how long can Najib do that?
    Seems like CORRUPTIONS….all forgotten?
    No way…Najib!!

  3. #3 by k1980 on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 10:20 am

    Jib will just rename the NEM as the “New Economic Masterplan”
    or as the NEB (New Economic Blueprint) or NEC (New Economic Commission)

    To encourage support for it, all umno members will be given RM1,000 a month. On the other hand, all members of other political parties such as PAS, mca, mic, gerakan, DAP ect will be given 1,000 sen a month. After all, we all live in 1malaysia and all must be given 1,000, the difference being only RM and sen.

  4. #4 by HJ Angus on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 10:41 am

    Najib’s position as PM is rather weak as he did not get his mandate from the Malaysian voters but just the 1000 odd UMNO members and the few dozen warlords – so his position is being held to ransom.
    The only way he can strengthen his position is to call for an early GE but that too may not work as people now realise that BN government means Bankrupsi Negara!

  5. #5 by Jeffrey on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 10:42 am

    ///Obviously, I as the president of Umno cannot forsake the interests of the Malays who form the majority in Malaysia,” Najib said when closing the Bumiputera Economic Congress organized by the Malay Consultative Council./// – Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak.

    No one expects PM to forsake the interests of the Malays. Everyone however expects him to uphold the higher interests of country and all Malaysians. For to do so is also to uphold the interest of Malays since they form majority in the country. If the country goes “kaputs” by contiunation of debilitating existing policies, so will, as a necessary end result, the Malay interest will be placed in grave jeopardy as by their majority status they benefit more in a country prospered than bankrupted!

    We have a vociferous group of reactionaries opposed to reforms because of fear of losing their vested interests. Their fears are congruent with fears of their patron of losing his political and economic legacy. To justify their position they align Malays’ interest with their own. It is only natural. But do they necessarily represent majority Malays nation-wide?

    The time is past and long overdue to cater for narrow and sectional interest of the few – no matter how powerful or vociferous– in neglect of the interest of the larger whole and mainstream of the nation’s and people’s interest which is his duty to uphold.

    We live in economically challenging times. The country has arrived at the crossroads with two conflicting road signage – one way pointing the way back to where we were before down the road to bankruptcy and the other, another way, possibly to greater prosperity and unity.

    Good and ordinary Malaysians (including investors and businessmen) will support him if the moral compass of 1 Malaysia and NEM is set right and he evinces the political will to walk the talk even in the face of strident objections from his detractors.

    Being scion of a prominent political family and having tasted, enjoyed and benefited from ministerial positions spanning decades, one would expect him not, at this moment and vantage point, to put position more important than duty.

    That’s what leadership is about : to guide as a Shepard the sheep followers to the higher ground of better pastures and fresh grass than pander to their bleating for protection within an enclosed pen fed by hay.
    As PM he has a chance to exercise power to bring the country out of its doldrums of mediocrity/non-performance to a higher ground of achievement, not just in terms of material prosperity but a higher mindset and organization of affairs with less of patronage politics, corruption and institutionalized racism that made sick the whole body politic!

    Or if not, at least to go down trying

    To cling on to power at all cost is the mark of an ordinary politician; to exercise power courageously to do right – to the point of being prepared to even lose it in that process of trying – is the mark of a statesman.

    The reward is the unending gratitude of the people for now and generations to come and an assured place too in the annals of Malaysian history.

  6. #6 by victimofcorruption on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 10:47 am

    the content will still remain unchanged…only the cover which is the name is changed…i wonder why cant he consult advice from Sg’s PM on how to manage a country’s economic successfully….

  7. #7 by monsterball on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 11:05 am

    I am also a victim of race and corruptions and we know the devil reincarnated started it all…with his 22 years as PM..with his new UMNO B.
    That’s how this racist doctor cures..and see what is the result.
    All his patients turned half past sixes…….hahahahahahahahaha

  8. #8 by aiD_kamikuP on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 11:31 am

    “Malaysians are now at the crossroads and must choose to take the road towards an advanced high-income country in 2020 or a bankrupt nation in 2019.” said Kit in a previous article.

    Jib and his coterie of UMNO cronies and related bloodsuckers too agree that we are at the cross-roads. To them one direction signs says ‘Provide reprieve now and don’t kill the goose that lays the golden eggs’ and the other says ‘Continue plunder the country’s wealth till bone dry so as to amass personal wealth’.

    But they are too pathologically hard-wired not to see any other way than to stuff themselves sick and toss any aspirations of ‘an advanced high-income country in 2020’ to the wind.

  9. #9 by Bigjoe on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 12:01 pm

    From the start, this was expected. The surprise is that Najib did not anticipate it. He has a crappy plan and not-good-enough people to execute it.

    The question is does he know how much trouble he is in and what it takes to get out of it? I doubt it. I would bet he does not.

    What is going to happen in the next few month or even a year or two is just political soap opera. There is no rhyme and reason for it. Its just a UMNO/BN political culture that will eventually lead to his exit eventually.

    Those around him better grab what they can and prepare for his exit.

  10. #10 by k1980 on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 12:42 pm

    After paying apco millions, they will present him with another name for his economic model— the 1NEP to replace the NEP

  11. #11 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 12:45 pm

    k1980 :
    Jib will just rename the NEM as the “New Economic Masterplan”
    or as the NEB (New Economic Blueprint) or NEC (New Economic Commission)

    How about renaming it as NAJIB – New Adulterated Jeopardized Ineffective Bureaucracy?

  12. #12 by frankyapp on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 1:11 pm

    Poor Najib,trying to please C,got fired by M. NEP in sheep’s head,got discovered by IAli aka perkasa,now he’s facing a dilemma whether to choose the NEP or the NEM. If he’s indecisive,as Idris Jela thought he’s,then Idris must be correct when he said Malaysia would be bankrupt in 2019. Even TDM is pretty close to Idris’s analysis when he said malaysia would be poor in 2019. I would add that if Najib fall victim to Perkasa’s demand,malaysia is pretty sure to go bankrupt sooner.

  13. #13 by limkamput on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 2:01 pm

    No one expects PM to forsake the interests of the Malays. Everyone however expects him to uphold the higher interests of country and all Malaysians.// Jeffrey

    I think this where we all get a bit confused and misdirected. It is not the interests of the Malays that the PM is forsaking if he genuinely wants to do what is right and proper for this country and all Malaysians. It is his unwillingly to let go the interests of cronies, the ruling elites, the rent seekers and the vested interest groups. Why it is so difficult for successive PMs to do the right thing – promoting the interests of all Malaysians and dismantling the interests of vested interest groups? It is simple, PM belong to the vested interest groups – he is part of ruling elites colluding and conspiring with cronies and rent seekers to suck this country dry. There is no way out, my friend. Those against NEM are not really fighting for Malay interests. They are fighting for their own crony interests. NEM, if properly implemented, is good for all Malaysians, including Malays, but bad for cronies. Why do you think the one who made the loudest noise in the recent Malaysia consultative council are those from Persatuan Pengimport Kereta-kereta Bumi, the greatest parasite in the whole wide world? Go back to the basic – Malay interests are NOT Malay crony interests. If these are not clearly demarcated and dissected, we will forever engage in polemics and meaningless arguments. Tell the ordinary Malays that APs will now be made available and tendered out to all bumi, not just selected rich bumi. I think it would make lots of difference in galvanising the support of ordinary Malays. Let more Malays benefiting from APs, and let more Malaysians enjoying lower prices of cars. I think it is a simple logic, but this is only possible if we have a non vested interest PM and and a “non crony” government.

  14. #14 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 2:36 pm

    The more appropriate headline should have been “Malay Nationalists Trash Premier…”

    Let’s face it. Its getting more and more obvious that the man is a wimp.

    It is going to get more common to see more direct and open attacks against this man.

    His latest Cabinet line-up of the usual suspects show his weakness and lack of backbone.

    He will turn out to be the worst PM we ever had.

    On the rich list, they have very conveniently left out Daim (the man touted to be behind the RM 50 billion highway takeover project) and his former cronies, the White haired Rajah, the three sons etc. You think they are not in the top 10?

  15. #15 by dagen on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 4:15 pm

    Oh dear. How shall I put it?
    H O I I B R A H I M B I N P E R K A S A. L I S T E N. Y O U A R E S O S T U P I D.
    Hope this works.

  16. #16 by sheriff singh on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 5:15 pm

    He can’t read. And he’s deaf.

  17. #17 by monsterball on Wednesday, 2 June 2010 - 5:20 pm

    More bad news for Najib.
    French government raided company dealing with the 3 submarines…Najib bought as Min.of Defence…Baginda…Mongolian model..Balan…RPK…C4 bombs….RM500 million “commission”
    This is much better than any James Bond movie.
    Perhaps…Dan Brown….expert in exposing codes and secrets should be employed to cut open “COMMISSION” into pieces and check the details.

  18. #18 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 7:56 am

    ya. Only talk big. They think they have big balls …these perkasa et al. Only boastful people have miniature testicle. I can smell a RIOT coming already.

  19. #19 by johnnypok on Thursday, 3 June 2010 - 9:51 am

    One night PM asked the fast-lady “Why people eject NEM and why 1-Malaysia so soft?”
    “Faster, faster, and don tok cok. I will turn IA into AI, and tomorrow I will change the slogan to 1-Million Ringgit Malaysia”.
    “Do it now and don waste my time, do it fast fast”

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