Redefining the Malay Agenda: Another View

Koon Yew Yin
22nd June 2013

Zaid Ibrahim’s latest effort at redefining the Malay agenda is an interesting exercise coming as it is just ahead of the UMNO general assembly meeting. Although directed at UMNO leaders and members, I am sure that he intends to provide food for thought for everyone.

Like him, I hope it also opens the door to an honest, open and transparent appraisal of not just the party’s role in leading the Malays but also of where the Malays would like to go from their present situation and what needs to be done to help the Malays succeed in their aspirations.

Let me summarize what Zaid has written.

Firstly, he reminds that Chinese or Indian bashing – whether about the election results or the failure of Malay youth to be gainfully employed or for any Malay problem – is a waste of time and misplaced. I cannot agree more. In fact, I would use stronger words to condemn race hatred and baiting wherever it stems from and whoever it is aimed at.

Secondly, he scolds the nuttier ones within the party (and I assume this refers to the party’s leaders too) who seek a strengthening of Islam and the Malay rulers as if more power for the ulama and rulers are the magic bullets that would bring about the salvation for the Malays. A turn towards a religious or return to a feudalistic future would be to the detriment of the great majority of Malays, though the leaders of the old order would welcome it. As Zaid succinctly puts it: “If Malay leaders could be honest enough to admit it, they would recognise that giving more power to the Malay Rulers and “strengthening Islam” (whatever that means) will not solve [their] problems.”

Thirdly, Zaid is on the same page as many others in recognizing that the Malay bureaucracy is a major source of inefficiency and corruption. However in calling for UMNO to address this problem, he conveniently omits to mention that UMNO itself is the starting as well as end point of much of the petty and grand corruption found in the country. No Malay bureaucrat would dare to engage in selling licences, permits or other favours for personal gain without the support of their political patrons in UMNO.

Much of what Zaid has opined is not new or original. Neither are the solutions that he has proposed such as for UMNO not to be fixated by the numbers game in education through pushing for even higher quotas for Malays in higher education. As he correctly points out, churning out hundreds of thousands of poor quality graduates through the public universities is a pointless exercise when they are not able to meet the demands of a competitive market place.

Even worse for UMNO, these unemployed or under-employed youth are a ticking time bomb that could bring about the demise of the party. In his words which are useful for the Minister of Higher Education to ponder on: “just to increase the number of graduates so we have more than the Chinese is a silly strategy unless the standards are high and employment is assured. Learn from Singapore where they limit the number of graduates as a proportion of their population. Unemployed graduates and especially the unemployable ones are ripe for street marches.”

While there is much that is thoughtful from Zaid’s opinion post, my main concern is in his unwillingness or inability to be fully honest with the delegates and party chiefs that he wants to reach out to. The following are some inescapable home truths that need to be elaborated as reminder to UMNO’s leaders and apparachik.

1. Malays control and dominate in the political, administrative and social sphere of life in the country. They form the majority in parliament, judiciary, army and police, the MACC and all other important political bodies. In the socio-economic and educational sphere, they control the public universities; civil service; etc. For UMNO to blame the lack of progress of the Malays on the non-Malays is engaging in delusion of the highest order.

2. Due to UMNO and Malay domination, the Malays have made tremendous strides since the 1970s in the economic sphere too. For example they control Bank Negara and all the major banks (except for Public Bank); all the GLCs; Petronas; as well as comprise the majority in the top professional and best paying occupations in the private sector. It would not be incorrect to say that the Malays also call the shots in the running of the economy.

3. UMNO and Malay leadership of a country blessed with natural and human resources during the past 50 years has greatly benefitted the Malay and non-Malay elite such as Zaid and the UMNO party leaders. Millions more Malaysians could have also become beneficiaries if not for Dr Mahathir’s squandering of thousands of billions of our petro dollars in his projects of superficial grandeur and his support of cronies, many of whom he helped with expensive bailouts. UMNO’s delegates went along with Dr. Mahathir as he allowed the systematic looting of the country’s treasury and tolerated the culture of leakages, wastage and inefficiency. Zaid has lamented this but fails to point the finger of responsibility towards those who are guilty.

Despite all his wrong doing Dr Mahathir is still considered the king maker. He recently said that Umno’s top two posts should not be contested to avoid internal party squabbles and most likely UMNO’s delegates will accept his opinion.

The measure of the worth of political parties and their leaders is if they can learn from their mistakes and not repeat them. One is that past policies benefitting the Malays must not be at the expense of the non-Malays. For example, educational and employment policies favouring Malays have led to the exodus of some of the brightest and best non-Malays in the past thirty years. This out-migration has been a national tragedy as they could have helped build a better future for all Malaysians, especially the young Malays needing better jobs. Today, we have a ridiculous situation of the BN Government belatedly recognizing the folly of racial exclusionary policies and attempting to attract Malaysians to return to help create jobs for our young.

But can or will UMNO learn? Will Zaid’s sensible view be the prevalent one in the coming General Assembly or will the extremists in the party become the dominant voices yet again? I am not holding my breath on what is the likely outcome.

Finally, let me remind that Umno-owned Utusan Malaysia, soon after the GE13, published an inflammatory front-page article titled ‘Apa Lagi Cina Mahu?’ (What else do the Chinese want?), taking aim at the Chinese for their apparent ‘ingratitude’ of the ruling coalition. My response is ‘Apa Lagi Bumiputeras Mahu?’

  1. #1 by Loh on Saturday, 22 June 2013 - 1:27 pm

    The problems we face in this country is because we have race-based political parties, and to make them relevant, they have to create agendas by race. Of course UMNO is the strongest among them and they can call it Malay agenda and implement they way they want it. The complaints now is that the Malay leaders hijack those programme partly to satisfy their own agenda, such as to be rich and to remain in power. Only MCA is stupid to think that they can continue to play the game of racial politics; May be the MCA leaders consider, just like UMNO leaders telling their people, that their wealth and advancements are to Make Chinese proud.

    I want to send a message to the yet to be central delegates to the MCA AGM scheduled for later this year. It reads:

    After the 13th GE on 5th May 2013 when MCA obtained 7 MPs and 11 ADUNS and so is bound by the 2011 MCA AGM resolution to leave BN Cabinet, 15 MCA elders ‘appealed’ to Chua Soi Lek to step down. To them with CSL gone, they consider MCA AGM ceases to exist. That is the way these elders practised MCA democracy in their days.

    Najib told Ong Tee Keat to honour his words to resign after CSL survived his non-confidence motion in MCA EGM. Najib knew very well CSL declared that MCA would not join the Cabinet if its GE 13 results did not improve over the previous election, and MCA AGM passed a resolution to CSL declaration. Yet Najib ignored CSL declaration and MCA resolution. In announcing the Cabinet, Najib declared that he had reserved a ministerial position for MCA, and he left a few deputy ministerial posts unfilled. Najib’s double standard is glaring. Najib wanted MCA candidates in his Cabinet to give the impression that other ethnic-based party is included. Najib is actually acquiring stooges.

    MCA Deputy President Liao Tong Lai considered that the ministerial position Najib reserved for MCA was meant for him, and he hastily thanked Najib, before CSL had a chance to react. He declared that MCA would soon meet and then MCA would return.
    LTL considered MCA resolutions can be overturned by a mere meeting shows the disrespect he had for the party. Was MCA his family’s entity even before he had been made chief?

    Liao Tong Lai would claim that MCA should return to the Cabinet on behalf of the Chinese community, and those in the business who needed familiar conduits to effect corrupt practices for their own gains will give their full support. The ministers and the business tycoons will again be laughing to the banks. Najib reserved the few ornamental posts to MCA in order to claim that his cabinet is represented by other ethnic-based parties, and thus UMNO’s ethnic-based policies had the support of other communities through their Agents in the cabinet. Najib saves the trouble to tell the world why his policies the implementation thereof is not discriminatory.

    With no reform in governance Chinese community will continue to prepare their children to emigrate and they have to accept that this land where they were born and raised will become home just like those coming here on their silver hair second home programme. This golden age old folks have to live a lonely sunset life.

    Malaysia may be the only country in the world where the government is headed by a party which is ethnic-based with ethnic-based manifestos. It is natural then for the ethnic-based party to play a zero sum game. Since MCA losses in such a game, why does it continue to play it?

    The three ethnic-based parties, namely UMNO, MCA and MIC formed the Alliance party to satisfy the preconditions set by the British for Malaya’s independence. The people then did not give Data Onn Jaafar’s a chance to advance its multiracial party, the national Party.

    Intra-Alliance party dispute started even in 1959, two years after independence, when Malaya prepared for the election in 1959. Dr Lim Chong Eu was then the president of MCA, and he requested that MCA be allotted to contest one-third of the parliamentary seats then totalled 144 seats. Tunku refused, and Dr Lim was the first MCA President who did not contest in the national election. The Education Act with article 21(2) threatening the survival of vernacular school was passed by parliament in 1961 when Tun Tan Siew Sin was MCA President. Ever since independence, the legitimate rights of Chinese citizens in the country have been gradually eroded, and it was regressively getting worse over time. MCA has proven that it was not able to prevent UMNO from instituting and implementing policies which are detrimental to non-Malays. It is quite natural that ethnic-based parties play a zero-sum game where one’s winning is another’s loss in the economic sphere. But what is worse is when the loss to the non-Malays communities is not a gain to another.

    It cannot be denied that the vernacular schools helped produced human resources for the country and they contribute to the development of this nation. This is reaffirmed by the fact that tens of thousands of non-Chinese are now attending Chinese primary schools. Yet we hear suggestions that vernacular schools be closed, and that the Education Ministry put up obstacles for the establishment of independent schools where the government have no pecuniary responsibility. Chinese care about the education of their issues and they want their culture to be preserved together with the mother tongue. These are among the items which are protected under the United Convention on Basic Human Rights. Yet what is held dear to the Chinese are the subject to ransom.

    MCA said to be protector of Chinese interest has not been able to prevent UMNO controlled BN government from implementing some policies which they should object. Failing so, MCA is prohibited from airing its disagreement openly. It is more probable that MCA would find an excuse for UMNO, and move along to pursue their own advancement, perhaps to make Chinese community proud of them.

    MCA should have left the Barison Nasional government ages ago. Najib should have been alerted by Chua Soi Lek that Chinese bashing could not get MCA candidates elected, and government policies and their implementation need fundamental reform rather than cosmetic change. The time has come now for MCA to leave BN. The two thousand MCA delegates should now think about a new role to serve its membership.

    MCA as a political party has a right to participate in politics and to field candidates for election. MCA can be influential and perhaps more effective if it does not get involved in elective political activities. MCA has the resources to fund policies research institutes and to advise the ruling government on how to improve the nation’s standing and the peoples’ well beings. Over the last few decades, history shows that racial politics produced only racist champions and the political structure harms the country. An all-inclusive political party serves the people of all races, and the challenge to it is to prove that it has policies good for all citizens and that it is able to implement them.

    UMNO is the winner in racial politics, and UMNO will not open its door to other Malaysians so long as MCA and MIC remain ethnic-based to provide the excuse for its continued existence.

    MCA has been involved in active politics said to be on behalf of Chinese, and the party’s leaders had benefited from their active political activities at the expense of the community. MCA should now let other non-ethnic parties serve all Malaysians. Outside of the government and free from the burden of the Secret Act, MCA can be an effective commentator on political events in the country. MCA can provide better influence on the ruling government, whether the BN or Pakatan Rakyat. MCA as a transformed good NGO can influence voters’ choice come the next election, if it subscribes to the ideals that politics is to serve the nation.

    MCA outside the clutch of UMNO can be useful to the nation. Would MCA leave Barisan Nasional?

  2. #2 by PoliticoKat on Sunday, 23 June 2013 - 12:31 am

    I was thinking perhaps UMNO should be encouraged to continue bashing the Chinese and Indians!

    As long as UMNO is preoccupied with blaming others, UMNO will not spend any time reflecting upon the mistakes it has made. UMNO will not take any steps to fix its situation. The unrest amongst the Malay youth will continue to ferment. And UMNO will experience an even greater loss next GE.

    The only reason for helping UMNO realize its mistake, is because we somehow think that UMNO is needed for the Malays or Malaysia.

    But do the Malays really need UMNO? UMNO is just a political party. Another party can always step in.

  3. #3 by Bigjoe on Sunday, 23 June 2013 - 10:10 am

    Think of what UMNO has done to Sabah and its clear where the party stands as far as Malay Agenda is concern – all the talk of multi-racialism, multi-culturalism, i.e., which in reality is pluralism is NONSENSE – tolerated temporarily only because they hegemony is not possible and its a convenient excuse while they pursue their real agenda. Those who speak of other things other than Malay-Muslim hegemony are merely faces of excuses of the real powers.

    The issue is not what the Malay Agenda is to UMNO and the futility of what Zaid champion for but really what chance they have for succeeding. What people have to remember is that Hitler made Germany the greatest and most productive power in Europe and likely the world although just briefly. Most of Germany was behind Hitler or at least not opposing it until it all started to fall apart.

    The truth is the hegemony fantasy of UMNO B is no different – its predatory and can rise so long as there are victims for their abuse. When they run out of external victims to feed their appetite, then they will feed on themselves. The continuation of the corruption and abuse of power is part of their self-mutiliation. But we already know they are running out of external victims, and the Malays of today, a generation grown on entittlement, have limited appetite for self-abuse even in the name of race and religion.

    UMNO B is deluded by the superficial measures of their product and output – they are no where productive and merely exploitation and abuse of what they have. They don’t ask simple question of why is it they keep having to raise debt and taxes even as the GDP is growing?

    UMNO B is a very very lucky party. But luck runs out – it always does and they have not figured out what to do when they do..

  4. #4 by Loh on Sunday, 23 June 2013 - 10:35 am

    Please ignore this if you do not read Mandarin. It is the Chinese version of what appear in #1 above.



    廖中莱的愿景是大家回去吃回头草,马华又代表华社了。工商界人士如愿以偿享有朝里有人好办事的方便,巫统有华裔部长让他说是代表华社支持政府的政策可依旧执行其排他族政策。他不必为其种族政策作辩护。各族有样本似的人士参与分享假公济私的权力,袋袋平安,也就都皆大欢喜。华社小市民继续默默的为他们子女移民作準备, 自己只好接受这生于斯长于斯的国土是自己的银发第二家园。这乐龄遗民只好过着孤伶伶的晚暮生活。这是华裔人口老化和人口递减的基本原因。





    马华公会有权参与政治和参选。但马华公会可以选择只监控政治事件而不直接参与选举。过去几十年来的经验已经证明种族政治对国家不利。种族主义政党造就了种族冠军。非种族政党的挑战是他们必须证明他们的政策是好的, 是不分种族的为所有公民谋福利。

    巫统是种族政治的赢家。它只要有藉口便不会改变其党章;只为马来人服务。马华公会以种族政党存在是个足以让巫统长青的藉口。马华公会应该领先退出种族政治。当印度国大党醒来离开政治,巫统将别无选择, 开放党籍。



  5. #5 by worldpress on Sunday, 23 June 2013 - 11:41 am

    Why are Malaysian still circle around the racial?

    The world is changing

    If BN love the country of Malaysia they should step down because they are corruption to the core without corruption they simply can not survival and corruption at the cost of country toward bankrupt and less competitive

    It is simple answer they do not love the country and the citizen Malaysian

    What else do you want to proof?

  6. #6 by waterfrontcoolie on Tuesday, 25 June 2013 - 7:37 am

    The truth is UMNO and the Mamak know that without hiding behind such rhetoric based on race, their idea has no substance. I am sure they have all read ” Why Nations Fail” by Acemoglu and Robinson or even ‘ That Used to be Us” by Friedman ans Mandebaum. All these books are written for rational leaders to adapt and follow but will never be so in this nation blinded by greed and crony practices. This is compounded by the inability of the majority who are unable to read anything outside Utusan hence all the blatant lies in any shape and color. We have been able to keep going because of our strength that we had built in the 60s and 70s couple with black gold and the golden palm. Of course soon enough black gold will dry up and once the Chinese sponsored Palm is ready for harvest in Africa, we will be in real competition for survival. In spite of all the strength of the US universities in IT, he mentioned that the winner of the 2011 and 2012 ACM competition came from China. Among all the medalists in 2012, from gold to bronze [4 in each category] China picked 2 gold, US 1 gold and Russia took the next 5 positions! It merely prove that hard work from everyone will guarantee our survival not just using racial discrimination as a political tool to enrich the small pool of cronies!

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