Counting the cost: Ketuanan Melayu, Bumiputraism & Racial Discrimination

By Yin, Letters from Ward 5, T.R.

How much has 53 years (using 1970 as the start of robust racist policies) of Ketuanan Melayu/Bumiputraism/Racial Discrimination cost us?

How much has it cost us as Malaysians? As a country?

How much has it cost the Malays as a community?

Though it may not be apparent, there is a cost (some unquantifiable in monetary terms) to the Malays for the decades of privileges they have given themselves.

 Article 153 was formulated as a means to lift the Malays to the socio-economic level of the other races – and rightly so. Initially these privileges were for 15 years, then it was extended.

The government then set a bench mark of 30% Bumiputra share of the GDP as the target for achieving Article 153’s core aim.

(A report in 2005 by Asli (Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute) under the stewardship of Dr Lim Teck Ghee showed Bumiputra share of Malaysia’s corporate equity has exceeded the government’s target at 45%.   The government refuted this but at the same time would not reveal its own data or methodology while Dr Lim’s data and methodology was open to scrutiny. Why the secrecy? Is it not a tacit admission that Dr Lim is right?

 Today, Malays dominate Banking, Insurance, Import/Export, Transport, Plantations etc. The country’s economy is actually in Malay hands. Despite its ubiquity, it is a myth that the Chinese dominate the economy. In fact, most Chinese are wage earners – office workers, sales persons, tradesmen and small family business owners. Chinese businesses are mostly small and medium size, with a few large Chinese companies.

The NEP lasted from 1971 to 1991 and was replaced by the National Development Policy (NDP).

A racist policy is a racist policy by any other name. It seems that Malays are now claiming special privileges in perpetuity. It has become not a case of levelling up the Malays but that of racial  hegemony.

How can it be bad for the Malays when they are the Tuans, when they hold the lion’s share of the country’s wealth, when they make up almost 100% of government and GLC employees.  

How has this cost the Malays?

  1. Malays have become dependent on handouts – addicted to handouts to put it bluntly. If everything is given to you on a silver platter and there is no need to work hard for what you want, in time you forget how to strive for a living.

 Today Malays have become afraid to compete on a level playing field. They lack the confidence in their own ability which many undoubtedly have. Spoon feeding has robbed them of their innate spirit to compete. This is a real cost to the Malays.

  • What happened to the Malay entrepreneurial/pioneering spirit?

Anyone who knows our history knows that Malay  traders/entrepreneurs plied between the Indonesian archipelago and the peninsula. Malacca was an important trading port and the locals played an important part in its economy.

The Bugis were among the first groups of people to arrive in Tumasek (Singapore) after the British established a trading settlement on the island in 1819. They traded with the Europeans, Chinese, Indians and Arab merchants; they provided services etc and contributed to the development of Tumasek as a regional trading hub.

Read a little about the tin industry and you will know that the Mandalings were quite good tin miners. They were quite prominent in tin mining towns like Papan, Gopeng etc.

Long Jaafar of Larut Matang was another prominent tin mine owner.  They had their “lampan” a ground sluicing method and their own smelting techniques, turning out tin ingots.

When it was advantageous they employed or leased out land on tribute to the Chinese especially when Malays would not work in the harsh and life-threatening conditions in the swamps.

Once upon a time Malays had this pioneering and entrepreneurial spirit. They competed against merchants from every corner of the globe. They were efficient tin miners. They had no special privileges yet they thrived.

What happened to the pioneering and mercantile spirit of the Malays? Where are the true Malay entrepreneurs?

One would be hard put to name a modern Malay tycoon who has risen from rags to riches. I am sure there are, but I cannot think of one.

Everyone of our modern day Malay tycoon has been handed “sure winners” whether in shipping, oil, banking, transport, import/export, insurance etc. These are the crony capitalists.

Given a shipping company (Konsortium Perkapalan) and the national air carrier (MAS) how can one fail? Yet they failed and had to be bailed out with tax-payers money.

Before e-hailing, taxi licences were like blank cheques which privileged Malays were given by the thousands. They rented these out to the poor Malays (and others) who had to work 14 hours a day to pay the rent and make enough to feed their family. This is not only exploiting the poor Malays but it does not breed true entrepreneurs. What did these people learn about business? They rented out the licences, shake legs in their plush air-conditioned offices and collect rent. Any fool can do that.

This is still happening – licence holders renting out to illegal immigrants who are prepared to slog for a living.

“Transferring to a group of Malay capitalists business which is thriving and which they did not create is the height of absurdity which has never entered the imagination of even the most fanatical capitalist in the entire history of mankind” Syed Hussein Alatas.

Taking away businesses from the Chinese which they have been doing for generations and giving it to Malays or demanding 30% or even 51% of a company they have not risked their money or built up, do not create entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneurs are created in the crucible of the market place where one risks one’s capital and where one puts in hard work and imagination.

I am not for a moment saying that the government should not help. But there is a difference between giving a hand-up and handouts. And there is a difference between encouraging and teaching Malays to compete with the others and robbing the others to give to the Malays. What is the government teaching the Malays; that it is right to extort because you have the might? What happens when Malay entrepreneurs trade outside Malaysia where Bumiputraism does not apply?

Two generations of Malays who will not put in the hard work or take risks but cry for protection and special privileges against competitors who get no help from the government is counter productive to creating Malay entrepreneurs.

Genuine Malay entrepreneurs can only be produced in the rough and tumble of the market place but Bumiputraism is denying them that.

No genuine entrepreneurs will emerge from among them as long as they are wrapped in cotton wool.

  • The poor quality education we receive in our schools and universities will not hold up in the wider world. Other countries are more pragmatic. While they take pride in their national language they also realise the importance of English for commerce and science. Our policy makers and Malay language chauvinists insists on Malay medium in our schools which in no way prepare our children for the job market.

That is bad enough but what is worse is the hypocrisy in the system. How is it that in the elite Malay schools English is the medium of teaching but not all the schools? This is not a new thing; Raja Sir Chulan advised (the British) against allowing English medium schools in the kampongs even when the kampong folk asked for it.  This gets worse when religion creeps into the school curriculum.

If English is good for some, why not for all?

When the market demands English proficiency and a tech savvy labour force and our education does not meet those demands,

where are the thousands of school leavers going to find work? Where are the thousands of PhDs which our universities are producing (more than all the Ivy League universities put together) going to work? Government bureaucracy is already overbloated.

This is a heavy cost to the nation but especially to the Malay poor. The rich and middle-class Malays send their children overseas or to international schools where English is the medium of instruction.

English aside, by lowering the bar at all levels of education we are producing low quality graduates. This is a cost to the Malays that many ignore.

No use complaining that the private sector discriminates against Malays when the real reason is that their education does not meet the standards required by the private sector.

Put it bluntly, an education system that is influenced largely by racial considerations and religion affects the ‘cari makan’ of the Malays that is the real cost.

  •  Not too long ago a forum was organised to address “Malay Dignity”. To cut to the chase, it became a “blame game”.  Nothing unusual . . . scapegoating is the natural reaction of Malay leaders. Blame someone else for their own failures.

I have more respect for the mak-chik who sells nasi lemak down the road. Who puts her meagre capital to use; work hard to put food on the table than a tycoon who has billions but who rose because of his connections and not his honest hard work.

Ordinary Malays who save, work hard and take risks to feed their family have more “maruah” than the politicians, cronies and elite who got rich on opportunities denied the B60 Malays.

Unfortunately, this mentality has filtered down to the people. If the Tuans can have billions written off their failed enterprises

 What is the fuss about students refusing to pay their study loans?  Where is the maruah? Some losses are not material but psychological, but are just as important.

  • There is a correlation between excessive power, reinforced by a sense of entitlement. Almost every single corrupt politician or public servant that has been convicted or is facing charges is Malay. It has given the community a bad name – that is a cost. It is not that Malays are any more corrupt than the Chinese or Indians. In the same situation the others would probably behave no better. There is bad and good in every community, race is not a factor but undisputed power is.
  • What is the cost to the future generations of Malays (and Malaysians)? It is easy to live in denial especially if you are the majority and policies are rigged to favour you. However, reality will catch up with you eventually. Someone has to pay for the waste, the incompetence, the corruption. Looks like the present generation of Malays have decided that their children and grandchildren will pay for their mistakes.  There is No Free Lunch!

The day will come when future generation Malays will ask of their parents, “Why did you accept crutches given by our leaders when you know it is bad for you?” “Why did you get addicted to this drug of entitlement?” “What kind of education have you given us that we are not “laku” and even our Phds have to be Grab drivers”. “Why is English medium education denied to us while the more privileged are given it?”

“How is it that China can lift 800 million out of poverty in 30 years but you cannot in over 60 years?”

Children are not stupid; they may enjoy being “manjaed” but in the longer term they will curse their parents for not being strict with them. Being strict or even hard on our children is not easy, it takes very firm and focused parents to dish out discipline. Every Malay leader has refused to play the strict father. They have spared the rod and spoilt the child so to speak.

It is worse when at the end of the day the children not favoured turn out better because they are required to work harder and be self-reliant. Surely future generation Malays will ask “Why did you not be strict with us?”

This is a simple analogy, but it reflects our country.

  1. Our country’s loss of the competitive edge. This is reflected in the economic rise of Indonesia Vietnam, Cambodia and the resurgence of the Philippines relative to our position not many years ago.

Foreign investors get better conditions than our local entrepreneurs. They do not have to meet the government’s racial quota on employees or shareholding (in many cases).

Our entrepreneurs are competing with one hand tied behind their backs. Many decided to close down their businesses, start up in another country and return as a “foreign” investor. That’s thinking outside the box for you; but doesn’t it make better sense if we do not impose onerous regulations on our local entrepreneurs?

  • Because of the incompetence of the entrepreneurs who were cherry-picked by the government to run our GLCs, how many billions have tax payers lost in bailing out failed companies. Konsortium Perkapalan and MAS are just two but there are many more.
  • Our poor education standard. When our universities churn out more PhDs than Harvard or Oxford something is wrong.

Lately, 80,000 have been awarded higher degrees if for no other reason than to help them escape their loans. Using tax payers money to bail out students who will not honour their commitment (even when repayment is minimalised) not just encourage an “entitlement mentality” but it reflects on the quality of our education that we can produce 80,000 graduates with higher degrees with a stroke of the pen. 

               We are the laughing stock of the academic world.

You cannot make silk purses out of sows’ ears. You cannot lower the bar to meet the quota for Malays and hope to have excellent students.

Would you fly in a plane where the pilot is chosen on race rather than on merit?

What about being treated by a doctor who made it on racial considerations rather than on merit?

  • The brain-drain. Enough has been written on this. Almost every Malaysian can recite the names of our eminent scholars, entrepreneurs, professionals who have left. While most are Non-Malays, an increasing number of qualified Malays are also leaving for better pay, a better life-style, less oppressive government, religious authorities intrusion into their lives and also self-respect and dignity in a place where they are accepted on merit and not race.
  • Mismanagement.

                 PKFZ – rm12 billion

                 Betting in Foreign Exchange rm30 billion

                 Eurocopter deal rm1 billion

                 Bank Bumiputra Scandal rm3.2 billion

                The Maminco fiasco – trying to corner the tin market USD500 million

                 Bailout of MAS rm7.9 billion

                 Paid 38.5 billion to 20 highway companies as compensation

                 APs rm1.8 billion p.a. (benefitting cronies not ordinary Malays)

The above is just the tip of the iceberg.  What about the rm500 million paid as commission for the purchase of a submarine? Buying computers and even simple items like a hammer at multiple the market price. This is gross incompetence and mismanagement. Some are outright corruption.

Trillions have been lost which could have been put to good use to elevate the socio-economic standard of the B60 of all races.

  • The Higher Cost of Living because of protected interests. Competition is the consumers’ best safeguard against higher prices and lower quality. When there is a monopoly in the import of essential items like rice, sugar etc it is the poor who pay the most because of the higher price. This affects all Malaysians including Malays.
  • The breakup of the country if Malay ultras persist in pushing the Malay Agenda. Sarawak and Sabah will apply the relevant clause in MA63 (Malaysia Agreement 1963) to exit. This is the ultimate cost the country will pay if racist policies continue.

The idea that the world owes us a living takes away our spirit of trying, the pride in not accepting handouts, the pride in taking responsibility for ourselves and fulfilling our commitments, the dignity in honest hard work.

Social justice – correcting socio-economic disparities by government intervention is practised in most countries. But most countries do not employ a racial solution to what is an economic problem. Also affirmative actions has a finite date beyond which it becomes counterproductive.

It is undeniable that the socio-economic standard of the Malays has risen. But  it is the elite, the upper class and connected Malays who have benefited most from the government’s racial policies. That is why we still have the vast majority of Malays still in poverty. This is because Malays have exploited their fellow Malays (no different from in the past) while blaming the Chinese and Indians. This is why the wealth gap intra the Malay community is the highest of any community.

We are near the point of make or break racial reckoning. We have to stop thinking as tribes and hear only our own narratives in which case the majority narrative will drown out the others. When history is rewritten and only one side of the story is told the others will be aggrieved. There comes a point when pushed far enough even a worm will turn. The brain drain will become an exodus. Sarawak and Sabah may decide to forge their own future away from a Malay, Islamist hegemon.

Malay leaders must simply stop playing the race and religion cards just to buy votes. I believe a leader who will do what is right for the country and not play race and religion politics can win. Malaysians are not stupid.

A Malay leader with a plan to psychologically reorientate the Malay mind, a “revolusi mental” if you like, will be remembered as a leader who saved them as a community and saved the nation from the abyss.

Will such a leader emerge? The answer lies in the hands of the Malays; the others are only supporting actors.

(The views expressed are those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the views of Rebuilding Malaysia.)

By Yin, Letters from Ward 5, T.R.
Rebuilding Malaysia
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