Affirmative Action (Part 3): Where Are We Heading?

LoyarBurok is publishing this 3-part article we received from a law student at a local university who prefers to be known as “Batu 5”. Part 1 looks back on the original intent of Malaysia’s affirmative action policies. Part 2 analyses whether the NEP has achieved its objectives and finally, in the 3rd part, Batu 5 poses the hard questions Malaysia needs to answer to move forward.

Long Live Death: The Pig Monastery, 2010 by Shaifuddin Mamat a.k.a. Poodien

Shaifuddin Mamat a.k.a. Poodien, "Long Live Death: The Pig Monastery", 2010

The affirmative action policies in Malaysia is one of the biggest social experiments in modern history. In trying to socially engineer a nation for social equity, sacrifices have been made. Everyone suffered, but they knew why they were suffering. For a just and equitable cause. During those years, Malaysia has managed to become a prosperous and industrious nation. I give credit to Dr. Mahathir’s leadership and stewardship in bringing the best out of the country. We have had our fair share of economic booms and busts. Our people don’t suffer from frostbite or starvation or any natural catastrophes. We even have a national car. Life is good.

However, with all this progress, I tend to look back and ask myself one question: “What was the price that we paid?” The affirmative action policies under the NEP have created people who are complacent and wish to clutch to these benefits for perpetuity. It looks like it. Vox populi, vox dei. The voice of the people is the voice of god. The people (benefactors) would want these benefits to be there as a right, not privilege. But until when? Malays are already criticised as a race having a subsidy mentality. Should we be proud of that, or strive to prove the doubters wrong?

The other question which I need an answer is “Why do affirmative action policies targets a whole race (no matter if rich or poor), and not target the poor only (regardless of race)? I cannot conjure a jurisprudential answer to this tricky question. What I can say is that this is a political solution. Stereotypes of races are so entrenched that it requires a blanket racial solution. The stereotype that Malays are in the kampongs, Chinese in cities and the Indians are in estates, are so entrenched that that is how these races view each other. Even until today, though we can see that the Malays are catching up thanks to the affirmative action policies. Once these stereotypes can be changed, then I think, we can revert to policies targeting those under the poverty line. If these stereotypes persist, thus I think the backlash would be there from the economically under-represented. It is easier to see policies which target a certain race, than a policy which indiscriminately targets the poor. Thus, it appeases the under-represented politically.

There are also concerns that the NEP causes a brain drain to those that it does not favour. Ever since i was a kid, I had a firm conviction that loyalty is paramount to a nation’s survival. It must be within the volk (people) and must resonate in each and everyone as a volkgeist! I understand that economic opportunities are important, but this nation has given a lot to us, the people. Though it might not offer much, people must understand the struggles that we must go through. It is a unique struggle, different from independence or freedom. It is a struggle for progression, an equitable progression where everyone can develop together. By leaving this country, you are a coward to the cause, to everything this country has given you, to the sacrifices that we made.

However, Malaysia has a long way to go. A few questions need to be asked:

  1. If the Bumiputeras managed to gain 30% of the economic pie, would the government fulfil its promise in lifting the positive discrimination policies under the NEP?
  2. Let’s assume that they do abolish the NEP policies. If the Bumiputeras are unable to compete and their share of the economic pie dwindles to, say, 15%, would the government re-impose the policy, or recognise that Bumiputeras are able to compete?
  3. Would the government impose the NEP style policies to other groups that require their assistance, say to other minorities that require it?

Please bear in mind that there is a difference between NEP style affirmative action policies and the ones under Article 153. My concerns are the ones under NEP, not under Article 153.

This wraps my three-part series on affirmative action. I understand that this is a controversial subject. I offer no apologies. What I have said is said with sincerity. Let the public be the judge of my words, and decide whether my observations are true or not.

Batu 5 is a law student and a debater. He considers himself a full time debater and a part time law student. He believes that inter-varsity debating is the best thing in the world. He also is a dreamer as he plans to establish a company which is too big to fail for Malaysia with his girlfriend. He believes that Malaysia is in a class war, and his class, the learning/student class is losing out.

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Batu 5 is a student in a local university. He writes under a pseudonym for fear of persecution by university administrators. He feels the suffocating grip of the authorities.

Posted on 23 November 2010. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0.

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