09 August 2011

The Medicine Man for the Malay Dilemma


www.kopihangtuah.blogspot.com



Title: A Doctor in the House
Author: Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Genre: Memoir/Politics/History
ISBN: 978-967-5997-22-8
Publisher: MPH Group Publishing
Year: 2011

.... the irony of it all - here we are having social tensions between Malays, Chinese and Indians but thousands of years ago, the Malays were geographically derived from Chinese (Yunnan) and culturally derived from Indians (Hindusm).




un Mahathir (Tun M) had recently released his memoir. Everybody rushed to the MPH book stores to get a copy and later found out that there were plenty of it in Tesco - even today. Nevermind that. What is apparent is that Malaysians, both Bumiputeras and Non-Bumiputeras, both supporters and enemies, bought his book. I presume they wanted to know what secrets he had revealed in his memoir regarding the various success stories as well as hullabaloos created by him, surrounding him or associated to him. He is simply charismatic both ways, negatively or positively. This is his attempt of retelling his life story that progressed in tandem with the milestone of the modern Malaysia that we see today.

This saga of his touches all aspects of politics, economics and social lives of Malaysian. It covers the story of how he became a Prime Minister; his views of fellow Malays; his childhood and family; his early education and career as a medical doctor; Malaya pre and post independence; the political party he firmly believes in (UMNO and Barisan Nasional); multiple-economic sagas and his struggle against prominent figures such as Tunku Abdul Rahman, Tengku Razaleigh, Lee Kuan Yew, Dato' Sri Anwar Ibrahim and even George Soros, none of which dampened his spirit despite being expelled from UMNO in the early years of becoming a member of parliament.

In his attempt to make sense of history, the Malayan history, he transformed legacy into visions that became reality today - setting a conducive landscape for what Malaysia is to be by 2020 (Vision 2020) - a journey that rocked many boats (Royalties' Immunity, the Judiciary, Islam, Privatisations, the Western Superpowers and UMNO itself) but gave rise to pride of the nation such as Petronas Twin Towers, Proton, Langkawi, Sepang F1, Putrajaya, Multimedia Super Corridor and many more that put Malaysia on the map of the world.

I am sure whoever reads this book will find that it is satisfying to finally see what is in the grey matter between the two ears of this magnificent man. Some ideas may not be favourable to certain sections of the population but one thing is for sure, he is an epitome leader - the one that you don't find enough nowadays. Many readers tend to excite themselves with controversial issues such as his fight against his deputies (Musa & Anwar) or his war against Western intruders (US, UK, Australia, IMF & Hedge Funds) or his everlasting saga with his nemesis Lee Kuan Yew. In my case, I am only interested in his views about the socio-economic DNA of Malaysia particularly the Bumiputeras. Hence my attempt to carve and extract Tun M's thoughts on this matter.

It was also this attribute (social etiquette), which was mistakenly applied as unappropriate politeness (Tidak Apa attitude) that led the Malays into social economic trap of living in the village and being denied (by the British) trading activities which they were once experts in (the masters of Melaka entrepot that ended in the 1500's)

Tun M's words are provocative. He says things as if he doesn't mind a legal action may come his way. He refers to Malays as lazy and lacking in intellectual capacity in his example of racial tags that are tainting Malaysia. Naturally, he had to also give examples for Chinese and Indians - the former tagged as money-grabbing and the latter violent drunks. These references were made in Chapter 3 - A provocative start to many more racial sentiments in his book. Nevertheless, you do find positive mentions of the various ethnic groups which kept the balance for readers to avoid hatred from stopping them reading the book.

He believes that there are many positive attributes of the Malays. Even in art, i.e. proverbs and sayings that every Malay child used to learn gives guidance surrounding traditions (Adat) to social etiquette and sound basis for political common sense and wisdom. It was also this attribute, which was mistakenly applied as unappropriate politeness (Tidak Apa attitude) that led the Malays into social economic trap of living in the village and being denied (by the British) trading activities which they were once experts in (the masters of Melaka entrepot that ended in the 1500's).

Tun M studied the origins of Malays in great interest. His readings include texts that suggest that Malays made their way to the Malay Peninsula from southern China, the Yunnan Province, and developed civilisations influenced by Hindu cultures from India. This is the irony of it all - here we are having social tension between Malays, Chinese and Indians but thousands of years ago, the Malays were geographically derived from Chinese and culturally derived from Indians.

The Chinese became significant in this land (Malaya) predominantly due to their trading expertise. They started to replace Malay ships with Chinese Junks and they provided valuable service to the Malay rulers in effectively collecting taxes. For such efficiency, they were given license to operate opium, nutmeg, pepper and other monopolies. The Malays were initially the region's traders trading spices, forest products and many more. Later, the Chinese developed spice gardens for which the Malays supplied. This positioned them as middlemen for spice trade. A business strategy that made them (Chinese) able to meet both the Western colonists' and local communities' needs.

Something had to be done to repair this, i.e. to undo the close identification of race or ethnicity with economic function and status, a legacy of the organised division of labour created by British rule.

In time, their (Chinese) numbers had to be increased that assimilation was no longer possible. This was the start of Chinatowns, and the eventual polarised ethnic society in Malaysia. When the British colonised Malaya, Chinese community dominated Straits Settlement to the point where Singapore only had 15% Malays in the early 20th century. The volume, coupled with Malays' (as well as Colonists') dependency on Chinese' supplies and services were the 2 main ingredients that led to this. Initially, the Malays still shape and form the social and political order in which trading activities were carried out - but all this changed when the European domination denied the Malays of such role - sidelining them (Malays) to become the poorest people in their own country.

The language of administration during the colonial times was English. Naturally English-educated Indian and Ceylonese were brough into administration. By the early 20th century, an ethnic stratification emerged with white officers at the top, followed by Eurasians, the Ceylonese Tamils, the Indians and the Chinese. At the bottom of the ladder were the Malays. The three races were kept apart (by the British): Malays immersed in peasant life in rural areas, Chinese concentrated in urban areas and Indians in rubber estates. The Malays were reluctant to leave the kampungs (villages) where they grow rice and does fishing - an act that further sidelined them (Malays) away from development.

Later the British wanted to introduce Malayan Union, a state of homogeneous citizenship for Malays and non-Malays alike - which would imperil Malay rights to land and opportunities that widened the disparities between the ethnic groups putting Malays as the most deprived group in their own country. This was compounded by the prospect of the Chinese and Indians extracting wealth out from Malaya back to their home countries as there were no prohibition from having dual-citizenzhip - a model that discouraged national pride. The Malays then developed fear, fear of being dispossessed in their own ancestral land, a land that was theirs to begin with, with the possibility of becoming servants of others. This fear was borne out of real disadvantage accumulated over the years (or even centuries) from deprivation of education, opportunities, knowledge and power.

Something had to be done to repair this, i.e. to undo the close identification of race or ethnicity with economic function and status, a legacy of the organised division of labour created by British rule. This was how the Bumiputera considerations introduced in the New Economic Policy (NEP) were justified. It was important to do so in the overall context of the reduction and elimination of poverty in Malaysia. The NEP, when introduced by Tun Razak, was meant to restructure the economy both to eliminate poverty irrespective of race, and the identification of race with economic function. It was clear that the latter statement meant Malay participation in the country's economic activities and non-Malay participation in the public sector.

If the actions favouring the Malays are removed from NEP, they will become deprived and marginalised community in their own country again. If the NEP remains as it is, they become permanently dependent people, like the Native Americans. A position best fitting the Malay sayings "Telan mati mak, luah mati bapak" (If you swallow, your mom dies. If you spit it out, your father dies)

In the end, 36 years after the NEP, they (Malays) have only managed to achieve 20% ownership of economic equity (of which 12% is via trusts by various government institutions) when 30% was the original target. On the bright side, it was only 2% when we achieved independence. A point to note would also be the country's professionals (doctors, lawyers, architects, accountants, etc) that are mainly non-Malays - A status the Malays regarded as failure to their aspirations of what Merdeka should mean to them.

Over the years, such privilege provided by the NEP caused racial tension. This was mainly because Malays have come to think that the NEP is a recognition of their "superior" position as the indigenous people of this country. They (Malays) claim that because they are the Tuan (Masters) of Malaysia, this discrimination in their favour must be permanent. This is, in Tun M's latest opinion, is the new Malay Dilemma. If the actions favouring the Malays are removed from NEP, they will become deprived and marginalised community in their own country again. Extreme disparity in wealth between Chinese and the Malays needed to be corrected. If not, tension and animosity would never be erased. The last time that resentment surged, the 1969 riots came to life.

If the NEP remains as it is, they (Malays) become permanently dependent people, like the Native Americans. A position best fitting the Malay sayings "Telan mati mak, luah mati bapak" (If you swallow, your mom dies. If you spit it out, your father dies). Nevertheless, on overall basis, Tun M believes that the NEP has helped the Malays without disrupting, too greatly, the overall economic rights of the non-Malays. Sadly, the Malays fail to take full honest advantage of this. Many who were given the opportunities to own equity shares, contracts, licences and permits immediately sell (to the non-Malays) these valuable opportunities after they were allocated. This defeated the original purpose of it all.

The Malays blamed the Government for not doing enough for them, they blamed the Chinese, they blamed everybody but themselves and their own inability to achieve or even attempt to attain new levels of competence and confidence. Whilst such behaviour arose from the Malays, the non-Malays cannot be ignored entirely. NEP was revised into National Development Policy (NDP) where if Bumiputeras did not respond or they were incapable of availing themselves of the opportunities created, then non-Malays would be eligible. The 30% rule was made flexible and some Portuguese and Thai decendent Malaysians were allowed to purchase national unit trusts. More scholarships were also given to the non-Malays and many more places in tertiary institutions were allocated to them - To ask the non-Malays to stand aside and wait while so many of the Bumiputeras are happy to play around and not study is unfair.

Tun M is a strong supporter of the affirmative action. He believes that there is still much that we need to do to repair the damage that was left to us. What we have already done under the NEP is momentous. No other affirmative action scheme anywhere in the world has, to his knowledge, worked better, and Malaysians ought to be proud of this achievement. Such believe (in NEP) was only confirmed when he (Tun M) wrote "We need apologise to no one"

Such believe (in NEP) was only confirmed when he (Tun M) wrote "We need apologise to no one"





* kopihangtuah



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