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|Dr Rosli Khan,||18 April 2013|
This coming election is going to be the most interesting and most important, in equal proportion, for my life as well as for Malaysia. In my lifetime, there has been 12 GEs and I remember 11 of them well, my first time voting being 1982.
I have witnessed rather a lot and have accumulated a fair bit of experience and therefore would like to offer my humble opinion to Malaysian voters especially the first time voters.
In a discussion on Malaysian election and party politics, it is always useful to look briefly at history. For instance, in 1955, the Alliance (Umno, MCA and MIC) won 51 out 52 seats contested and the sole opposition seat, Kuala Terengganu, was won by Parti Negara, helmed by non-other than Umno’s breakaway leader, Onn Jaafar. So even way back in 1955, it was ok not to vote for Umno.
In 1959, the first general election held after Malaya gained independence, the Alliance coalition won 74 out of the possible 104 seats in Parliament.
The year 1964, was the first GE for Malaysia, a new nation formed by Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Although Singapore left Malaysia or was kicked out by Tunku, depending on which history book you read, in 1965, after only a period of two years, the force of the opposition had always been there in Malaysian politics.
In the GE that followed, in 1969, the Alliance fared badly and lost its two third majorities in the Parliament. Mahathir lost in his Kubang Pasu seat to PAS and was sacked from Umno not long after, and Penang state government went to the opposition, the Gerakan party. The Government declared a state of emergency, suspending the Constitution and Parliament until February 1971. In September 1970, the Prime Minister, Tunku resigned, after he was out-manoeuvred by other Umno leaders led by Razak Husein.
The New Economic Policy (NEP) was introduced as a result of this political debacle in 1971 and was supposed to run until 1990. Coined by a few Umno leaders, it had the stated goal of poverty eradication and economic restructuring of the Malays or ‘Bumiputera’, a term that includes the natives of Sabah and Sarawak.
The main objective was to redistribute the nation’s wealth from the initial target of, in terms of the ratio of economic ownership in Malaysia, from a 2.4:33:63 ratios of Bumiputera, Other Malaysian, and Foreigner ownership to a new target of 30 per cent for Bumiputera, 40 per cent for other Malaysians and 30 per cent foreigners.
This target was never achieved. One could conclude that Umno leadership, despite all the resources that it had at its disposal, had failed miserably in delivering what it set to deliver to the many poor Malays.
By the next GE in 1974, Alliance became National Front or Barisan National (BN) with Gerakan, PPP and Pas as new members while SUPP and PBB joined in from Sarawak and Sabah Alliance from Sabah. Only DAP and PSRM did not join and continued as opposition.
BN won a landslide in this GE, Mahathir had re-joined Umno and won back his Parliamentary seat and was made the Education Minister by the 2nd PM, Razak Husein.
This is the start of a decline in Malaysian education system when English medium schools were totally replaced by Malay medium of instruction.
Perhaps, Mahathir realized the bad consequences of his policy, as at a later stage he sent all of his children to be educated in England where the medium of instruction was, of course, in English.
Najib Razak, of course, at this time was already schooling in England for many years and this new education policy started by Mahathir would not have any effect on him or his other siblings.
By 1976, when the 2nd PM, Razak Husein died, Najib returned and took over Pekan parliamentary seat at the age of 22 years old. His uncle, Hussein Onn, who was Razak’s deputy, became the third Malaysian Prime Minister.
To many Umno leaders of that time, the NEP was a godsent policy document. Not a day went past without any Umno leaders talked about and elaborated on issues related to this policy no matter how remotely connected it was to the issues of the day. It became both didactic and pedantic to many non Bumis as well as to Bumis.
It was proven later on that Umno leaders actually had begun to accumulate their own wealth on the basis of them being Bumiputeras.
It was in the mid70s when suddenly there was a deluge of Bumiputera businessmen, namely contractors, traders, importers/exporters, land owners, licence holders of various kinds, permit holders for transport vehicles, suppliers, etc. Most companies were fronted by Malay Umno politicians. Some found their ways into newly public listed companies.
All of a sudden, their names are found in the shareholders list of companies that had long been established. How was that possible? The answer is in the NEP; Bumiputera participation, transfer of ownership, bumi portion, bumi stake, bumi allocation, all sorts of name was coined to justify their means and execution.
Otherwise, how do you explain the wealth of Rafidah Aziz, for instance, who was once only a university tutor?
Other names like Muhyudin Yasin, Nazri Aziz and Zahid Hamidi, Muhammad Mat Taib, Khir Toyo, Khalil Yaakob; the unending list of Umno leaders goes on and on. And they are led by their master politician, non-other than Mahathir himself, who is probably the richest Umno leader the party has ever seen.
These so called Umno leaders twisted the NEP policy document and enriched themselves in the process of fulfilling the Bumiputera quotas for shares and equities. The millions of Bumiputeras did not benefit but the Umno leaders did, and they did it very well indeed. For this reason alone, the Malays should have rejected them a long time ago. But they did not.
It could be because the Malay minds thrive on hope. They hope that Umno leaders will at some stage share the bounty of the NEP or the economic pie with them. This hope has obviously being pushed up during the GE process and the campaigning period. Promises are made, yet again, similar to those made in 1986, 1990, 1995, 1999, 2004 and 2008 which have not been fulfilled by Umno leaders.
And yet Umno leaders kept changing. So how do you pin them down to all the promises made by previous leaders?
The truth is, this NEP cake or the economic pie is gone and it has gone forever. Those good years when Umno kingpins can monopolise the economic windfall no longer exist. So there are no goodies left except for a miserable sum of RM500 in the form of BR1M for a selected few.
20-plus years of Mahathir’s rule
Mahathir became Malaysia’s fourth prime minister on July 16, 1981. This is the start of the mega projects era for Malaysia; Proton, Perwaja, North-South highway, Telcos, ports expansion, satellite transmission, IPPs, water supply, new airport, twin towers, Putrajaya and Petronas.
The period also signifies the decline of Malay entrepreneurship as it was reported that Mahathir regards organic growth of a particular industry is too slow for his liking.
Thus, 400 minibus operators and licence holders in KL were terminated and a single bus operator, Intrakota, was appointed to run the service.
His immediate interest was KL or the Klang Valley. He could not see development in other parts of the country except perhaps, Putrajaya.
If his mind works around developing the Malay heartland, which until today still has poor infrastructure, he would have gone to develop Kedah or Kelantan. And yet his home state was poorly attended to with high unemployment and low economic activities.
How more false can the perception be that Mahathir has brought a lot development to this country? This fallacy continued till today under Najib. And yet public expenditure has skyrocketed through the roof. For this reason alone, overspent of public purse with little development benefits and no employment, the Malay voters should reject this leadership.
Najib, like Mahathir, is but a shrewd politician. His economic planning, if there was any, can be interpreted as rather bombastic, grandeur and costly.
Very little research was carried out to study the impact of the new large scale projects on the old piece of infrastructure or on old operators when new ones were introduced.
A good example during Mahathir’s era is the case of Sepang and Subang airports. Whilst so much expenditure was poured into Sepang, Subang, which is still useful in many ways, is left to rot with limited usage. But Najib is not taking any action to rectify all these shortcomings. And yet he went ahead with the costly Sepang T2.
Najib’s style is quite similar to Mahathir’s biggest flaw. He only shares the economic pie with his close friends and fellow leaders and politicians. Basically, it was said that most of the mega projects were either carved out among his loyal BN friends, MCA, MIC and PBB or a few of his corporate friends.
It seems like the ordinary Malay folks cannot penetrate this small circle. So why bother to vote for them?
The mega project pie (under Mahathir) that has been divided among themselves and a simplification table may look like this:
NS Highway & other highways
Satellite Transmission & Telcos
New Sepang Airport
Projects in Sarawak
Umno, Close friends
Umno, MCA, MIC
Umno, MCA, MIC
Mahathir & Sons
Taib & PBB
Direct participation by the Malay majority in these mega projects is negligible and at best rather superficial. In most cases foreign workers were brought in in order to complete the project fast as normally demanded by the PM at the time.
Way forward for Malays
Malaysian companies, let alone Bumi enterprises, have no chance to have any learning curves. Otherwise, how does one explain the fact that after so many years and so many mega projects built in the country, there is still no credible Bumi construction company that can tackle or bid for big jobs?
There are a lot of Malay enterprises in Malaysia today; night market stall operators, road side food sellers, Pasar Tani operators, taxi drivers including airport limousine drivers, who have been continuously denied of getting their own taxi/limousine permits, delivery boys for food, documents and spare parts, who could be made into young entrepreneurs; bus and lorry drivers, who are again denied from getting their own vehicle permits; motor mechanics and workshop operators, small retailers for all sort of products and small time manufacturers.
These are the groups of people who need financial help and constructive programmes so that they can grow into viable outfits, employ more workers and attract more customers. Does Umno any programme for them?
If the answer is no, then there is no reason whatsoever why the Malay voters should continue to vote for Umno/BN candidates. For many GEs the Malays were promised a lot of things but it didn’t happen. This time it is best to get off the hook and vote for change.
The Malays will benefit more by getting a new government to plan and to look after their short and long term interests. After all, it presents a better hope.