I refer to our discussion and your presentation on the above subject at the premises of Yayasan Nurul Yaqeen on 25th August,2005. I would like once again to congratulate you on your splendid presentation. I think you have covered all the salient features of the NEP very clearly.
The NEP came about in consequence of the 13th May 1969 racial riot when a state of emergency was declared. Parliament was suspended and a National Operation Council had the power to pass laws and administer the country in a state of emergency when the whole country was also declared a security area under the Internal Security Act.
The racial riot of 13th May 1969 made everybody in the country realize the importance of racial harmony and national unity. This realization gave birth to the NEP. I know the root of the NEP was Articles 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia which had existed from the first day of our independence. The Malays were unhappy because they felt that the government had not implemented fully the provisions of the article, while the non-Malays were also unhappy because they felt they were unfairly treated. The NEP was compromised solution. Many people including me at the time were puzzled why those concerned had the understanding that the NEP would last only for 30 years, when Article 153, the law of the land, applies-perpetually. Many of us involved in that process already doubted that we would archive our objectives in that period and we felt that there should not be a deadline.
Of course now the non-Malays are upset with the proposal to rejuvenate the NEP. Indeed some of them have argued that the NEP was a success and does not warrant a revival. One such example in the article in the EDGE as attached.
Our argument should be that Article 153 is still valid and has perpetual application. The government in power has the obligation to implement the provision of the special rights of the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. Article 153 is an entrenched provision and cannot be amended without the consent of the Conference of Rulers. It also cannot be questioned by anyone even in Parliament. The questioning of the existence of Article 153 will constitute an offence under the sedition Act. All these were introduced during the 1969 emergency with the objective of promoting national unity. I have once written to the press on this matter. Please see a newspaper cutting attached.
Article 153 was introduced through a social contract or a trade off deal when some immigrants were made citizens on independence day in exchange. This move was a strategic decision, but the real justification for article 153 was as commented by Professors Sheridan and Groves at page 385 of the book “ The Constitution of Malaysia” which is reproduced hereunder:
“Commentary: article 153.
This article had its inspiration in the protective discrimination provisions of the Indian constitution; but it is fundamentally different from those provisions, because the largest class in whose favour the discrimination operates in Malaysia is the class which possesses political control, the Malays. The theory behind the protection of Malays is that if they were not specially favoured in government employment, scholarships and the other matters provided for, they would be completely overwhelmed by the other racial groups, particularly the Chinese, who already the economy and dominated the professions”.
The Malays were completely overwhelmed by other racial groups especially the Chinese on Independence Day and has continued till now, as you said in your paper which I quote below:
“Time may have changed but the issues remain the same as they were in 1970. The country may be developed, but the Malays are at the bottom of the economic, productivity, and income ladder because they are excluded from mainstream development of their country. They are increasingly being marginalized in their own country”.
The non-Malays have therefore no justification to be upset.
As decided at out meeting the other day, we have to move this issue head on to the government. There should not be any delay.
I wish to take this opportunity to highlight a number of issues which I think should also be addressed to the government. One of the issues is that some time ago the government came out with an unwritten-policy of “Business is Politics and Politics is Business”. The other issue is that some time ago the government also came out with an unwritten policy that some Malays be given the opportunities to become rich so that they can help other Malays. We should find out whether such unwritten policies are still applicable.
In my view such policies are bad as they invite very serious consequences. In fact all the problems we are facing now such as money-politics, corruption, mismanagement and many other social evils stems from there. The policies also have damaged the very foundation of the NEP when bodies like UDA, PERNAS, LEMBAGA PADI, some MARA companies, MAS etc; which were established to help Malays under the NEP were privatized and given to Individual Malays who unfortunately have only helped themselves.
We need to advise the government to re-look at these bodies and may be we create similar bodies again when we implement the NEP. But this time the government has to ensure that they are well managed and meticulously monitored. No stone should be left unturned.
The crux of the matter is actually the issue of the inequitable distribution of wealth. Over the years the country’s economy has expanded very fast and have registered strong annual growths. In that process the gap between the rich and the poor has widened and the majority of the poor are the Malays and the natives of Sabah and Sarawak. The situation is getting worse. Poverty in both the rural and urban areas among the Malays has worsened.
In summary, I wish to say that it is clear the Malays have the special rights which cannot be questioned. Both the Malays and non Malays understand the concept and intentions of the NEP. The Malays do know that they have been severely marginalized in their own land. The Malay politicians and indeed the Prime Minister himself have asserted their stand that the NEP must continue as there is an unfinished business. The Malays welcome this stand and are having high expectations. I think they are already tired of listening to slogans and emotional outbursts. They want to see the theories being translated into actions as fast as possible. The non-Malays on the other hand are resisting, but they are doing it very cautiously for fear of having a head-on collision with the Malays. This argument is simply that the Malays were given 30 years or so to correct themselves and if they have failed, the non-Malays should not be blamed for that failure. The non- Malays themselves have to go on with their own life and they argue that fairness and non-discriminationary principles must pevail.
Obviously, there is a delicate situation in the context of National unity striving for peace and harmony. The leadership of the various racial groups must have the political will and foresight to ensure political stability. It should be noted that care and skill are required in implementing the NEP so as to avoid negative consequences.
With best wishes,
TAN SRI ABDUL AZIZ BIN ABDUL RAHMAN