Monday, March 8, 2010

Malay Group Demands on NEM

Written by Chua Sue-Ann, The Edge
The newly formed Malay Consultative Council, or more well-known as Majlis Perunding Melayu (MPM), on March 7 asserted that Malay and bumiputera rights must be at the heart of the federal government’s new economic model (NEM) while urging the government to do more to ensure economic opportunities.
Speaking to reporters on March 7, Malay rights champion Datuk Ibrahim Ali, who is the independent member of parliament for Pasir Mas, said MPM wanted the government to continually implement affirmative action policies to protect the interests of the majority group and to ensure equitable distribution of wealth.

“MPM believes that for the sake of national unity, the government has the right to carry out social intervention to ensure that the economy is not a free-for-all, an unfair playing field, a field for exploitation, for a monopoly that could cause division between the races,” Ibrahim told a press conference after MPM’s closed door meeting.

Ibrahim said MPM unanimously passed several resolutions and would soon seek a meeting with Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak to present the umbrella body’s input to “strengthen” the NEM, which is expected to be unveiled this month.

According to Ibrahim, MPM’s resolutions on March 7 were that: 

•    The government should not get rid of Malay or bumiputera quotas in “strategic sectors”; 

•    The government must be prepared to launch market intervention to ensure that the national agenda (Malay and bumiputera interests), does not fall short of its purposes;

•    The economy should not be liberalised to the point where bumiputera entrepreneurs have to face “brutal competition”; and 

•    Government-linked companies (GLCs) should be more involved in helping Malays and bumiputera control value chains in strategic sectors.

MPM also wants the government to set the economic development of the Malays as a national key result area (NKRA) and to establish more agencies tasked with developing the Malay or bumiputera economic agenda, Ibrahim said.

Citing the United Nation’s charter, Ibrahim also said affirmative action policies for “the economically-marginalised majority group” must remain because the majority’s agenda was the “national agenda”.

NEM must concentrate on “wealth distribution” because any economic progress that Malaysia would enjoy in the future would hold little meaning if there was no political stability, Ibrahim said.

According to Ibrahim, MPM, which claims to have a membership comprising 87 non-governmental groups, also “strongly opposed” any efforts to deny Malay and bumiputera rights in the NEM regardless of the excuses given because the rights were enshrined in the Federal Constitution.

Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, which was repeatedly cited by Ibrahim, speaks of the “special position” of Malays and the natives in Sabah and Sarawak.

Ibrahim also rubbished criticism that affirmative action policies hurt the country’s attractiveness in terms of foreign direct investment and instead, pointed the finger at the global financial crisis, government bureaucracy and “perception” of corruption.

“What used to be under foreign control before the new economic policy (or more known as Dasar Ekonomi Baru implemented in the 1970s) is now controlled by the Chinese. So how can the new economic policy be said to be only for the bumiputera?”

“We (MPM) are ready to act because we have the facts and substances. We are not talking rhetoric... This meeting should not be seen as racist. We just want to make sure there is national unity,” Ibrahim said, adding that the current wealth distribution ratio was “very scary”.

Ibrahim also said that the government should not rush into announcing the NEM and spend more time scrutinising proposals to ensure that the announcement would not be “controversial”, especially in respect of Malay and bumiputera interests.

“If not, MPM may not accept the NEM, if it is anything other than what we just outlined. So we urge the government to fine-tune and delay announcement of the NEM,” Ibrahim said, adding that this was to avoid the new model being a “political issue” or “polemical”.

At the same press conference, Tan Sri Abu Zahar Ujang, president of the Council of Former Elected Representatives (Mubarak), defended MPM’s agenda and denied that it was attempting to “deprive” the rights of other Malaysians.

“We want unity to continue. We are not trying to question or deprive the rights of other Malaysians but what we’re trying to fight for is to ensure that the fundamantal rights enshrined in the Federal Constitution is respected. We just want to preserve our rights. We are not going to create havoc.”

If we’re talking about the poor, it must be for all races. We accept that. But we do not want a large economic gap,” Abu Zahar said.

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