Malaysia’s Chicken & Egg Story

(Long before the illusive 1Malaysia came along, Malaysia already been a multi racial, multi cultural country. We had our differences but we don’t see our fellow Malaysians as threats. Image source:

It has been in everyone’s mind but no one dared to say or do the obvious…

Aizuddin Danian of VOI posted something that worth our serious consideration:-

He (Dr M) implies that the DAP, by promoting “meritocracy” is actually promoting a non-Malay domination of the society because its a foregone conclusion that the best Malaysians, in terms of education, business or any other field, are non-Malays.

That’s an interesting perspective on things and something i’ve never considered before.

Is “meritocracy” a very clever smokescreen for “racism”? The way Tun puts it does seem convincing. I think i understand his concerns — he realizes that Malays, left on their own without help from the Government, would take years to become competitive in a level playing field.

The Chinese have been forced to be competitive for the last 50 years of Independence, and its arguable than even a poorly-performing Chinese is better than an above average performing Malay.

Read the rest for an interesting insight on how things have been maintained to ensure stability in the country but at the same time, crippling enough for us not able to make the right leap to a developed nation.

Any way, let’s forget about the notion that one race in Malaysia trying to dominate another race. Let’s forget what Dr M is trying hard to achieve here – no doubt he is great statesman but he is not right all the time.  He is not a saint, he is after all just a politician. The explanation on the meritocracy may just be his means to the end and may be political in nature. So, let’s leave anything that is racial, religion or political in nature aside – track record have shown that no one had never been united under these three aspects.

Let’s look from the nation’s point of view – although we have multi race, multi culture, and multi religion groups in the country but at the end of the day, we are all Malaysians. So why is this fear against fellow Malaysians? Is it a big crime to be competitive? What if there is no other choice?

Let’s go back to the very start when it was “deemed” that Malays would not be able to compete without some kind of affirmative action? Who determined this – by some foreign educated politicians sitting in a luxury bungalow? What were the criteria used?

Perhaps historically, the non Malays have been competitive from the very first day they put their foot on this country. After all, with their families struggling back in India or China, it was a break or make for these early non Malays. If they were able to work hard and made good fortunes in business, there is a chance for them to remit back some money to their families back home and in some cases; to bring their families to new home called Malaya.

Perhaps it was the case of May 13 which the ruling politicians often cite when talking about affirmative actions. But recent revelations of what really happen on May 13th seem to be distancing the excuse of unequal opportunity with the tragedy (If you have time, read The Real Cause of May 13 Riots or Raja Petra’s 3 Parts post titled “The Real Story of May 13” – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 )

Whatever the reason may be – affirmative actions seems to be not working to the early aspiration which is to create level playing field for all Malaysians. It has been grossly abused and sadly, highly laced with political, corruption and self interest.

Zaid Ibrahim said:-

“Many Malays want meritocracy for very good reasons. They want their applications for contracts and projects to be given fair consideration by the authorities. They do not want only those who are politically connected to have the upper hand. They want a level playing field.

“They believe that they can succeed on merit if only they get a fair chance. They want to succeed with their pride intact; and at the same time they want to tell their children that Malays who work hard and with the right attitude can succeed, like everybody else,” he said.

Zaid said many Malays wanted meritocracy so that they could get their dues like promotion and higher positions by working hard.

“They want to be judged fairly and not lose their position or seniority because some one else has the right political cable. They want a promotion system that is transparent and free of interference.

“They want to say that they have succeeded because they did it the hard way. Why does Mahathir have to belittle these Malays? Why must the Malays be scrapped off their self-respect just to prove that Umno is responsible for everything in this country?” he added.

I still recall when we were still young, the competition on who got better marks among my cousins so stiff that it caused long term frictions among the families. Achieving a 99% mark was not acceptable (we used to get good whack of the cane from my mum when our marks went down below 95%).

Lack of scholarships means my dad going into overdrive at his workplace and trying to juggle multiple jobs to cover the college fees. Lack of places at the local universities means students like me to adapt to new environment and studies faster than the rest (I was interested in science but had to switch to law when there was no place at the local university). And since we know that our parents are practically sweating blood to cover our fees, failure was not an option. There was never second chance – it is do or die.

The policy makers will therefore be back at the starting point where once again the Malays (those who been untouched by the affirmative actions because they lack the right “cables”) find themselves facing with non Malays who remained competitive (perhaps at many times fold now compared to those non Malays in the 1950s). Enforcement of even more affirmative actions therefore is not going to solve the problem of uneven level of playing – it will only drive the other group to go another level of competitiveness (wonder why some Chinese schools have classes 7 days a week and have a very high bar of excellence?). Mind you that at an age of globalization, the world had become smaller and Malaysians are also competing with the rest of the world.

Affirmative action is fine if it was implemented for a short period but if continued on a long terms, it will not achieve the purpose of creating highly competitive society – why should they when the Government clears away obstacles for some and not for others.

The solution is to open up the arena and let everyone compete for the available places (the Government can create more places if they want more to fall in). The Government seems to be having this notion of the Malays being incapable of competing without their help. They are dead wrong. Never underestimate those who determined to make it into the top. Yes, in the beginning there will be some be left out on the competition but eventually they will bridge the gap. I have seen my fellow Malay brothers who had worked wonders through their sheer determinations and hard work.

Aizuddin rightfully ended his post with this remarks and I could not agree more:-

53 years of independence is not a long time. But i think it’s long enough to start believing in ourselves. It’ll be a painful journey, sure. However, unless we take it, Malaysia will not be able to make that leap from developing to developed. That goal should transcend all others.

It is time to work as one nation, not as competing groups within the same home. It is time to be competitive as a nation. It is time to pick the best of the best for anything that we do. It is time be Malaysians.

Read Also

Art Harun’s excellent Eh, Tun Dah Lupa?


What so new in NEM?

(Najib’s NEM – looks good on paper but will it stick in reality? Can Malaysians afford to make that leap of faith with Najib’s ideas and face the world?)

Najib have just launched New Economic Model (some says identical to Pakatan Rakyat’s economy model) which supposedly replaces the New Economic Policy. But the question is what the impact on Malaysia and its people is?

The gist of NEM framework as reported by Reuters is as follows:-

  • State investor Khazanah to sell 32 percent stake in Pos Malaysia
  • To list stakes in two Petronas [PETR.UL] units
  • Facilitate foreign direct and domestic direct investments in emerging industries/sectors
  • Remove distortions in regulation and licensing, including replacement of Approved Permit system with a negative list of imports
  • Reduce direct state participation in the economy
  • Divest GLCs in industries where the private sector is operating effectively
  • Strengthen the competitive environment by introducing fair trade legislation
  • Set up an Equal Opportunity Commission to cover discriminatory and unfair practices
  • Review remaining entry restrictions in products and services sectors
  • Phase out price controls and subsidies that distort markets for goods and services
  • Apply government savings to a wider social safety net for the bottom 40 percent of households, prior to subsidy removal
  • Have zero tolerance for corruption
  • Create a transformation fund to assist distressed firms during the reform period
  • Easing entry and exit of firms as well as high skilled workers
  • Simplify bankruptcy laws pertaining to companies and individuals to promote vibrant entrepreneurship
  • Improve access to specialised skills
  • Use appropriate pricing, regulatory and strategic policies to manage non-renewable resources sustainably
  • Develop a comprehensive energy policy
  • Develop banking capacity to assess credit approvals for green investment using non-collateral based criteria
  • Liberalise entry of foreign experts specialising in financial analysis of viability of green technology projects
  • Reduce wastage and avoid cost overrun by better controlling expenditure
  • Establish open, efficient and transparent government procurement process
  • Adopt international best practices on fiscal transparency

Whilst some of the calls under NEM is nothing new for example “zero tolerance for corruption” which can be considered as redundant if you ask me (fight against corruption should not come under a specific policies, there should be zero tolerance for corruption from day 1), the pertinent question would be – is NEM just another name for the abuse ridden, crony favoured NEP?

(NEM will work if it is based on merits and sound decisions and implementations but it is doomed to fail from day 1 if element of race and political interference comes in play)

RPK stressed the same point:-

The New Economic Model should not be Version 3 of the National Economic Policy, which in turn is Version 2 of the New Economic Policy.

We should scrap the NEP foundation altogether and come out with Version 1 of an entirely new operating system. Bugs can never be totally eliminated with upgrades to a problematic operating system.

And Najib seems to be singing the same tune when he said this:-

As a government, and as prime minister, our aspirations for Malaysia and the Malaysian people go far beyond guiding our nation through a recovery.

Indeed, the work we have done for the past year will be wasted if we simply retreat to the status quo.

This is unacceptable to me.

Well Najib, it is also unacceptable to us if status quo means perpetuating corruption, wastage and cronyism.

Then again coming up with ideals is great but what about the implementation? What about the enforcement? And we need not go far. Let’s just take one of the items listed – “Have zero tolerance for corruption”. Just how effective MACC has been other than getting involved in a mess called Teoh Beng Hock? What is the progress of the case on the PKFZ scandal? There has been silence since now and much of the attention on it been distracted by the in-fighting within MCA, where some of the names are deeply involved in the PKFZ scandal.

(No matter what policy that the government dishes out, the benefits, at the end of the day must go back to the people. Government must not forget that the people are their ultimate boss, not the other way around)

Let’s take another – “Reduce wastage and avoid cost overrun by better controlling expenditure”. Does this means the wastage of public funds as reported in Auditor General’s yearly report is going to reduce? Have the necessary sanctions and cost cutting measures put in place to meet this aspiration?

As a reader mentioned in Malaysiakini:-

Anyone can make a thousand proposals, but the agencies trusted to implement these changes themselves are not reliable.

This should be addressed first before any new policy is designed. Otherwise, it’s a sheer waste of time and money. I have not seen or felt any changes and I don’t think I will in the near future.

We will still pay more for cars, earn less than others, suffer more, and cronies are still getting richer

What about the proposed Equal Opportunity Commission? Will it be like the toothless SUHAKAM – the human rights commission who can make noise but powerless to book the offenders? And just how “equal” the Equal Opportunity Commission want to be? The very mention of the word “equal” already got the Malay rights movement, Perkasa up in arms. So, is it back to status quo?

The fact is NEM is still in its infant stage – there are good items under the NEM but whether it turn out to be another one sided policy by another name or it can be implemented effectively, it will remain to be seen. One can just hope that it will not turn out to be another fresh coat of gloss to old ideas instead of crafting new ones.

Read Also

Budget 2008

And so, finally it is out in the open…

Racial Policy Mis-fired?

This is indeed scary…

(Sometimes people forget why exams are held in the first place. Image source:

Remember when a certain political party controlled media, blasted the non-Malays for questioning the Malay’s special rights? Or when some politicians played the racial card to garner the support from one particular race? The problem is and very often, the same media or politicians failed to mention as to why there has been some strong voices questioning on the said policies.

No one from the ruling front, although they know this is true, has admitted openly that sometimes, in order to make things better, certain things must be questioned and criticised.

Certainly any ideal policies that promote equality, improvement of quality of life and elimination of poverty is worth to be pursued aggressively. But the thing is, as with any “good” policies out there, good implementation and strict enforcement is something else to be desired. It is certainly something to be questioned when the same policies are abused and mismanaged to enrich a very few.

The concept of “Ketuanan Melayu” which has been actively pursued by the ruling political party, for example,  has been in question for many reasons, simply because it’s meaning of the concept has not been conclusive, especially when the same people who are promoting this concept are also promoting other concepts (such as 1Malaysia) that are in direct violation of the first. Sometimes people get so confused.

But that is not what I wanted to elaborate here.

I don’t know why but the “Ketuanan Melayu” concept crossed my mind when I read Citizen Nades’s column titled “Learning the law the wrong way” and the part that got me concerned is this:-

The sad end to this saga is that the examiner who failed this student and 17 others was ordered to re-mark and make them pass. She refused and is now on the streets because her conscience refused to allow her to do so. She had set her own grading criteria which was approved by the university and stuck to it. One student got just four marks out of a possible 60 and for doing her job religiously, the examiner was labelled a “pengkhianat” (traitor).

The column did not say for sure why the examiner was asked to remark the failed students and make them pass. It could be due to certain constraint in the law school’s standards and quality.

Citizen Nades talked about law students and highlighted the scary thought of having these failed law students handling multi million contracts for the government in future. What happens if the same thing is happening in medical schools? Failed medical students who one day might be doing an open heart surgery on you or your loved ones.

In the case of the law students in Citizen Nades’ column, what should have happened is that failed student should have left failed and booted from law school. They never had the right qualities to be lawyers in the first place. They should not been forcefully passed, just to show the “right numbers” on some statistics.

At the very extreme, allow the retest several times but if in the end, these students still fail, then leave them failed. Their destiny lies elsewhere.

If only everyone was like this…

(This is a good example of what a self-centered, lazy and selfish people like to do – asking more hand-outs when they still have an able body and a job to prove their worth)

A truly inspiring story of a blind fisherman and his wife in The Star today

It is a story of Jamal Jamil who is blind and his wife Noraidah Kamaruddin who goes out to sea bringing their youngest kid. In 1990, he became completely blind but thankfully, his wife was determined to stick to him despite of the handicap.

“If she can show such determination, I must do the same. While we are not rich, we can manage,” said the father of five. “Life is tough, but we manage. What is there to complain? I am sure there are other families who are worse off,” she said. “His blindness has not made him useless,” she added.It has every positive ingredient in the story…love, determination, hard-work and most importantly, able to stand on one’s own 2 feet.The Pusat Zakat Selangor, the state’s tithes management body, has helped the couple repair their house and provided them with a motorboat as well as taken care of the children’s school fees. “They are grateful for our help but they are determined. They seldom ask for handouts,” said the center’s senior communications officer, Akhtar Sahari”

If a blind man with 5 kids is able to provide for his family with minimum hand-outs from the Government, just think of the wonders of an able person (and from middle-class) can do with the same effort and determination. If you think about it, it is not impossible to do.

Firstly, you must have the right mentality – if you are lazy and just opt for “easy” hand-outs, you can still enjoy life but it won’t last long. People who are more determined and hard-working will one day be better than you in life and career.

Secondly, just go and do it! Malaysian is famous for NATO (No Action Talk Only) and we can’t help it because the Government themselves is full of NATO attributes. I know some who talk a lot in disguise of planning and getting ready the strategies but never get things done. I agree that in some instance, you need time to “measure twice, cut once” but not all the time. When it comes to work or studies, the one who do something often gets immediate returns compare to the one who only talk about doing it.

Thirdly, always be humble enough to learn from others. It is the only way to share other people’s experience and mistakes and use it to avoid the same mistake & have better approach to a problem. When one is humble enough to learn from others, the person should be humble enough to teach others.

Thank you En Jamal Jamil and Pn Noraidah Kamaruddin for showing the way through. You are indeed one great couple.