Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Ethnic quota on Malay reserve land?

While surfing, I chanced across a Bernama report dated 7 December 2009, posted on the Malaysiakini website. The caption ‘Dasar 50% kuota bumiputra ditangguh’ looks interesting and contentious enough I thought, given the current political development in Malaysia. Contentious I thought because it touches on some basic issues like the continuing tension between ‘liberalization’ or free enterprise and the question of Malay rights.

According to the Bernama report, the implementation of the new housing policy in Kedah which stipulates 50% allocation for bumiputra had been put off until a new clearer guideline is issued. This move was prompted by protests from NGOs and political parties of various races over the issue of Malay reserve land being converted to freehold land. The general policy of raising the housing allocation for bumiputra from 30% to 50% was announced by the Menteri Besar, Datuk Seri Azizan Abdul Razak, to be effective from 1 September 2008.

To my mind, merely deducing from the scanty facts in the Bernama report, the problem starts when the state government made a serious blunder. Thinking in terms of ethnic quotas in relation to land matters proves to be very problematic in Malaysia, given its history. Take for instance the matter of Malay reserve land. The Malay reserve land policy was formulated and implemented long before Independence, even longer before the New Economic Policy. Therefore it is really a political blunder for the PR state government to extend its hostility towards the NEP to the Malay reserve land policy, as if they are one and the same.

The Malay reserve land policy was promulgated between the British and the Malay States, even before the birth of independent Malaya or Malaysia. Hence to carry over their phobia of ethnic quota of the NEP into decisions over land matters, particularly of Malay reserve land, reflect either unconscious or conscious anti-Malay sentiments on their part or simply ignorance of history.

It is such characteristic blunder of PR that contributes to the murkiness of Malaysian politics today. Too much had been lumped under the boogey man ‘NEP’. Now the question of Malay reserve land had been laid at the door of ‘NEP’. They had taken it upon themselves to ‘correct’, ‘liberalize’, ‘democratize’, ‘reform’ or to ‘equalize’ the anomaly called Malay reserve land. In this way, all things ‘Malay’ can now be maligned under NEP. It is the same proclivity to over generalize and caricature on the part of PR that blames all ills of Malaysian society explicitly on UMNO and implicitly on the Malays. Obviously such trends are not conducive for the development of a democratic discourse in our political process.

It is to be expected that the new housing policy of the Kedah stated government would encounter problems. I wonder what would be some of the protests from the NGOs and the various political parties? The Malay position would find it difficult to endorse or support the proposed policy. From their point of view, why should Malay reserve land be converted to freehold with only a 50% allocation for them? Isn’t this giving up part of their land? Though in all probability the Malay reserve land had been compensated elsewhere, normally in a less valuable or desirable location, naturally they would resent the idea of giving up their claims on half of the converted land, especially when the land value had escalated in that particular area.

As for the non-Malay position, I suppose it would be the old continual resentment and protest against Malay rights and allocation, all of familiar ring to their resentment towards the NEP. I suppose in their understanding or expectation, it should be just like colonial times when the dichotomy was just that of either Malay reserve land or freehold, with the later free of any form of stipulation, especially in favor of the Malays.

Hence massaging the figure from the magic 30% of NEP to 50% would not really endear the state goverment to the people of Kedah, be it Malays or non-Malays.Many would simply see it as a sleight of hand to favour the other party against their own community.

One lesson I would draw from this episode on the new housing and land policy of the Kedah state government. It is not that easy to push aside or ignore the reality of the ethnic imperatives in our politics, given the history of the nation. Another lesson would be, politicians of both divide, be it the ruling party or the opposition, in all states, and at the national level, should never loose sight of our history and historical context when championing their cause.


  1. Pakpandair,

    You hit the nail dot on the head there. What has been in place during the British colonial times, where it does not affect national unity per se, must be left untouched. It's outside the ambit of what has been called the Social Contract - outside the scope of what were agreed between the Malay and the non-Malay leaders immediately preceding Merdeka.

    Whatever the sins of the British colonialists in Malaya, we appreciate that gesture of ensuring that pieces of land given out to the then economically and educationally backward Malays not be gobbled up by the more advanced Chinese who the Brits provided with all sorts of facilities in doing business and adequate schools both at primary and secondary levels in areas where they were concentrated in - the towns.

    Now the Malays have not even achieved the 30% target of corporate wealth and pieces of non-Malay Reserve or freehold land sold in the rural areas have passed into non-Malay hands, the authorities must ensure the sanctity of the Malay Reserve land. This is for the sake of long-term peace and harmony. Further erosion of whatever Malay assets that may still be available may lead to a situation like that of May 13 1969 at which time the malays had only 2% wealth of the country in their hands.

    Let's not go into the whys and the whats of the Malays letting go of their freehold properties to non-Malays. I can dig up a host of reasons for non-Malay weaknesses in their 3,000 - 5,000 years of history. But what is important now is that the Malay Reserve land lots must not be allowed to be changed in status without equitable returns to the Malays.

    As you pointed out, replacing the Malay Reserve acreage in far-flung areas is certainly not equitable. They must remember that Malays are no longer those generally poorly educated ones in British colonial or immediately post-Merdeka times. It is even plain common sense for them to see the vast difference in land values between the urban and rural areas. It's simple arithmetic to know that 3 acres in the outskirts of town must be worth many more acres in 20-30 miles
    or even farther away.

    It is therefore natural that they don't agree that such properties, when developed into a housing scheme, be allotted 50-50. The Sekolah Melayu Pak Tani would know that's not right.

    We must support those who protest against such an unfair treatment of Malay Reserve land. We must call upon the State Government concerned, especially the Malay component of such a Government, to ensure an equitable treatment on all Malay Reserve land all over the country.

    In determining the value of potential Malay Reserve land, valuation by independent parties must be done. The Government Land Valuation Department has its offices in every district. However, Government land valuation has always in the past been in favour of the Government. If such Malay Reserve lands are being proposed for development even as joint ventures with tany state agency, the Malay land owner may stand to lose. In such a situation, the

    Land is a state matter but the National Land Code is a Federal business. We must also urge the Fderal Government to weigh in on such issues and protect the interest of Malay Reserve land owners.


  2. Let the rich get richer; the poor poorer. The source of this quagmire is not to be touched. Nobody dares.

  3. Rhino Rin,

    Let the rich get richer - to a point. We know the White Paper produced by the Government in the aftermath of the May 13, 1969 riots pointed out the need to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor.

    But certainly don't let the poor get poorer. Not fair from any angle - humanitarian, social, even political. And the poor has always been Malays. There are Malays in the less developed kampongs who still eat rice mixed with tapioca when the price of rubber went down. And you now, it's always up and down.

    The poor in the rural areas were extremely poor until the good old Tun Razak implemented the Rural Development Plan, established FELDA, RISDA, FELCRA, MARDI and so on. But life is about competition, about survival of the fittest, about the rich gobbling the poor. We must do whatever can be done to check the trend. Even in the US they introduced the anti-monopoly laws to ensure no gobbling of the small companies by the big corporations.

    We know that the Chinese has a terrific advantage over the Malays economically. The rich can get richer in the Stock Market, via the business conglomerates and the sogososhas. They have been buying up freehold land belonging to Malays in the urban and the rural areas. IIn the kampongs, prices have been pushed up to even RM100,000 per acre by the roadside nowadays. Well beyonnd the reach of the average Malay. But the average Chinese is a businessman - there are millions of them in business, much greater in number than the Malays. They certainly can affrord to purchase Malay freehold land while Malays hardly can.

    But they must not try to gobble up Malay Reserve land. Openly they cannot. Now they appear to devise a scheme to gobble up 50% of such Malay Reserve land when turned into housing projects. Assisted by stupid, power crazy, corrupt-minded (if not cash or asset-corrupt) Malays in power with the chauvinist DAP.

    They must be made to realise the folly and the stupidity of their action or non-action. Kedah UMNO MUST do things to shake them up. Be an effective opposition. Otherwise Melayu lingkup. That's the intention of such devious and scheming DAP blokes who learnt lessons from their god Lee Kuan Yew who chopped up Kampong Melayu, Arab Street and all in Singapore. Wake up, people. Do something.


  4. Dot

    Price wise, the poor, the Malays are sidelined.

    Policy wise the poor are further denied participation. This marketing policy states that a certain portion be alotted to the poor/Malays, say 30%, of which future unsold units, are be opened up to all, culminating in the disproportionate distribution of wealth or whatever.

    The worst case scenario would be, in a hundred years time, the poor numbering say 70% of the population, would be ghetoed or slummed into 20% area of the nation, while the remainder 30% rich population would be lording over 80% of the country ... exactly like those found in South Africa or Palestine.

    All efforts to address the cancerous ill of widening gap between the rich and the poor seems to make no headway. The rich and the powerful dictates.

  5. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.



  6. Dear Lucy,
    Thank you for your kind words. You are certainly welcome to visit the blog anytime.


  7. The NEP system has been implemented for 40 over years to help the Malays , but why are the majority Malays still remained poorer ?

    Why are Singapore Malays doing better then the majority Malays in Malaysia ? They are, without NEP to protect or help them.

    When a baby is learning to walk, he may needs some aid, but you can't forever providing him with one, or else he will never be able to learn to walk on his own.

  8. Dear anonymous,
    Thank you for visiting and your comment. My response to your comments are: a) You are right in that the NEP had not been altogether successful in addressing rural poverty. This is simply because the NEP was hijacked by the vested interests of Malay political capitalism.Hence poor Malays had never been really the target group by way of implementation, though the NEP bore their name in formal terms, b) I am not sure we can accurately generalised that the Singapore Malays are better off than majority of Malays in Malaysia. We cannot really compare apples and oranges. For a fact there are many affluent and well off Malays in Malaysia today materially or economically speaking due to the 'success' of the NEP, c) The analogy of a baby ready how to walk may not be appropriate here since we are really talking of different groups of social or economic groups altogether. Best wishes-Pakpandair