Saturday, August 21, 2010

DEB: 'Dasar Ekonomi Bastard'?

It is a trend among Malay leaders and elite to denounce the DEB or NEP in its present form as ‘the bastardization of the original spirit of the DEB’. A recent example of this proclivity is a speech by Nazir Abdul Razak of CIMB at the bank’s function. According to press report, he also made the following points. The original spirit of the DEB was the eradication of poverty. The DEB is out of date, being decades old, and need to be revised since it is causing problems, ‘being everywhere’. He extolled the virtue of diversity and multi-racialism, being an important factor for economic growth. To give it emphasis, he quipped that after all CIMB has often been alluded to as ‘Chinese, Malay, Indian Bank’, bringing laughter to the audience. Such views had been aired before by national leaders, and I am sure Nazir Razak would not be the last, since such thinking had been ‘blessed’ by the national elite who are now preoccupied with ushering in the New Economic Model, to jettison the DEB unceremoniously.

Before I respond to the above, let me enter some caveat, lest I am misunderstood, deliberately or otherwise. I am not against multiracialism, nor against cultural diversity. Neither am I making an issue of the merit or demerit of the DEB or the NEM. This should require a separate treatment to do justice to the question. The subject of my present posting is a certain attitude of the elite concerning issues, which can only be described as flippant, superficial, and cannot be said responsible or accountable in a democratic sense.

Now what is wrong with such views as articulated by Nazir Razak? Firstly, it caricatures the DEB and misrepresented it. They speak of abuses and distortion of the DEB, dubbed as ‘bastardisation’, and championed the jettisoning of it on that score. Yet they do not acknowledge the real concerns and principles of the DEB that was ‘bastardised’. The DEB originally concerned with the eradication of rural poverty and the bridging of the rural-urban divide in the economy. The DEB was also concern about the restructuring of the economy to avoid the identification of economic activities along ethnic or racial lines. This has to be properly represented and discussed. Are these objectives still a national concern or has we as a nation adequately addressed this question. Our stand may differ on ways of addressing these problems, but we cannot afford to ignore the issues, ‘sweeping them under the carpet’. If we choose to ignore them, bury our head in the sand, confusing between avoidance of issues and resolving them, I am sure the problems would only revisit us one day, and with a vengeance.

By caricaturing the DEB, and oversimplifying it, they usually misrepresent it, in order to justify their new found policies or models. Let us move on with an understanding of our past. The DEB has been an integral part of our lives for so long. Should we move on, let it be based on understanding and not self-delusion, supported by the rhetoric and cliché of ‘pluralism’, ‘democracy’ or ‘equality’. I am not against these as ideals, but certainly as uninformed bravado and dilletantism. Before we move on, surely and maturely, we need to make peace with our past, ‘an accounting of our previous position’, for good or bad, and on the basis of that self-introspection, move on wisely.

When we caricature the DEB, thereby misrepresenting it, simply because we wish to justify our new path, we may be subverting the very cause of pluralism and democracy that we claim to champion. When we conveniently suppress the fact that the original concern of the DEB was to ensure racial harmony by ensuring social justice, alleviating rural poverty and restructuring the economy, we contribute to racial prejudice. By willfully suppressing this aspect, merely highlighting its abuses, we demonized the DEB, demonizing too the Malays on the whole, on account of the greed of a small group of their own kind. The impact of this ‘distortive perspective’ on ethnic relations had been disastrous and ever deepening.

From the looks of things, we may not have to wait long for the problems to revisit us. Even as the NEM or the RMK 10 is being ushered in, and undergoing much vacillation and revision, we see many signs of the ‘ghost’ of the DEB revisiting, with little indication of ever leaving. Allow me to furnish some recent examples. The president of MCA, Chua Soi Lek , as mouthpiece of his party, had demanded that the quota of 30% Malay equity be decreased and phased out eventually. Cabinet Minister Koh Tsu Koon has attacked Perkasa’s president for his ‘obsession with bumiputra quota’ and ‘telling other races to do this and that’. He suggested Perkasa to focus instead on the implementation of the DEB and upgrading Malay skills and know-how, which can be read as a snipe at Malay economic and technological lag. Minister Koh Tsu Koon makes no mention, however, of non-Malays ‘telling the Malays to do this and that’.

Other very senior UMNO politician had jumped into the fray, no less than the Deputy Prime Minister Mukhyuddin himself. Cabinet Minister Nazri had reacted rather strongly, characterizing MCA’s president comment on Malay quota as violating the spirit of 1Malaysia and Barisan Nasional solidarity. I am sure there are many non-Malays, probably Soi Lek himself, who beg to differ, seeing the phasing of Malay equity quota to be in keeping with the spirit of 1Malaysia. Cabinet Minister Rais Yatim reacted rather strongly against the MCA president for his criticism of Malay 30% equity, categorizing it as ‘challenging the constitution and Malay rulers’. There are many other examples of the ‘ghost revisiting’.

An important aspect of our ‘reconciling’ and ‘accounting’ with the DEB is understanding, giving full account of the following questions. What were the principles of the DEB and abuses of them, clearly distinguishing between the two? Are there positive aspects of it which need to be incorporated in 'new vision' or 'model'?What were the causes of the DEB being ‘bastardised’? Who were responsible for ‘bastardising’ it or should be held accountable for it? All this is important. Without such understanding, we may end up in the ridiculous situation where those responsible for ‘bastardising’ the DEB, now cry foul of it. Having ‘bastardised’ the DEB they now choose ‘to dump the baby’. Without understanding the DEB and ‘accounting’ for it, we may see the same cycle afflicting other new policies and models. They would all be ‘bastardized’ in time, and subjected to ‘baby dumping’, in vicious cycles! It is the psychology of having soiled one spot,  move on to another place, soiling it in turn and so on and so forth. Should not they be taking responsibility, cleaning the mess at least, before moving on? To make it worse, they blame and scape goat on others for the mess they leave behind.This is certainly not the way to give leadership to a nation!


  1. Dear Kenn,
    Thank you for info and sharing. Your posting on the same subject is excellent and requires no furhter comment on my part. I had tried to create the link to your posting concerned, but still fumbling with it. I shall persevere ( but not I am very limited in IT 'tricks') Best wishes

  2. NEM's Lethal Dose - The More Derserving Is Getting Less !

    Let's support the call for a REVOLUTION by Kijang Mas - Demi Negara!

  3. Sir,

    One wonders at the intention of the man saying such ill thought-out words as the bastardization of the NEP. True, there have been abuses in NEP implementation but there have been comments that Nazir has bastardized himself - he is where he is because of NEP and he has not been helping the Malays in his position as the CEO of a huge bank - mainly if not utterly profit-motivated in his conduct of banking affairs.

    I also think he is speaking his brother Dato Seri Najib's mind, or projecting his brother's thoughts and intentions. Najib has been on the liberalization of the economy, the NEP is hardly visible in his NEM. Nazir's "liberalizing tone" helps boost his brother's image to the non-Malays whose votes he has been after. But is it not at the expense of the interest of the Malays and the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak?

    By all means, have speedy economic development and become an advanced nation, but not at the expense of the rights and interests of the Malays and the Bumis. One suspects that so much reasoning for the hulla-baloo lies in the votes Najib is after.


    The next question is: Is that justifiable, supported by the malays and the

  4. Sepadu,

    Thank you for visiting and your comment,evidently an issue you feel passionate about.

    Firstly,let me respond to the first part of your comment, concerning Malay leaders and elite. Yes there is now this trend of successful Malays pouring scorn on the NEP. You tend to wonder why? Personally I explain it in terms of the psychological need to 'dissociate' from negativity ( in a broad sense to mean the Malays as 'backward', 'laggard', 'lazy', 'time wasting', 'free loaders', 'of crutch mentality', and of infinite negative connotations')Now many of these successful Malays, whom I called also 'have arrived Malays', need to feel they had done so on their own steam, due to their ingenuity, and fantastic attributes. Hence the need to 'dissociate' from the Malays and Malay based policies.Their mechanism of 'defense', 'dissociation' always carry this connatation of 'I am not really Malay', 'I am not one of those ( negativity), 'I am unlike them'(unmalay) etc. This is the complex of an new successful elite in an otherwise laggard group.You tend to identify with other groups which they perceived as 'succesful' and 'superior'. It is like saying 'I am not with them (those perceived inferior), though I am 'of'them, but really I am with you( those perceived as superior)

    To make matter worse,they are embraced by the racism of their group of 'adoption'. How is this done? Refer to the editorial letter in the Chinese press highlighted by Rocky Bru,hailing Nazir as a self made financial wizard deserving of every success. To be fair I am sure Nazir must have done some right things himself. But as for the rest I am sure he owed much to NEP. Now of this editorial letter. It praises all the right moves Nazir made in the name of meritocracy, like effecting a merger, and introducing many financial instruments etc. All sounded good, until some 'slips',which gave away disguised racisms beneath seemingly meritocratic arguments.All these arguments, upon closer scrutiny, reveal racism, when predicated with statements like ' he appointed more non-Malay managers', meaning of course the right action of 'not appointing Malays'. Meaning also that all the 'meritocratic' moves of the bank as 'unmalay' or 'uncharacteristics of Malays'. To complete the predication of seemingly 'meritocratic'tributes, the editorial cap the letter with patronising the Malays with 'you can do it too, be a Nazir' if you ceased to be 'kampung', which of course brings the connitations of 'be unmalay', 'dissociate','don't persist in backwardness', 'baptise yourself anew with a new identity', 'embrace success by means of alienating and dissociating with your group'.

    So this is the way to understand it, as I see it. The NEP and its historical significance is really a complicated subject and there is much confusion over it on both sides of the divide. It deserves much study and reflection.

    Best wishes always. Thanks again for visiting and commenting.

  5. pakpandair,

    It's heartening to hear your reply. Their thinking that way is perhaps understandable but to me not condoneable.

    Methinks it's a complex of sorts. Dissociating from their own kind, their own community, and stretched further, it may even be their own country. It may be among the worst mentality a person may have. It's an indication that in times of war or adversity one should stay clear of them. Or they made to stay clear of us.

    It's a sign of weakness that needs correcting. Unfortunately the country is in such disarray that they get exploited upon. Whatever they say is highlighted to show support for those in the opposite camp. Or those out to get further political or other mileage in this country.

    The problem is that the leadership may be entertaining or at least letting such people express such an attitude. To suit its political agenda of winning votes for PRU13. Those responsible for disseminating information have not been seen as actively trying to explain issues that may help those so-called liberal people begin to understand local conditions intimately and start being proud of their own kind, their own community.

    It's well and fine to "think Malaysian". But Malaysian values must be based on the Constitution of the country. A truly Malaysian nation may not emerge until and unless the crucial aspects of the Constitution like on Bahasa Malaysia and the Special Position of the Malays are fully accepted and respected.

    The ordinary kampung folks and other "backward" Malays are being taken for granted. NGOs have come out expressing dissatisfaction. MPM has even adopted the single-stream schooling or SSS proposal - their leader had even raised the matter in Parliament and had it discussed quite some time ago.

    The leaders ought to take into serious consideration the views of the ordinary people. After all, they do carry a lot of votes.

    Best wishes.


  6. Sir, I cannot agree with you more on your various points. But what is sad,is that we seems to be devoid of the kind of leadership capable of...leadership!Such leadership should be maturedly and intelligently explaining issues and handling matters, putting house to order. Now that's what i mean by 'leadership'. Mindlessly moving along, back pedalling, vaccilation,going by trial and error, mostly errors, patchworks,playing up to the gallery,misplaced arrogance, all contribute to greater frustration of the citizens. Let's hope good sense prevail in the end!

  7. Sir,

    Dato Seri Najib has come out with asking people to respect the Social Contract. It's bloody high time.

    There have been so much raising of issues pertaining to NEP, which I think was drawn from the Special Position Article 153, since the last "flip-flopping, auto-piloting and sleepy" administration until now. Quite a number are, to my mind, seditious.

    Whatever it is, the fact remains that the DAP Tony Pua's proposal on the Bumi housing discount is nasty on the overall concept of privileges given to Bumis and the MCA Economic Congress resolution calling for the abolishment of the 30% Bumi equity have led to Bumis asking them to surrender their citizenship and the right to it of their descendants. These people ought to be told in a direct manner and in no uncertain terms.

    It is necessary to do so to avoid escalating ill feelings and in the interest of goodwill, peace and harmony in the country.

    Selamat hari Raya to you.


  8. Muhammad,thank you for visiting and commenting. You are right that part of the problem is conflicting signals from the PM and UMNO leadership. A reasonable construction of early statements did suggest that the NEM is to replace the NEP or DEB.And yet there has been statements to the contrary since then to the effect that the NEP had served us well, that ethnic based policy cannot be done away completely, and very recently the NEM is not to replace the NEP. So which is which? This is just a casual survey of conflicting signals. What more if probe deeper into basic problems like what is really the full import of IMalaysia, its principles and philosophy. Given such perplexities, all groups of diverse ideologies and political groupings are making their demands based on their interests,almost talking 'above each others head and passing each other'. In such times, it is part and parcel of leadership to clarify visions and stick by them.To be fair and firm to all. This is no time to be the lalang bending with the wind. My response pertains only to your comment on the PM. I have no occassion to go into substantive aspect of the NEP or DEB as such. Perhaps on other occassion. Selamat Hari Raya to you and readers.