We will never have needs-based affirmative action in M'sia - Commander S THAYAPARAN (Retired) Royal Malaysian Navy
Saturday, July 27, 2019
Malaysiakini : "You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore." – William Faulkner
COMMENT | PKR president Anwar Ibrahim’s comments on his commitment to needs-based affirmative action policies instead of the race-based ones in place are problematic for a variety of reasons. All
of us, and by us I mean mainly the non-Malays, have heard this story in
various incarnations before. I give Anwar credit for saying it, but the
reality is that on issues such as this, there is a chasm of difference
between saying and doing. It also points, I suppose, to the
different ways in which political operatives like Anwar and Prime
Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad play to their bases.
addition, it exposes a kind of shadow play in the delivery of Anwar’s
comments. He said that when he is the prime minister he will speed up
the process. Really? If this is a priority for Pakatan Harapan and
indeed the current prime minister, why is the process stalled, and more
importantly, why isn't Mahathir leading the charge to speed up the
While Anwar says something like this, Mahathir, who acknowledges that Bersatu is a racist party,
claims that this particular form of racism is not ”against other
parties that are not race-based, such as fellow Pakatan Harapan
component members PKR, Amanah and DAP.” This is somewhat dumb if you really think about it.
Why? Because while Anwar at least has the cover of a
multiracial party, Mahathir's Bersatu has no choice but to be the
champion of Malay rights and privileges, because it has to live up to
the obligation placed on it by the non-Malay power brokers in Harapan in
securing the Malay vote. The issue here is not
how either of these political operatives play to their bases, but rather
how there really isn’t very much difference in their ideological
stances. I will give you an example.
Anwar uses the old canard of
involving the “private sector” when it comes to resolving this issue:
"...I also told the Chinese conglomerate that attended today's event
that if they do not want race-based policies, they should do more." Keep
in mind the “private sector” is code for the Chinese community. Part of
the Malay agenda strategy is to conflate the plutocrat class and the
And just last year, Mahathir, in discussing
race-based policies, said that more scholarships need to be given to
Malays since the Chinese "are largely in business." And in business, he added, "you can make tons of money."
Reinforcing the narrative
does this do? It reinforces a standard Malay political and racial
narrative that pits one community against another. It misrepresents the
historic and economic realities of the Chinese community as one that is a
threat to the Malays. It wrongly places a burden on the Chinese
(conflating the community with the plutocrat class) to correct the
economic and social disparities of the Malay community, which has
everything to do with the race-based policies in place.
discrimination in the private sector? Yes, there is. Should it be
ignored? No, it should not, but conflating it with the institutionalised
public discrimination and race-based, agenda-driven policymaking is one
of the reasons why needs-based affirmative action policies will never
see the light of day. Let us be very clear. If Harapan were committed to needs-based policies, they would embark on it without hesitation.
irony for Malay political operatives, of course, who always link the
public and private sectors when it comes to race-based discourse, is
that if they implemented something like the International Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, for instance,
they would be killing two birds with one stone when it comes to
discrimination in the public and private sectors.
What happened with the Icerd debacle
is further evidence as to why there will never be needs-based
affirmative action policies in Malaysia. Part of this is due to the
urban elites that Anwar seems to have a problem with, and which has
become part of the racial discourse. Indeed I took a swipe at Chandra Muzzafar here –
“It also places the non-Malay intelligentsia as part of the problem,
which mainstream Malay politics routinely does, instead of part of the
solution in dismantling a compromised system.
"While there is
some truth in that, it is pointless asking everyone to come together on
an issue which is fundamentally about the rights of everyone versus the
privileges that come with being in the majority.” Part of this is also the unacknowledged hostility and racism that Malaysians engage in.
When it came to the Icerd issue, this was on full display
– “Of course, people are blind to some things in this country or worse,
do not really care. This idea that the state was racist, which created a
separate space for the non-Malays to compete, live and die in, has
resulted in a discourse which not only alienates people but also
encourages a siege mentality in the non-Malay community.”
Look, back in the day, Wan Saiful Wan Jan (photo) argued that affirmative action is morally wrong in two essays that have since been taken down. He
also made the claim that arguments against affirmative action could
only be made by Malays because of the political realities of this
country. Interested readers can read excerpts of it here.
joining Bersatu, he has apparently changed his mind. And this is really
the problem. Nobody really wants to have needs-based policies. Malay
and non-Malay political operatives do not want to risk their grip on
power, because it is one thing talking about needs-based policies, and
another implementing it. Political operatives know this. They get
away with this because they know that the Harapan base will be pragmatic
and not demand needs-based policies, because they do not want a return
of Umno-BN – which is somewhat hilarious seeing how things are playing
out in Harapan now.
Needs-based policies will always remain a pipe dream.