Launch New CPI

Not only have the constructs remained unchallenged but they have become enduring ‘truths’ conditioning the thinking and impacting the lives of an entire generation of Malaysians. 

 

This fabrication and entrenchment of the construct - clearly divisive to the nation’s unity and sense of belonging - did not come about by accident.

 

Neither was it a response to any natural demarcation and separation of the communities that was evolving at the ground level and which required a distinction between the “sons of the soil” and the “pendatang” communities as the invention of the term implied.  

 

The contrived term and dichotomy was a deliberate and opportunistic strategy of the political and policy leadership to create a new political taxonomy to manage and control the political-administrative working and socio-economic development of the country and to prioritize Malay interests and dominance.

 

And from all empirical evidence this strategy has succeeded all too well.  

 

The main beneficiary of the Bumiputera construct has been the Malay community. Whilst the major gains have accrued to the Malay upper and middle class, it is important to note that the Malay lower class and rural poor including recent foreign migrants have received a substantial share of the benefits in one form or another from privileged access to the Bumiputra status. 

 

Indicators of economic and occupational restructuring and wealth and income distribution reveal remarkable and sustained advances especially for the elite and middle class of the Malay community since the 1970s.

 

Especially notable are Malay gains in corporate wealth, higher education and share of professional employment with NEP ethnic targets for the community established in the Malaysian Plans achieved or surpassed since the early 90s.

 

What has also happened since has been the almost furtive but at the same time comprehensive extension of the Bumiputera policy construct to other aspects of life in Malaysia beyond the original targeted goals. Because of Malay dominance of the civil service and the virtual monopoly of the higher ranking positions, the Bumiputera construct, and its accompanying Bumiputera/Non-Bumiputera dichotomy, have become the de facto and de jure factor used to determine and measure outcomes in whichever policy sector or area of development it is applied to.

 

  

The Future for the Bumiputera Construct

Today more than 30 years after the end of the NEP a national discourse on the Bumiputera construct is overdue if for no other reason to allay the fears of the non-Bumiputera young that this albatross across their parent’s neck will no longer also be theirs. Such a discourse can be used to emphasise to the younger generation Bumiputera that the playing field in the nation has to be reset to eliminate racial discriminatory policies that have been an integral part of the application of the construct.  

   

The substantive direction which this potential discourse may follow can be informed by two recent comments on the related subject of national unity 

Prime Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin In launching speech of the National Unity Policy and National Unity Blueprint 2021-2030 on Feb 15

“Unity is the ardent wish of every country in this world. Malaysia’s image as a country of various ethnicities, religions and cultures is always an example of the united country. Even though we have differences, competition and conflicts, our long existent social unity in our society has kept our unity intact to this day that many other countries want to learn from us.

Sultan Ibrahim Ibni Almarhum Sultan Iskandar in an interview in conjunction with Chinese New Year

 

“They are not pendatang. They were invited to Johor to cultivate our plantations. My forefathers understood the needs of our Chinese guests and they helped to cultivate our plantations. Let no one in Johor describe the Chinese as pendatang. They helped to build our economy and they have become Malaysians. They are just as Malaysian as everyone else. They are Bangsa Johor, like the Malays and Indians and others.”

 

What will also be useful in the proposed national discourse on the Bumiputera term and the Bumiputera/Non-Bumiputera will be the feedback from the opinion leaders in our society. 

 

These include the various think tanks including those from the universities, political parties, professional bodies, civil society organizations and business organizations. All of them have previously been silent or tight-lipped on the subject.

 

However this reticence, possibly owing to concern that the subject matter of the political construct may be too sensitive to address,  should be discarded in view of the current government’s stated commitment to national unity and the freedom of information and expression. 

   

One key issue to be addressed early is whether the Bumiputera term should be continued as a political construct in view of its divisive impact and consequences especially for the younger generation. 

 

Political parties in the country, including from East Malaysia where the Bumiputera term may have a different application, should undertake an analysis of the term and also its policy dichotomy. 

 

Following this review, they should inform their party members and public of the party’s position on this subject which will simply not go away if it is not addressed openly and transparently by our political leaders and other key stake players.  

 

First Step in Deconstruction: Statistical Transparency and Integrity

As this proposed discourse will take some time to proceed - if it can ever take place - here is a proposal that can be immediately implemented. 

 

A special set of key socio-economic indicators  containing separate breakdowns for Malay, other non-Malay Bumiputera, Chinese, Indian and other subcategories of minorities should be established and publicly displayed to inform all stakeholders of the true situation in income, education, public and private sector employment, etc.  

 

This key database can provide the basis for ascertaining the progress of the various communities in whichever policy area that is regarded as of concern. 

 

Special attention can be given to contested areas where the Bumiputera/non-Bumiputera policy construct and dichotomy have been used to provide advantage or discriminate against any racial grouping. 

 

However the main objective of the database is to provide clarity on the extent of progress with racial, class, regional, gender and other disparities that stand in the way of a united Bangsa Malaysia.