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DPM: In the future, NEP is to be replaced

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This is an interesting piece of news.

From Malaysian Insider:

Najib ready to end special privileges for the Malays

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 24 — Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak is ready to end the special privileges for the Malays, but stressed that this must be done gradually.

In an interview with Bloomberg Television, the Prime Minister-designate said “if we do not change, the people will change us”.

“In the not-too-distant future, we will see all the elements of the New Economic Policy being replaced.” He didn’t say when that might occur.

“It’s a huge challenge,” Najib said in the interview yesterday. “There must be this political will and desire to change within Umno. I don’t think we can expect people to look at us in more favourable terms unless we change, unless we rectify our weaknesses.”

The Pakatan Rakyat opposition coalition used the scrapping of the NEP as a campaign pledge to inflict record losses on the ruling Barisan Nasional in the March general election.

The NEP was devised by Najib’s father, Tun Abdul Razak, when he was Malaysia’s second prime minister to boost the Malays’ economic status — through job allocations, cheaper homes and other benefits — in a country where ethnic Chinese had long been more prosperous and remain so. About 65 per cent of country’s 27 million people are Malay.

According to Bloomberg, by offering to scrap the NEP, at an unspecified time, and replace it with a needs-based system, Najib is moving closer to the stance of opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who also supports a system based on economic need.

Anwar is trying to seize power but said on Wednesday he is finding it difficult to woo ruling coalition lawmakers to his side.

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi plans to step down in March and has named Najib, his deputy, as his successor. Abdullah sped up his planned 2010 exit from the political stage as racial tension increased.

Some analysts Bloomberg spoke to expressed doubt that Umno, the leading party in the ruling coalition, is ready to give up a programme that helps its members. Political consultant Karim Raslan said Umno hasn’t fully accepted how much it needs to change.

“I don’t see enough frankness in terms of challenges facing the party,” Karim said. “Many of the party leaders feel that by replacing Abdullah they will overcome these weaknesses. I have to disagree with them. I don’t see many signs of revival,” Bloomberg quoted him as saying.

Najib’s family has held top positions in politics and business for generations. His father led Malaysia from 1970 to 1976. Najib’s cousin is the current education minister. His younger brother Nazir Razak runs the country’s second-biggest bank CIMB Group Bhd.

Abdullah picked Najib to succeed him despite misgivings by some over controversies surrounding the deputy prime minister.

Najib has denied suggestions that he is linked to the murder of a Mongolian woman in 2006, and that he had an affair with the victim. A political analyst who worked for Najib is on trial for abetting two police officers in the murder.

Anwar also has accused Najib of profiting from defence contracts and of being behind criminal charges that the opposition leader had sex with a man. Anwar denies the sex charge, and Najib denies both being involved in bringing the case against his opponent and making money from defence contracts.

Bloomberg also quoted former Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad as saying that Najib has to explain all things that are said about him. “Unfortunately, we don’t have any other candidate. We have no choice but to choose Najib,” Dr Mahathir said.’

In the interview, Najib called the allegations against him baseless.

“I’m telling you, I wouldn’t stay in office a day longer if I knew I am involved in these allegations,” he said. “There’s no proof, no basis. I can sue people, but it’s going to be a tedious process in court.”

First off, I think the report is misleading and has fallen into UMNO’s trap of equating the New Economic Policy with that of Article 153 of the Federal Constitution, the special position of the Malays. A more thorough examination of this can be found in my post: ‘Artikel 153, DEB dan Membela Nasib Rakyat‘.

Now I must applaud the DPM for this admission that the NEP will be gradually replaced. Many, including myself, has advocated a review or replacement of the NEP as an economic policy as its relevance is fast becoming obsolete. The policy, which was crafted to promote an equal playing field amongst the various ethnic groups in Malaysia, has been abused by the ‘UMNOputeras’, invidividuals within UMNO or linked with UMNO for the benefit of these select few at the expense of the community as a whole.

I still have my doubts as to whether this is merely Mr. Najib’s way of gaining support from the moderate Malays and the non-Malay. After all, replacing the NEP has been an effective mantra for Paktan Rakyat, and as pointed out by the report, this statement from Mr. Najib brings him ideologically closer to his political nemesis, Mr. Anwar Ibrahim.

More interestingly, I wonder how Mr. Najib’s statement will go down with the vast majority of UMNO members. Many of them believe that the NEP is their God-given right, encapsulated in the concept of ‘Ketuanan Melayu’ i.e. the Malays are the masters of the land. The most frequent criticism levelled to those within Pakatan Rakyat is that with Pakatan, the Malays would lose their ketuanan and their ‘special privilages’. Recall, just after the political tsunami of 8 March 2008, when newly appointed Penang Chief Minister supposedly said that the new Penang government will not practice NEP, a bunch of Malay jaguhs from UMNO (and its kunco-kunco) in Penang protested in front of the Komtar building at the Chief Minister’s alleged statement. Recall also, the numerous times Utusan attempts to paint Pakatan and its leaders as anti-Malay (for the non-Malays) and pengkhianat bangsa (for the Malays).

Now, their very own selected prime-minister-to-be has said that the NEP will one day go away.

To many of those in UMNO, the question of replacing the NEP does not arise. To them, the NEP is not a way to even the playing field, but a right, supposedly enshrined in the Constitution and agreed upon when the ‘social contract’ was drafted.

I wonder how they are going to reconcile Mr. Najib’s statement with thier far-right leanings in terms of the NEP.

But one thing is for sure. You won’t see GPMS protesting in front of the DPM’s office. You won’t see the Badan Bertindak Perpaduan Melayu or any of those Malay NGOs protesting either. You won’t see UiTM students with colour-coded uniforms marching to Putrajaya. You might not even see a report on this carried in Utusan Malaysia.

I reckon, all these Malay jaguhs will do is just pretend that Mr. Najib never said those near-blashphemous words.

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