KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 29 — The New Economic Policy (NEP) enlarged the Malay middle-class and narrowed the gap with other communities that would have otherwise strained communal ties, a Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) lawmaker said today.
Sungai Siput MP Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj said that the Malay tendency to protect their interests were to be expected as many from the community were still in poverty.
“So when you talk about Malay insecurity, that the NEP is going to be removed and there is going to be levelled playing field, there is an economic basis for it because they haven’t yet come up despite the NEP for so many years you still have this problem.
“Malay poverty is still a problem in Malaysia today,” he said during a discussion titled “Malaysia Under the Shadow of Racial Politics: Where to Now?” during a forum by Pusat Komunimasi Masyarakat (Komas).
The NEP was introduced following the 1969 race riots and expired in 1990, but its policies continue to be implemented in one form or another.
Jeyakumar used the example of the Low Yat Plaza riot in July, crediting the defunct NEP as the reason why the unrest did not escalate.
“There is hope despite everything, the NEP has made Malaysia more stable that’s why the Low Yat incident didn’t flare up any further I think because there is a large Malay middle-class.
“To be fair the NEP has made Malaysia more stable racially, it has brought a lot of Malays into tertiary education, they can think for themselves now,” he said.
The federal lawmaker admitted, however, that the NEP was not successful in addressing racial segregation.
The NEP was an affirmative action plan launched by the country’s second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein following violent racial riots on May 13, 1969.
It was originally planned to eradicate poverty among Malaysians and narrow the economic gap between the Malays and the ethnic Chinese, by redistributing wealth to promote a 30 per cent economic ownership by the Bumiputera.
Parti Amanah Negara vice-president Datuk Dr Mujahid Yusof Rawa, one of the panelist, also said that while race-based politics was common, the public needed to demand more from their lawmakers.
“Politicians (also) have to make a choice whether you want to be popular or you want to make the country better,” he said, explaining that one crucial way for Malaysia to progress was to remove the race factor from politics.
DAP’s Lim Kit Siang also urged politicians to look beyond race by educating their constituents that there was more to the country than racial division.