KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 7 — Without financial contributions from Chinese Malaysians, Southeast Asia’s third largest economy would likely go bankrupt, former minister Datuk Zaid Ibrahim suggested last night.
In a Twitter posting likely to rile right-wing Malay groups, the outspoken politician said the country would land in financial turmoil even if the taxes paid by the minority race today was halved.
“I am ok with Chinese as 2nd class but they should not pay as much taxes. Maybe half of the Malays. This will bankrupt the country though,” he wrote on his page.
Race relations in Malaysia has always been a sore point, blamed largely on the Umno-heavy government for allegedly crafting lopsided national policies that favour the Malays, who make up some 60 per cent of the country’s 28 million people.
The “social contract”, an unwritten deal said to be agreed upon before the nation’s Independence in 1957 is purportedly a quid pro quo trade-off with its indigenous Bumiputera communities for granting citizenship to the immigrant Chinese and Indians and has been repeatedly touted to defend the special rights of the Malays.
More progressive government leaders who have dared to speak out against this deal have often found themselves on the receiving end of criticisms in Malay-majority Malaysia.
The issue has also long been a sore point among minority ethnicities like the Chinese and Indians, who feel as if they are continually being treated as second-class citizens even though born and raised locally.
Many have long questioned the federal government’s retention of affirmative action policies that they argue benefit only the Bumiputera majority — and in particular the Malay community — long after their original purposes should have been achieved.
The New Economic Policy (NEP), mooted by Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s father and the country’s second Prime Minister Tun Razak Hussein, has been the most cited example of unfair policies.
Introduced in 1971, the NEP had an ambitious and noble aspirate to redress the socio-economic gap between townspeople that were largely Chinese, and the rural Malays and other Bumiputera, within the span of two decades.
It ended officially in 1990, but the key aspects of its Malay/Bumiputera-preferred action plan remains in various forms years later.
Najib had sought to dismantle the preferential treatment with his New Economic Model (NEM) shortly after taking office in april 2009, which aimed to shift the racial-based structure into a needs-based one, but was forced to launch a stripped down version after the policy was panned by pro-establishment supporters.
Zaid (picture) had recently said that race-based policies in Malaysia have been “hijacked” from their original purpose of being a “safety net to help the Bumiputeras”.
He said that Malaysia is deluding itself into thinking it can become a developed nation with the existence of race-based preferential policies here.
“You cannot isolate a vibrant physical development of the nation without policies based on fair values,” Zaid told The Malay Mail Online.
In a statement last Thursday, the former minister urged Najib to take the lead in reviewing the social contract, a suggestion that was mooted recently by Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin.
Last night, Zaid continued his tirade, saying, “If Islam is superior and the Malays ‘special’ then the rest are not important. Now surely we do not want to take this road.”