The NEP was introduced in 1970, as a consequence of the 1969 racial riots, with the idea of positive discrimination coming about as a result of Dr Mahathir's controversial book The Malay Dilemma.
The book pointed out the polar differences in the economic power held by the various ethnic groups in Malaysia primarily pointing at the fact that the ethnic group with the most number of individuals (the Malays) had the least economic clout, and vice-versa.
The rationale behind the NEP's act of positive discrimination is the idea that given appropriate backing and resources, the Malays would be able to shake away the restrictions that are imposed by poverty and in a level-playing field, be able to achieve their maximal potential.
Those who are born into poverty tend to remain within its vicious circle. The idea is that once there is a more balanced equilibrium between the various ethnic groups, everyone would be happy with their share of the economic pie, thus reducing the resentment that one might hold against a particular ethnicity.
Of course, nothing is that simple.
It is my belief that the NEP was based on sound principles, and that it was necessary at the time to impose such a policy in order to restore order in society and to prevent any untoward incidences that might be brought about by an imbalance in economic statuses.
The policy played its role for without it, I'm sure we would have ended up with a society much akin to Indonesia. And what happens in an economic crisis? You find a scapegoat, which in Indonesia's case, were the wealthy Chinese.
The NEP was not perfect, but it helped build our country into what it is today. I can't think of any other country in the world that has grown as much as we have without sacrificing a good deal of its culture and identity.
The NEP has been a huge success, both in the eradication of poverty as well as the building of the Malay self-confidence. I doubt if even us Malays would have been able to imagine the lengths and strides that we have taken over the past three decades.
It is disheartening though, that many of us Malays have now come to believe that this policy is a 'right' and not a 'privilege'. And this is where things start to go wrong.
The policy was meant to last for a finite amount of time, with the eventual aim of developing a generation of self-supporting Malays who have the self-belief and capability of going about by themselves. Not a group who have come to rely on the existence of this policy to prop them up.
The policy was meant to be a stepping ladder, not a crutch to be used for an indefinite amount of time.
The fact that there are those who misuse these opportunities does not go down well with the non-Malays either, and who can blame them? It's a common assumption that the Chinese especially, are rich and are more than capable of financing their expenses.
While this may be true, one tends to forget the families who are not as fortunate. I had a friend whose father works hard selling some 'char koay teow' in order to finance his children's tertiary education. And he had a Malay neighbour whose son was given a scholarship to study engineering in England.
This boy didn't work as hard, didn't get any As for his A-Levels, and yet was sent to one of the top universities in England, to return home with a 2.2 degree. How can the other not be pissed off if his family and son have to work their asses off to merely get the opportunity for a good education while here's someone else just wasting it?
Then there are those who are only interested in getting projects, pumping it into a listed company, and hope that they get a huge profit when the share prices rise. Wanting to get rich quick without contributing to the management or development of the company nor wanting to give back to society.
It's a sad thing to say, but I do believe the main thing that's holding back us Malays is not the Chinese or the Indians or the Jews, but the Malays themselves. That's why Dr M and Pak Lah have been quoted as telling us to throw away our crutches and work hard to face the challenges of globalisation.
And what was the response? An uproar.
I get extremely annoyed with Malays who slag off Dr M without giving him the credit that he is due. This man is responsible for bringing up our country in general, and the Malays in particular. His methods may not be entirely democratic, but there is no doubt that this man was a genius who did not kow-tow to anyone, and held fast to his principles.
I also get annoyed with government scholars who make it a point to badmouth the government at every given opportunity. I am not saying that one should say 'yes' to everything, but there's a line that when crossed, is akin to biting the hand that feeds you.
And no, it's not the government's 'duty' to provide such opportunities and no, it's not your 'right'.
It has been pointed out that many of the 'reformists' during the1997 economic crisis wasn't really aware of what they were fighting for. I'm not sure that not many of them were aware of the fact that if Anwar Ibrahim had become PM, the IMF would've held siege to our country and that, like it or not, was the main issue behind his subsequent arrest and trial.
And if you think that being under the IMF would've been preferable to what we eventually weathered, then it's high time you hit the books and have a look at the countries whose economic policies were dictated by the IMF.
It is a measure of the distance we've traveled, that Malays especially, can now complain about the lack of freedom of the press instead of a lack of food and basic necessities. Our basic needs have been fulfilled, thus taking us onto the next level of our hierarchy of needs.
But that does not mean that we should forget the journey that has taken us to where we are today, nor forget the sacrifices made by those who went before us. To think otherwise, to stomp on a picture of leaders like Dr M, is just acting out on infantile fantasies.
It is my belief that the NEP should be gradually changed into one that is based more on levels of economic hardship. The Malays as a group have progressed tremendously, and it is only when we are forced to face these challenges head-on that we can hope to compete successfully in the international arena.
A paradigm shift should be made, with the main (if not only) change being in our education policy, because for all the rhetoric of a Bangsa Malaysia, not much is being done.