A leader in Bolehland once said: 'The Malays should stop sending memorandum after memorandum to the government asking for aid and other things for themselves'. He even courageously opined: 'Such an approach is no longer suitable because the time has come for them to stand on their own feet'.
He echoed loudly the question of many, especially that of the non-Malays: How much longer must the Malays depend on the government and the privileges accorded to them? How much longer must they remain mediocre?
That brave voice was none other than the then prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad. He was delivering a speech at the 'Reaffirming the Idealism of Undergraduates in the New Millennium' symposium at Dewan Perdanasiswa, Universiti Malaya in 2001 (the 30th anniversary of the NEP).
(One can imagine the 'chaos' in Bolehland if the above statements were made by a non-Malay. Hishammuddin Hussein Onn would be kris-crossing the country, Khairy Jamaluddin would be taking advantage of such a truth told to his father-in-law, the rest of Umno Youth would be making a nationwide police reports against one questioning the privileged position of the Malays and Nazri Abdul Aziz would be shouting 'racist' 41 times in Parliament.)
Speaking to the predominantly Malay crowd, Dr M continued: 'How do you view the beggars on the street and then ask yourself what is the difference between their circumstances and yours? The government has done so much to elevate the position of the Malays, be it in business or education so that their achievement would be on par with the races, yet these efforts are never enough.
'If the Malays could compete on the same level with other races there would no longer be a need for them to restrict themselves to the quota for everything. Must we lower the eligibility standard to the point where even useless students can go to the university just so that we can fill up the 55% bumiputra quota in the local public universities?
'If so, we must remember that some of the students who go to the university in this manner will some day become doctors and engineers. How can we entrust our life to such doctors or what will be the quality of our infrastructures if they are built by such engineers? It would be much easier to tackle the problem affecting the Malays if they are proven stupid because all that is required would be to encourage them to study harder.
'However, the underlying reason is much more difficult to address because it is caused by negative attitude and their reluctance to work hard.' (As reported by The Star, July 2, 2001)
Now, five years after his dramatic speech, the retired PM contradicts himself and warns: 'The aid extended to Malays cannot be stopped abruptly as it will lead to chaos and racial disputes.'
What about the time has come for them to stand on their own feet? And his very own question: How much longer must the Malays depend on the government and the privileges accorded to them? How much longer must they remain mediocre?
Alas, Dr M, how much longer? Is 35 years too 'abrupt'?