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The recently published biography of the late Tun Dr Ismail entitled 'The Reluctant Politician: Tun Dr Ismail and His Times' contains some thoughts that are indeed poignant statements that provoke a lot of questions.

However, there was one quote referenced to having been made by Tun Dr Ismail that caught my attention. He was quoted as having said: "I said that we should aim at a target period of 20 years within which 30 per cent of Malays would participate in commerce and industry and that it should be implemented in the context of a growing economy.

'This proposal was unanimously accepted. At the time of writing, the implementation of this policy (NEP) has been going on for almost two years."

This statement calls the bluff on Umno's position today when we have been left with the belief that equality will be achieved only when bumiputera equity crossing the 30% mark. Reading through Tun Ismail's statement, one cannot fail to see that what was proposed was not a ceiling to be set for bumiputera participation in national equity but that at least 30% of Malays get to participate in commerce and industry sector. This is not the same as 30% of the national equity coming into the hands of bumiputeras.

Whatever was envisaged at the time, surely one cannot suggest that a goal of achieving a 30% the equity was set at the time. Indeed, no mention is made of a percentage of equity ownership. Indeed we could have had 100% of the equity owned by 30% of the bumis. Or we could have had 30% of the bumis owning 2% of the equity.

What we see today, however, is something else altogether. While focusing on achieving a 30% or whatever of the equity, there is hardly any mention of what percentage of bumiputeras would participate. It does not seem to matter that maybe only a handful of bumiputeras or Malays participate in this equity acquisition.

Umno's success needs to be measured against this fact rather than their yardstick of the equity ownership of bumiputeras which seem to vary from 18.9% to 45%. The question is, whether it is 18.9% or 45%, what percentage of the bumis actually own this? Would it be right to say that only 5% of the Malays own all this equity?

It is really for the Malays to question their self-appointed guardian. They have all been placated and continue to slumber, accepting that the true measure of their success is when at least 30% of the equity belongs to them. What is more important is that this equity should also be in the hands of at least 30% of the bumiputeras.

But having 'trapped' the Malays in the civil service and the uniformed services, one does not wonders why there is a dearth of equity owners amongst the Malays. Having silenced the majority of Malays in this manner, it would seem that whatever equity available now is left to the few Malays who are not trapped in government or military service. Meaning those in the private sector who seem to be getting all the lucrative government contracts.

The NEP needs to be reviewed. What Tun Dr Ismail is quoted as having said causes one to pause to do a double take on the policies so far adopted in achieving the bumiputera goals. Surely, the goal posts laid out by Tun Ismail are far removed from the goal posts Umno has been kicking its balls into. Umno's policies are certainly far more self-serving and targeted to only achieve participation in commerce and industry to a handful of Malays rather than 30% of the Malays.

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