‘Reducing leakages in the delivery of affirmative action’ (Feb 15, 2017) contains some gross errors and inaccuracies which is why I am forced to write a rejoinder.
1) OMG! says, “There is one other thing that Dr Chandra got wrong. Article 153 does not date from the 1971 Constitutional Amendments. This may be a common error.” How absurd! Where in my article entitled, ‘Changing Article 153?’ did I state that Article 153 dated from the 1971 Amendments?
What I pointed out was that after the Amendments, Article 153 and certain other provisions in the constitution were brought under the jurisdiction of the Conference of Rulers and therefore can only be changed by that entity.
If OMG! had read my article carefully he would realise that I had argued that various elements in Article 153 and other Articles in the constitution were in fact first introduced by the British Colonial Administration before Merdeka. This is what many Malaysians, including perhaps OMG!, are not aware of.
2) OMG! contends that in spite of all the efforts to emphasise needs rather than ethnicity, nothing has been achieved. He is wrong. The first prong of the New Economic Policy (NEP) - eradicating poverty regardless of ethnic origin - is an acknowledgement of the ‘needs’ principle. There was an attempt to implement it through various Malaysia Plans.
In the last fifteen years or so, there have been some concrete measures to extend specific assistance programmes meant for bumiputras to poor Indians, and poor Malaysians of Siamese and Portuguese-Eurasian backgrounds. The Tekun scheme would be a case in point. More important, since 2010 a slew of government programmes from BR1M to PR1MA (affordable housing) are directed towards the needy irrespective of ethnicity.
This has now become the norm as far as the state’s public assistance agenda is concerned.
Nonetheless, there are challenges. In the award of university scholarships, excellence should be rewarded right across the board. In the allocation of business contracts, it is only the deserving that should be recognised. There should be no abuse of Special Position (SP) or of ‘Legitimate Interests’ by a privileged few. Since SP is in a sense an affirmative action policy, it is only the disadvantaged and the marginalised that should benefit from it.
What this means is that Malaysians should continue to expose wrongdoings in relation to the implementation of Article 153 or other Articles of the constitution and indeed, in all matters pertaining to governance and the social order. They should never cease to speak truth to power at the national and global level. That is far more crucial than constructing a hypothetical model of economic needs especially when the needs approach is being applied in various spheres today.
And when we speak up we should be even-handed and balanced. If we are opposed to bias in favour of community X we should also criticise bias shown towards community Y.
It is only when we are perceived as fair and just, would we command credibility.
3) Changing the goal post.
Finally, let me say that it is difficult to conduct a dialogue with a person who keeps changing his position. In his ‘Reducing Leakages’ piece, OMG! says, “For the aviodance of doubt, I wish to make it crystal clear that I have absolutely no reservations whatsoever about the continuance of the SP in perpetuity...”
Yet in his earlier ‘A Response to ‘Rukunegara as preamble’ article (Feb 10, 2017) he asks, “why is it, 60 years after independence, there still is a need for any kind of discrimination for a particular ethnic group?” The contradiction is so obvious. For some reason he has changed the goal post.
OMG! reminds me of a prolonged media exchange I had a few years ago with Dr Lim Teck Ghee. It was an exchange on various national issues. Teck Ghee, a friend of mine for many decades, kept changing the goal post when the lack of logic in his argument was exposed.
I do not want to get embroiled in such an exchange again. I shall not respond to OMG! after this.
All I want to do is to invite him to endorse the ‘Rukunegara Mukadimah Perlembagaan’ initiative. He can endorse through the rmp.yayasan1malaysia.org website. OMG! knows why this initiative is so important. He is not “obtuse”.
DR CHANDRA MUZAFFAR is the chair of the Rukunegara Mukadimah Perlembagaan (RMP) Initiative and chairperson of the Yayasan 1Malaysia.