A Malay elite’s response
Hussin Mutalib, an Associate Professor, responded to Muigai’s recommendation to consider a ‘stimulus package’ for the Malays in a letter to the ST forum. He said that there was some merit in not dismissing Muigai’s report altogether and a little tweaking might be good. While saying this, he acknowledged that there were some govt policies that were needed from the pragmatic point of view, ie barring Malays from sensitive appoints in the SAF and the adoption of GRCs to prevent qualified Malays from defeat in an election. There are good and bad in such policies which are obvious. Hussin also dispelled the beliefs that the Malays were being discriminated against, and non Malays were simply smarter than Malays. The former is generally true except for the appointment to sensitive positions but there is a pragmatic angle to it. The second belief has been proven wrong in many instances when Malay students have excelled and better themselves over the other races on their own merits. Every 500 years a genius could be thrown up from any race or class while every group will have their talents and duds. The disparity in the progress between Malays and the other races has been there since independence. Historically, during colonial days and post independence, the progress of the various races, particularly in schools, were left primarily to their own individual effort. All started from the same footing with no special assistance or affirmative action. Why then is there a need to have some form of affirmative action to help the Malays now? In this line of thought, there is an assumption that the Malays will do better than what they are today if given some assistance. Also, the disparity is seen as something abnormal and unacceptable. What if the disparity is in favour of the minorities and not the majority, would affirmative actions be deemed necessary? There are some questions to be asked. After more than a century of coexistence, the present status quo could be the natural balance of things. If this situation has come about naturally after so many years, would a window period of a few years of affirmative actions make any difference? What if, after affirmative action, and the Indians or Chinese become the least progressive, does it mean that there will be a need for affirmative action as well? Where will all these lead to? Would it be satisfactory only if the majority is the group that is lacking behind the minorities? Or is the expectation that an acceptable status is that all three groups are progressing at the same rate? Is this natural or possible, or a should be situation? Given the rate of progress that is being made by all groups, would it be a better objective to raise the level of every group, to improve their well beings, rather than to harp on the fact that one group is two steps behind another? It is never the natural order of things that everything is the same or can be the same. Can all countries in the world progress at the same pace and be at the same stage of economic development? Seriously, is affirmative action the answer? If the community is not honest enough to face the problems and address them squarely, no affirmative action can bring about positive changes.