KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Anwar Ibrahim has called for an ‘urgent study’ to examine the economic lag plaguing the Bumiputera in Malaysia despite having decades of affirmative action policies in place.
In a statement on Tuesday (4 August), the Port Dickson Member of Parliament said that while the federal government’s initiatives to continue assisting the Bumiputera people are well-received, such efforts will “continue to fail” if they are not directed to those who are truly in need.
“The ‘privileges’ designed to improve the economic lives of Bumiputeras have been weaponised by the elites to enrich themselves, which has contributed to the widening income gap between the rich and the poor,” he said.
The former Finance Minister opined that the participation of Bumiputera people, as well as that of minority groups in the economy, can only be effectively achieved through investment in upgrading capacity, on top of skills training and education — particularly for small and medium enterprises.
Government-linked companies, added Anwar, must be handled by qualified professionals with specialisation in business. Top management should not be selected based on political leanings but based on merit and achievement, he added.
Anwar’s statement was made in the context of his questioning in Parliament yesterday regarding how “billions” of Bumiputera shares and Malay reserved land “have disappeared as a result of being leaked to certain irresponsible individuals”.
“In the efforts of the 12th Malaysia Plan to assist the marginalised, I urge the Government to conduct an urgent independent survey to identify the real causes of economic lag and poverty among the Bumiputera people despite the large amount of funding and education given to them for the past several decades,” said Anwar.
While Malaysia’s Federal Constitution does not explicitly include the word “Bumiputera”, Article 153 provides for the role of the Yang Di-Pertuan Agong — the Head of State — as the protector of the “special position” of Malays and the native people of Sabah and Sarawak.
The constitutional provision relates to what is popularly known as “quotas” or affirmative action for Malays and East Malaysian native people in terms of applying and obtaining scholarships and education, positions in the civil service, and permits or licences for trade or business activities, to name a few.
Article 153, however, does not mention the terms “rights” or “special privileges”. The Article also contains certain restrictions as a means to safeguard the rights of Malaysians who do not fall under the “Bumiputera” category.