: Former Singaporean premier Lee Kuan Yew’s stinging comments about Malaysia’s race-based policies has earned him the title of “father of narrow communal non-Malay politics” by one political scientist.
1 Malaysia Foundation chairman Chandra Muzaffar said that Lee’s views of Malaysia in his new book, “One Man's View of the World", is a very lopsided notion that is based largely on only non-Malay grievances with no regard to the Malay position.
“This kind of non-Malay mentality in Malaysia began with Lee Kuan Yew when he tried to develop a Malaysian Malaysia in 1954,” said Chandra.
“Lee’s politics at the time triggered a very negative reaction from Malays across the board because his idea does not take into the account of the background of the country. I regard Lee Kuan Yew as a father of narrow communal non-Malay politics in this country, " he said.
Chandra also said that it was hypocritical for Lee to say that Malaysia was willing to allow brain drain problem to continue by allowing one-race to dominate.
“Singapore itself is suffering from one of the highest brain drain in the world itself. Three out of 10 of highly educated Singaporeans have migrated over the last 10 years,” said Chandra.
“People in glass houses should not throw stones. Maybe he should take a closer look at his own country,” he added.
In his book, Lee had said that Malaysia’s brain drain problem stemmed from the “dominance of one race” and puts the country at a disadvantage.
Reports estimated that Malaysia loses an estimated 5 per cent of skilled talents on an annual basis, with a large number going to Singapore. A World Bank report from 2011 concluded that 20 per cent of Malaysian graduates opt to quit the country.
However, Chandra said that Malaysia has a much larger pool of workers and said that he "suspects" that Malaysia is at a better position compared to its neighbouring country.
Disputing Lee’s assessment that efforts to lure Malaysians back are “too little, too late”, Chandra said that his outlook was more positive.
“I am more optimistic of the future than what is said in Lee’s book. We cannot just do away with Malay privileges at one go and it has to be done through an evolutionary process.”
“We have to understand each other. There must be empathy,” he said, denying that the Malay was the dominant race, citing examples of the Chinese having significant representation in economics, culture and politics.
Chandra said that the New Economic Policy, often blamed for the migration of non-Malay skilled workers, have brought about a high degree of stability and contributed to inter-ethnic harmony.
“Without accelerated Malay development and transformation, we would not be able to practice democracy,” he said.
While he admitted that there have been negative consequences of the NEP-- such as those who did not get scholarships and the lack of promotions in the public service, and implementation which favours certain groups—Chandra said that there has been attempts to correct it.
“There is no doubts at all that these attempts to correct the abuses of special position in the past three or four years have been tangible and substantive, not cosmetic,” he said.
He said that for example, the majority of federal government scholarships went to the Chinese and in Universities, a higher percentage of Chinese qualified for public universities than Malays, on a percentage basis.
“Likewise, if you look at upward mobility, including the police, there is more non-Malay police personnel today than in the past.”
At the same time, however, another political analyst called for political leaders to ‘sincerely’ take heed of Lee’s criticisms as the 90-year-old politician’s assessment were mostly “fair and true”.
Political analyst Khoo Kay Peng said: “This is a true observation of the State. What this nations needs to be is to be sincere and truthful and accept and admit that his observations are nothing new. It’s not something exclusive to him and he is merely one of many who made the same observation.”
Khoo said that examples of university students with 4.0 CGPA not getting places at public universities and government procurements and dealing with government linked companies still continue to paint a bleak picture of race-based affirmative policies.
“These things are not doing Malaysia a favour and we are not able to enlarge the pool of Malaysian. He has got that right.”
Lee said that the most important thing for the Umno-Barisan Nasional government to do now following the 13th General Election was to provide direction for the country.
“Race-based policies is definitely being used by the right winged Umno members to derail any efforts from even Prime Minister Najib Razak himself to create a fair and just Malaysian society. To continue to justify uneven playing field is politic tactic.”
Khoo said that Malaysia has lost its focus since 10-15 years ago and blamed Umno for “not being able to pinpoint what they want to bring for the country to achieve Vision 2020”.
“I’m a bit worried about what these right wing leaders would respond to it. We need leaders to lead the change, spell it out. And not punish minority races that have not voted for them, this would not give businesses the confidence to revive our economy.”