Prime Minister, YAB Najib Razak announced as part of the New Economic Model (NEM) back in 2010, about renewed affirmative action policy focusing on raising income levels of all disadvantaged individual / groups and eradicate poverty, irrespective of race and to reduce fiscal disparity between the wealthiest and poorest of Malaysians based on the following four principles – market friendly, merit based, transparent and needs based.

However the setting of new unit called Unit Peneraju Agenda Bumiputra to boast Bumiputra economic participation and recent announcement that “Bumi firms to get 43% of MRT works bill by the government” seems to be not reflective of government’s commitment to renewed affirmative policy (NEM) to focus on all disadvantaged group and eradicate poverty irrespective of race.

I am in agreement that  vast majority of Malay’s / Bumiputra’s are still poor however the affirmative policy also needs to urgently include  the marginalised poor Indians, Orang Asli and the pockets of poor Chinese. Having said that, it also noted that just because one is an Indian, does not automatically mean that one is at a disadvantage. Many Indians doing quite well in this country, and should not be judged as disadvantaged and automatically deserving of affirmative action programs, simply because of their colour or race, . There are Chinese in this country that are worse off than most. But because they are “Chinese” are they to be deemed not worthy or deserving of special treatment?

If the measure for equity is need rather than race than the apparent problem is resolved. The Government needs to setup a new unit or expand Teraju’s scope to oversee the participation in education, economic, employment and housing for the disadvantage individuals irrespective of race as soon as possible. Some of the immediate areas of focus are:-

  • Education
    • Boarding School for poor where the children can study in better surroundings than in their homes in the villages or estates
    • Access to matriculation programmes
    • Opportunityfor tertiary education Scholarship both local & overseas
  • Economy
    • Share allocations of companies together  with mechanism to finance and to hold on for a long-term capital gain
    • Opening up of National Equity Corporation Scheme
    • Opening up  Felda Scheme 
    • Access Micro credit
  • Employment
    • Board-membership to GLC’s, GLIC’s, SLC’s and SLIC’s
    • Government Sector
  • Housing
    • Affordable Housing
    • Access to financing without or minimal interest

The appropriate monitoring mechanism needs to be implemented at the very minimum of quarterly review the effectives of the affirmative action to ensure some of past failures such as cronyism and Ali-Baba phenomenon are not repeated and desired results are achieved within the targeted time frame.

As for Pakatan Rakyats call’s to end affirmative action and to implement meritocracy is a failure by opposition to see that the solution may lie somewhere in between. One has to understand that prohibiting discrimination in the present and in the future, does not necessarily correct past inequities. So what if people now had equal access, the advantage would still go to those who had benefited the longest and most from past discrimination.

For an example an Indian contractor may have equal access to get into the same tender process with Bumiputra  companies   but there is  no guarantee of an equal opportunity of winning due to lack experience or track record. It is clear, in this case the odds are stacked in favour of failure for the Indian contractor.

It will be an illusion for Pakatan Rakyat  to think that the “only way to create a racial blind society is to adopt racial blind policies”. Although this statement sounds intuitively plausible, the reality is that racial-blind policies often put racial minorities at a disadvantage. Unless pre-existing inequities are corrected or otherwise taken into account, racial-blind policies do not correct racial injustice, they reinforce it. This applies for all areas of socio-economy i.e. education, employment, government projects and etc.

Therefore in order to correct such inequities, steps must be taken to ensure that those groups that historically had been excluded or given limited access to societal rewards, are now given an opportunity to catch up. Thus, affirmative action based on needs refers to social policies encouraging favourable treatment of socially disadvantaged groups or individuals, especially in employment, education, and government contracts, without regard to race, colour or religion, in order to reverse historical trends of discrimination and to create equality of opportunity for qualified persons.  Yes, affirmative action based on needs pertains only to job-qualified applicants. 

Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “There is no greater inequality than the equal treatment of unequals.”

Happy 54th Independence Day and 48th Malaysia Day to all. I hope to see Meritocracy based on needs irrespective of race implemented in near future.


Manivannan Rethinam, A.M.P.  

National Secretary  – Persatuan Kebajikan OSGHMalaysia

Chairman – MIC Kg. Cheras Batu 4.


Note: This is follow-up to my earlier comment published in Free Malaysia Today  on 26th August, 2011 – “MRT: ‘Give Indian contractors 10%’”  & The Star



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