Tuesday, August 6, 2013
If Malaysians counting on Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s 1Malaysia concept to usher in a new era for race relations are being unrealistic, those counting on the opposition Pakatan Rakyat (PR) to do the same are not very much less so, Lee Kuan Yew has written in his latest book.
The former Singapore prime minister said the 1Malaysia slogan had not lived up to the initial excitement it created, adding that the Malay ground had not moved with Najib’s ambitious plans to unite the different races in Malaysia.
“Prime Minister Najib proposed 1Malaysia because he wanted to win back some of the Chinese and Indian votes...But has the ground moved with him? Has there been thunderous applause from the Malays at 1Malaysia?,” Lee wrote in his book One Man’s View of the World, which was launched in the island republic last night.
Lee suggested that while Najib was ambitious in pushing for racial harmony, “but it appears political realities have conscribed his subsequent actions.”
“It is impossible for him to win votes from the Chinese and Indians without losing votes from his party’s core supporters - the Malays.”
Lee was equally disparaging in his observations of the opposition parties in Malaysia.
“...the chances of it (PR) getting rid of Malay special treatment are next to nothing.
“This is an opportunistic ad-hoc group not held together by even vaguely coherent set of ideas but by a common desire to unseat the government.”
Lee argued that when it comes to the crunch PR would not be able to do away with Malay supremacy.
“The moment the bluff is called and it is handed the full power to push ahead it will either be torn apart from within or be paralysed by indecision.
Lee also suggested that even if Umno were to lose power any party that takes its place would not behave very differently.
In his book, Lee had also pointed out that Malaysia’s acute brain drain problem is due to its government’s insistence on promoting “one race” above all others.
Malaysia experiences a severe talent flight issue with an estimated 5 per cent of skilled locals exiting the country on an annual basis, with the main beneficiary being Singapore.
A World Bank report from 2011 concluded that 20 per cent of Malaysian graduates opt to quit the country, again with Singapore cited as the preferred destinations. Worryingly for Malaysia, the report concluded that these migrants were being replaced by unskilled and uneducated foreigners.
“They are prepared to lose that talent in order to maintain the dominance of one race,” he wrote.
The NEP and other policies in its vein have been blamed for driving the country’s non-Malays to find an exit, with Singapore being the destination of choice for geographic and cultural reasons.
“The Chinese made up 35.6 per cent of the population in 1970. They were down to 24.6 per cent at the last census in 2010,” Lee wrote in his book
“Over that same period, the Indian numbers fell from 10.8 per cent to 7.3 per cent,” he said.
While saying “40 per cent of our migrants are from Malaysia”, Lee said the group were now casting their sights farther afield, heading for Europe, America and Australia.
“Some have done very well for themselves, such as Penny Wong, Australia’s current finance minister.”
But perhaps most damning of Lee’s assessments was why some non-Malays who remain, do.
“Among those who have chosen to remain in Malaysia, some lack the means to leave and others are making a good living through business despite the discriminatory policies. Many in this latter class partner with Malays who have connections.”
Lee stepped down as prime minister in 1990, handing power to Goh Chok Tong, but remaining influential as senior minister in Goh’s cabinet and subsequently as “minister mentor” when Lee Hsien Loong became prime minister in 2004.
The elder Lee resigned from his cabinet position in 2011 after his long-ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) stumbled to its worst electoral showing since independence in 1965.
During his time, the 89-year-old Lee shared rocky ties with contemporary Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad.
In their previous books, Lee Kuan Yew: Hard Truths to Keep Singapore Going and A Doctor in the House: The Memoirs of Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad, the two traded acerbic remarks about one another.