Malays must have this line of thinking. Affirmative policies that favour them will one day be terminated. From 1970, we had the NEP to assist us. Call them crutches if you will. If you have only one leg or your legs are infirmed then you know the importance of having crutches and what not. After the NEP we had different forms of affirmative policies. Call them steroids if you may.
We hope non Malays will not think that the excesses and the shame of using and relying on steroids or crutches are only felt by them. In fact, I am inclined to say that they don’t feel pity or shame- but instead, sometimes apply them in demeaning prognoses. Malays are also insisting that these assists be dismantled eventually. But until such time, we will have to live with some form of affirmative policies to enable the underprivileged and disadvantaged to have an equal footing in society. When will it end? The answer is when it comes.
I do not think for one moment, the condition of the Malays is the result of a intentional design by the Almighty. In terms of brain power, I will say that we are more or less equal. Each one of us, irrespective of ethnic origins is capable of achieving great success.
Allow me to share a story which I have repeated many times whenever I had the chance to speak to a Malay audience. I shared with them the experience of an English teacher by the name of G.E.D Lewis. You may read his book Out East in The Malay Peninsula. Dr Lewis was a teacher at many schools in Malaya then and his last post, I think was headmaster of the famous Victoria Institution. He was also a writer of a geography book I first read it when I was in form 3( 1971).
Lewis came to Malaya in the 1930s and went back to England after the war. He came back a second time after the war. He admitted that since he came, he was concerned at the prospects of the Malays becoming second class citizens in their own country. The chief cause of such an affliction was their alleged lack of intelligence compared to non Malays. Because of that, the best jobs in the government in the 1930s up to independence were monopolised by non Malays.
In order to disprove this generally held belief, GED Lewis set out to survey the comparative intelligence of the various races. His controlled lab, was the district of Kuala Pilah in Negeri Sembilan.
GED Lewis used a combination of two methods. One was a non verbal test that would cancel out bias in native language and the other, a well known army test called Ravens Progressive Matrices.
Lewis’s subject of study comprised 4500 boys and girls of school age- 3000 Malays in Malay and English schools and 1500 Chinese in Chinese and English schools.
After the mammoth tasks were completed( remember this was in the 1940s), Lewis was able to come to several conclusions. Although Chinese pupils were age for age undoubtedly superior to Malay pupils in the early stages, this superiority decreased with age so that there was no significant difference by the time they reached 16 years of age. Thus it could be said that Chinese pupils appeared to be precocious rather than superior in mental ability as compared with Malays.
Lewis’s findings revealed that Malays were generally disadvantaged because of social origins. Many were kampung lads who were handicapped by the lack of facilities compared to urban dwellers.
The point I want to share that, it is highly incongruous to suggest that Malay underachievement is due to some innate reasons. It has always been due to lack of external assistance.
Once that false assumption is done away, we are ready to accept that the imbalances can be corrected by practical social policies. We must only take care to avoid installing a system that internalises the differences in abilities as a given absolute constant. Once we realise that the inequalities can be corrected by the appropriate policies, we free ourselves from being knotted by the idea, that affirmative action for the Malays need to be retained forever.
I want our non Malay brothers to realise that we ourselves realise that the retention of an un-definable affirmative policy or policies for an indeterminate time can only exist in a society based on privileges. This is a society cherished by an elitist UMNO leadership represented for example, by the DPM.
A society based on special privileges retards the overall development of society in general because it discourages men of abilities from giving their best to society. In that sense, society is made overall poor by this denial. A privileged society based on rank and social status confers rewards unequally. That of course ferments social tensions. We have to move towards creating a society where men are rewarded according to their ability and contribution to society. Insisting on the application of affirmative policies up to a point, must never be translated into a policy of creating an equal society that is equal only in terms of poverty and misery. We want to create equalities in prosperity not poverty.
We know that it is impossible to create a society in which all men are equal and receive equal rewards. If that is the case, then you find a situation where the lazybones and the incompetents are paid as much as the industrious and the intelligent. The good men in society will hold back lest they have to give more than their lazier brethren.
Whether we like it or not, even more so whether the Malays like it or not, we have to move in the direction of creating a society where everyone is given not equal rewards but equal opportunities. Differences in rewards arise not because they accrue to men of privilege and rank, but are caused by varying abilities and contributions to society. We have to create a society where it is worthwhile for the best to give his or her all to society. That’s the way of progress.