KUALA LUMPUR, Nov 8 — Poor Bumiputera will resort to theft, minister Nancy Shukri said today in her defence of the government’s recent move to reintroduce a race-preferential economic policy that has drawn the ire of Malaysia’s minority Chinese and Indian communities.
The de facto law minister told a public forum on international covenants organised by the Malaysian Bar here that the Bumiputera Economic Empowerment Policy was needed to help fix the unequal wealth distribution among the races that remains prevalent half a century after the country was formed, and which she claimed could lead to a potential spurt in social ills and crime.
“As a politician now, I understand why there is a Bumiputera new economic policy... The Bumiputera, they are very marginalised in terms of economy. They’re very much lower than other groups.
“If there is no such policy to balance the economic distribution within Bumiputera and non-Bumiputera, there could be a difficult situation as well,” Nancy said.
A former civil society activist, the Sarawakian MP for Batang Sadong said the public at large was unable to understand the necessity for such policy to reverse the imbalance in distributing wealth.
“If you don’t help... social ills will be happening. Because they will left very far behind, there will be social problems. That’s the situation, if they don’t have money, what will they do? They will start stealing.”
Even so, the minister admitted that the Bumiputera cannot forever depend on help from Putrajaya, and the New Economic Model (NEM) itself does not just simply gift the ethnic group cash handouts.
In September, Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had detailed the far-reaching NEM that is set to offer the dominant Malay community access to tens of billions in aid and contracts.
In a high-profile announcement, Najib trotted off a list of over RM31 billion in various loans, contracts and programmes that will be made available to the group, with the stated aim of strengthening Bumiputera economic participation and boost their ownership of commercial property.
The commitment towards uplifting the lot of the Malay community — which Najib described as integral in charting the country’s fortunes — follows recent criticism against the Umno president for failing to fully acknowledge the support the group had extended to the ruling Barisan Nasional during the recent general election.
The move had received heavy criticism from opposition Pakatan Rakyat, with DAP advisor Lim Kit Siang claiming that the NEM will only result in greater benefits for Umno’s upper echelon.
PAS president Datuk Seri Abdul Hadi Awang had also said that Bumiputera special privileges cannot justify Putrajaya’s decision to lavish billions on the community without care for the rest of Malaysia.
Najib however received support from Malay rights group Perkasa which urged the prime minister to not be apologetic over the NEM as it is the government’s obligation to repay the Bumiputera for their support in the recent general election.
The group also thanked Putrajaya for listening to its recommendations while forming the NEM, claiming now that empowering the Bumiputera is a “national agenda” instead of a racial one.
The Malays and Bumiputera make up the majority of Malaysia’s population at an estimated 67.4 per cent of the 28.3 million population, followed by the Chinese at 24.6 per cent, according to the most recent census at 2010.