KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 13 — Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob’s suggestion for a gadget mall specially for Malay traders will only deepen the existing racial prejudices in Malaysia, two politicians from the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition weighed in.

Former deputy minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah said Ismail Sabri’s proposal would not be beneficial to Malays and Malaysians in general, pointing out that having business areas where traders are separated by ethnicity will only backfire.

“But, if we continue talking about Malays and non-Malays doing business detached from each other, and worse when it is done as a government policy, then you are failing in two aspects: the Malays are not improving in terms of business, and you further divide and polarise Malaysians,” the chief executive officer of Global Movement of Moderates (GMM) told Malay Mail Online when contacted yesterday.

Saifuddin said that entrepreneurship should instead revolve around efforts to improve the overall performance of Malaysians of different ethnicities and to bring them together in partnership.


“Among others, we need to enhance the performance of the Malays, and to motivate the Malays and non-Malays to work together in smart partnerships. One way to achieve both aspects is by facilitating Malay-non-Malay business partnerships. This way, a new community of entrepreneurs would be established,” he said.

Gan Ping Sieu, co-president of Centre for a Better Tomorrow (Cenbet), said that Ismail Sabri’s suggestion would enhance the “racial gulf in an already divided society”, noting that the same minister had in February made the controversial call for Malays to boycott Chinese traders for alleged profiteering.

Gan said that trading is an economic activity that is based on the market forces of demand and supply, and not race.


“Government can help traders venture into fields they are not familiar with. But to open up an area for traders exclusively based on race is reminiscent of the racial segregation in apartheid South Africa which Malaysia had strongly condemned.

“Is Ismail Sabri intent on creating two Malaysia where trade is done along racial lines? Will there be malls only for certain races next? Will certain public places like parks, hospitals, be for certain race after that?” the former deputy minister of youth and sports asked.

Gan accused Ismail Sabri of undermining Malaysia’s founding fathers’ dream of having citizens living together in harmony and leveraging on the strength of various communities to build a better nation, claiming that the minister appears to be bent on creating a nightmare instead.

“We cannot demand for unity and integration by promoting a divisive policy. That’s idiotic and racial bigotry,” he told Malay Mail Online.

On Tuesday, Ismail Sabri was reported saying that the MARA building’s third floor will be converted into a space for Malay gadget traders, with the whole building to be eventually turned into a mall similar to the capital city’s popular technology mall Low Yat Plaza.

Ismail Sabri, who was recently shifted to the rural and regional development ministry, dubbed the alternative technology mall as “Low Yat 2”.

“We target for 100 per cent of the traders to be from Malays. There has never been any distributor from the Malays, so we have to give them some leeway,” he was quoted saying by news site Astro Awani.

Last month, Umno Youth information chief Jamawi Jaafar urged Putrajaya to create an information technology and digital industry hub for bumiputeras in order to reduce dependency and check monopoly of “certain parties” in the telecommunications products business.

The suggestion came following a riot which erupted outside Low Yat Plaza earlier in July, following rumours on social media of a Chinese trader’s alleged sale of a counterfeit phone to a Malay man and subsequent calls for boycotts of alleged “cheating” Chinese traders and the mall itself.

But police later said the rumours were untrue, while the 22-year-old Malay youth — who was initially wrongly claimed to have been cheated — was charged over the theft of a mobile phone.