Tuesday, August 26, 2008

AFFIRMATIVE ACTION


As posted by Dr. Mahathir Mohamad at www.chedet.com on August 26, 2008 5:28 PM

1. Affirmative action by its very nature must involve discrimination.

2. Affirmative action is about correcting imbalances between groups. But in the process, the interest of individuals would have to be sacrificed. It is unfortunate for the individual concerned but if no one's interest is to be sacrificed then corrections cannot be made. The status quo would remain and this would mean there would be no affirmative action. Simply said, no corrective action would be possible unless there is some discrimination against someone.

3. Golf is a great game. But like other games the poorer players would be given handicaps. Otherwise golf would be very boring as the good golfers win every time.

4. In boxing we cannot match a heavyweight against a lightweight. The latter would be hammered to a pulp.

5. In horse racing the lighter horse would carry weights so that the race is between evenly matched horses and riders.

6. Globalisation has been promoted by the rich countries.

7. The essence of globalisation is open borders or a borderless world. With this, the rich and the well-endowed will have unrestricted access to the countries of the poor in order to exploit them. Of course the poor can have access to the rich countries too. It sounds fair. The playing field seems to be level.

8. But what will certainly happen is that the rich will go into the poor countries and with their capital, their managerial skills, and their technology, would overwhelm the people in the poor countries with their small businesses, limited skills and limited capital.

9. The end result would be that the poor countries would effectively be owned and exploited by the rich countries and the local people would be mere workers in the big enterprises of the rich, earning a pittance for themselves. Essentially colonisation of the poor by the rich would again take place.

10. But the rich countries will claim that the people of the poor countries are free to do business in the rich countries, buy over the banks, the industries and anything they like. But they know and we know that it would be impossible for the people of the poor countries to do this.

11. This is why the WTO has been rejected by poor countries. The people of the poor countries know they cannot compete; know that in the end they would be colonised. They are not being selfish. It is simply that they want to exploit their wealth for themselves.

12. Effectively the poor countries want to discriminate in their favour by rejecting the borderless world of Globalisation. Exploitation by the rich would most likely enrich the poor countries. But they would rather be poor than be exploited.

13. We take the relative peace and stability in our country for granted. But look at other multi-ethnic countries. In most cases the indigenous people, if given power would not just discriminate against what they consider to be non-indigenous people but would want to expel them. Look around us and you will understand what I mean. Look at the Tamils of Sri Lanka, and the Indians in Burma. There are other examples which I will not mention here.

14. But the indigenous people of this country actually welcome the non-indigenous and expressed their willingness to share the wealth and the opportunities that this great country has to offer between them. But the sharing must be fair. That was the kind of sharing our founders agreed upon. The Malays would not have agreed if in this country they would be reduced to being the hewers of wood and drawers of water.

15. When the sharing did not really take place, the anger lead to the 1969 race riots.

16. Following that our wise leaders from all the communities agreed on how to carry out the sharing. They agreed on what is basically affirmative action. They agreed that they would eradicate poverty irrespective of race and that there should be no identification of race with economic function.

17. It is only a small sacrifice. But the peace and stability that came with the NEP had enriched the country which in turn had contributed towards peace and stability even during the recession caused by the financial crises. We know that racial riots occurred in other countries at that time. Contributing to the fairness of the NEP was the decision that discrimination should not be by expropriation of what already belonged to others but through the distribution of new wealth and opportunities. Thus, the sense of deprivation would be reduced.

18. But even when the discrimination is to be based on growth the rich would still feel a sense of deprivation because they cannot get all the wealth and opportunities that they believe they were qualified for.

19. If contracts or licences or permits are to be given out why should someone less qualified get them when they, the qualified could make better use of these things.

20. In the case of university admission and scholarships, why should someone less qualified get admitted when the better qualified cannot.

21. So even when the corrective action is based on new opportunities and wealth and not by expropriation of what is already in the possession of the rich, there would still be a sense of deprivation by the richer communities.

22. Accepted that the richer communities also have poor members among them and the New Economic Policy's first prong clearly proposed poverty eradication irrespective of race, the fact remains that there is more poverty among the poorer community than among the richer communities.

23. If we eliminate poverty among the rich without regard to the level of poverty, then the richer community would be rid of poverty while the poorer community would still be saddled with extensive poverty.

24. Today we have reduced poverty to 5 percent. If we care to do a study, we will find that the majority of those still under the poverty line would be from the deprived community.

25. Still, despite the alleged discrimination, our poverty eradication is regarded as being very successful. It is nearly impossible to find hard core poverty among the better-off race in the urban areas. There are more in the rural areas.

26. Fifty years is a short period in the history of nations. We have not reached menopause yet. In fact we are in our youth still. Whether we succeed to overcome our present difficulties depends on us. If we fail, pointing fingers will not save us.

27. I will readily admit that the NEP had been abused. But we are so ready to blame that we pick on the wrong target. Of course the way the affirmative action was carried out, and the abuses, were picked on by the opposition to condemn the whole policy.

28. UMNOputra, like cronyism, was a word invented by politicians and the detractors of this brash country which dared to thumb its nose at the powers that be. Unable to condemn blatant corruption as they do to other countries, they came up with cronyism and UMNOputra. When there is real cronyism and corruption they deliberately ignore them because these are committed by their favourite people.

29. Before making these criticisms against the affirmative action of the NEP, why not make a real study. Are most of the Malays getting the scholarships and entries into the universities the children of UMNO people? If they are, why was it necessary to have the Universities and University College Act to stop students from demonstrations against the UMNO-led Government? How did the doctors and lawyers in PAS get their education? Are the students all from rich families with connections?

30. I will be the first to admit that there have been abuses in the promotion of business among the bumiputeras. Given opportunities, given licenses, permits, contracts etc, they disposed these for immediate gains. This frustrates the efforts to help them. Some degree of abuses may be excused but the degree of abuse of the opportunities created by the NEP is far too much. They cannot all be excused.

31. I also admit that there has been unfairness in the award of scholarships and Government jobs.

32. I will not try to defend these abuses. We must try to reduce them. But affirmation is about discrimination. And those discriminated against will never understand the big picture, the benefits of an increasingly egalitarian society.

33. The Malays must accept that this discrimination cannot be forever. If they fail to respond properly to what is being done for them, they should accept this policy would be taken away.

34. When Malay youngsters, especially boys, failed to study and qualify for university education, when they preferred to play and not study, we cannot expect the non-Malays to patiently wait and give up their opportunities until the Malays decide to become serious and study. That would not be fair.

35. That was why we introduced merit in the selection of students for the universities. Unfortunately, the implementers of Government decisions chose to interpret it differently. By requiring Bumiputeras to sit for the matriculation and the non-Bumiputeras to sit for higher school certificates, they managed to give the impression that the Bumiputeras were actually better qualified than the non-Bumiputeras. With this, the intention of the Government to make the Bumiputeras become more serious about their education failed.

36. There is a tendency among Malays to regard the discrimination in their favour as a privilege, as a recognition of their superior status. I think this is wrong. The discrimination is in order to give them a kind of headstart so that they can catch up with other races. To me, it is shameful to have to be protected because we do not have the capacity to compete. We are not Red Indians to live on reserves. We should regard it as a temporary expedient to be done away with once we have achieved the capacity to compete on our own.

37. However, we must give time for ending the NEP and it should be done in stages. I hope that the time will not be too long. In the meantime, serious efforts by the Bumiputeras must be made to avail themselves of the opportunities. If this is obviously not being done, then, as with entrance into the universities, the discrimination must end.