Friday, February 22, 2008


Rose Porteous
The New Malay Dilemma
Hantu Laut

The following article is an excrept from ex-Prime Minister, Tun Mahathir Mohammed's speech at the Harvard Club in July 2002, shortly before he handed over the baton to Abdullah Ahmad Badawi.

When Mahathir stepped down and appointed Badawi instead of Najib as PM there was an immense feeling of euphoria among Malaysians of every race, colour and creed.The state of uneasiness of the Mahathir's era evaporated with the appointment of Abdullah, invariably seen as mild-mannered, clean and more endearing.

The general feeling of euphoria was translated into massive support for Abdullah at the polls in 2004 where he garnered 90 percent of the parliamentary seats and trounced the oppositions almost into oblivion.

His massive victory was on the premise of cleaning up corruptions and bring about a clean and transparent government.Promises he eventually failed to keep.The euphoria turned to feeling of dismay, disappointment and distrust of his character.

Mahathir, who often bashes his own people for their weaknesses and dependency on government assistance, have made himself unpopular with the Malay masses. He blames them for all the failures to achieve the objectives of the NEP.

Mahathir was at the helm for twenty two years.He was the longest serving prime minister and have had more than enough opportunity to educate the Malays the nitty-gritty of the business world and the moral principles of life. Was it fair that he only blamed the Malays and not himself for the failure of the NEP ?

Some ( those sidelined) in UMNO are now in nostalgia of the Mahathir's era.

Will Badawi takes the Malays to greater height in the forthcoming polls or destroy the Malay's political hegemony ?

Would there be a new Malay Dilemma if the Malay power base weakened ?

Excerpts from a speech given by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed at the Harvard Club of Malaysia dinner on 29 July 2002

The Malays are among the few people whose race is legally defined. Thus, the Malaysian Constitution states that a Malay is one who habitually speaks Malay, professes the religion of Islam and practises Malay customs. There is nothing said about the definitive culture of the Malays.

It follows that changes in culture do not make a Malay person a non-Malay.

Culture is made up largely of the value systems accepted, even if not actually practised by a people or a race. Observations have shown that the culture of a people determines whether they are successful or they fail..... .... Europeans, Asians, Africans and American Indians can all be successful and can all fail. It is, therefore, not the race or ethnicity which determines success. It is the culture.

When I wrote The Malay Dilemma in the late 60s, I had assumed that all the Malays lacked the opportunities to develop and become successful. They lacked opportunities for educating themselves, opportunities to earn enough to go into business, opportunities to train in the required vocation, opportunities to obtain the necessary funding, licences and premises. If these opportunities could be made available to them, then they would succeed. ......

.... But today, the attitude has changed. Getting scholarships and places in the universities at home and abroad is considered a matter of right and is not valued any more. Indeed, those who get these educational opportunities for some unknown reason seem to dislike the very people who created these opportunities. Worse still, they don't seem to appreciate the opportunities that they get. They become more interested in other things, politics in particular, to the detriment of their studies. In business, the vast majority regarded the opportunities given them as something to be exploited for the quickest return. ...... They learn nothing about business and become even less capable at doing business and earning an income from their activities. They become mere sleeping partners and at times not even that. Having sold, they no longer have anything to do with the business. They would go to the government for more licences, permits, shares, etc. ....

.... Why has this thing happened? The answer lies in the culture of the Malays. They are laid-back and prone to take the easy way out. And the easy way out is to sell off whatever they get and ask for more. This is their culture. Working hard, taking risks and being patient is not a part of their culture. It should be remembered that in the past the Malays were not prepared to take up the jobs created by the colonial powers in their effort to exploit the country.

Because the Malays were not prepared to work in rubber estates and the mines, the Indians and Chinese were brought in. At one time, the migrants outnumbered the Malays. Had they continued to outnumber the Malays, independent Malaya would be like independent Singapore.

But the Malays have apparently learnt nothing from the near loss of their country in the past. Today, they are still unwilling to work and foreign workers are again flooding the country. And because they are not equipping themselves with the necessary education and skills, they have continued to depend on others. Their political dominance will protect them for a time. But that dominance is fading very fast as they quarrel among themselves and break up into small ineffective groups. Their numerical superiority means less today than at the time of Independence. ....

.... The Malays, together with the other Bumiputeras, make up 60 per cent of the country's population. But in terms of their political clout, it is now much less than 60 per cent. They are now more dependent on non-Malay support, both the government party and the opposition. Economically, of course, they have less than half the 30-per-cent share that has been allocated to them. If we discount the non-Malay contribution to the nation's economy, Malaysia would be not much better than some of the African developing countries.

To succeed, the Malays must change their culture. They must look towards work as a reward in itself. They must regard what they achieve through work as the true reward. There should be some financial reward but this must not outweigh the satisfaction obtained from the result of their work. ....

.... Changing culture is far more difficult than changing the policies of government. It is easy enough to propose affirmative action but it is not easy to implement it. The recipients must have the right attitude if the results are going to be obtained. .... Unfortunately, their view is that their crutches are symbols of their superior status in the country. The sad thing is that they are not even using the crutches properly. As a result, they gain nothing or very little from the availability of these aids. ....

.... So what is the new Malay dilemma? Their old dilemma was whether they should distort the picture a little in order to help themselves. The new dilemma is whether they should or should not do away with the crutches that they have got used to, which in fact they have become proud of. There is a minority of Malays who are confident enough to think of doing away with the crutches, albeit gradually. But they are a very small minority. Their numbers are not going to increase any time soon. They are generally regarded as traitors to the Malay race. ....

.... There will be a host of protests over this generalisation about Malay attitudes. We read almost every day about blind Malay people and other handicapped Malays graduating with university degrees or driving cars or doing all kinds of work. This does not prove that the generalisation that I make is wrong. These are exceptions. They only prove that if the right attitude or culture is adopted, even the handicapped can succeed.

The dilemma faced by those few who want to build a strong, resilient and independent Malay race without crutches is that they are most likely to end up becoming unpopular and losing the ability to influence the changes in the culture and the value system which are necessary. It seems that they should not try and yet they know that without the cultural changes, the Malays are going to fail.


SM said...


Say what you will about TDM, there is truth in what he says.

Hantu Laut said...

Agreed.I think he should share some of the blame.

He made it easy for them.He gave away huge contracts to those who didn't deserve it.MAS is an example of one of his follies. There were many more that I need not mention here.

He has done good for Malaysia but at the same time he has also brought some harmful side effects.

SM said...


No argument there. Yes, he did a lot for Malaysia but it has all come with a Price.