Sunday, October 17, 2010

Commonwealth Games and bumiputra privileges

In the New Delhi Commonwealth Games that just ended, Malaysia did commendably well. Malaysia won 12 golds, 10 silvers and 14 bronzes and finished seventh overall.

Traditionally, in the Commonwealth Games, the 'white' nations like Australia, England and Canada would be among the top few. It was the same this time; but Malaysia was ahead of other 'white' places like New Zealand, Scotland and Wales.

So it has been proven that Malaysians can do better than some whites.

Among the Malaysian medallists were several Malays who excelled at shooting, archery, cycling, lawn bowls and weightlifting.

As everybody knows, there is no such thing as a handicap in such games - only the best in the Commonwealth nations (of the former British Empire) must compete on equal footing in a level playing field.

There is no such thing as bumiputra privileges in such championships, no such thing as special handicaps for Malays, no such thing as favoured treatment and privileges based on race.

In the Commonwealth Games (and the Olympics, Asian Games, SEA Games and other world meets), performance is based on merit regardless of race.

It just goes to show that the Malays are able to compete with the best in the world .

They are able to win gold medals, set new records and conquer new frontiers - without having to depend on the crutch of bumiputra privileges and rights.

I am bringing this up because former Prime Minister (now) Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad in his latest blog posting ( wrote: "The non-politically educated Malays feel ashamed that they have to be helped. They would like to be recognised as people who succeeded on their own. If we study these people almost invariably they have benefited from the NEP. They appear to be ashamed of this.

"They are ashamed to admit that they were unable to compete with the other races. I am not ashamed to admit that I cannot compete with the Chinese and Indian students when studying medicine. They had much better results than me and the other six Malay students for entry into the Medical College. Even at that time the British promised to the Rulers to help educate the Malays. I had my chance because of the affirmative action then. On pure merit I would not be a doctor today, not because I was not qualified, but my qualification was lower than others.

"One has to remember that the Chinese civilisation is more than 4000 years old. No other civilisation has lasted that long. Naturally they have developed a culture better able to survive under all conditions. It is my belief that if the percentage of Chinese in the United Kingdom for example is the same as in Malaysia, UK would be better developed than it is now. It is not surprising that the Chinese excel in developing Malaysia (for which they are amply rewarded).

"It is not shameful to lose out against them. Simply to catch up with them we need handicaps. To be given handicaps is to ensure fairness, not discrimination. That is why in golf you have handicaps. That is why in all contests there must be equality between the contestants.

"It is selfish if having benefited from the handicaps you want to deny others from having them.

"But when all is said and done, those who are given the benefits of handicaps must make honest efforts to use them properly. If they don't then they must forfeit the handicaps in the future."

Tun Dr Mahathir used the analogy of handicaps in sports when he talked about competing with the Malaysian Chinese in education and business.

He said that "to be given handicaps is to ensure fairness, not discrimination".

And he goes on to assert that in golf there are handicaps given to level the playing field.

Fair enough, but for him to say "that is why in all contests there must be equality between the contestants" reveals a logic that is skewed to support his argument for continued affirmative action for the Malays in education and business.

Any contest cannot be fair if an athlete (or student or businessman or educationist or worker) is given a handicap. In any contest, there must be equality among the contestants in the form of them being given support, training, exposure and opportunity. How they perform would depend on their skills, form and, perhaps, a bit of luck.

The question is this: Why is it that the Malays can excel in athletic competitions at world-level without affirmative action, handicaps and privileges?

The next question is: Why is it that the Malays need affirmative action, handicaps and privileges in 'competitions' against Malaysian Chinese in education and business?

Tun Dr Mahathir should ponder on these questions. He himself admitted that he failed to change the mindset of the Malays when he was Prime Minister.

Perhaps he can do so as a retiree.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Galas: Barisan victory imminent

Barisan Nasional is likely to win the Galas by-election in Kelantan on Nov 4, but that victory should not be interpreted as a sea change in the sentiment of Malaysian voters in general.

This is simply because Galas is one of the three state seats within the Gua Musang Parliamentary constituency which has always been a Barisan stronghold with Kelantan prince Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah lording over the area like a king.

It was simply the 'Political Tsunami' of the general elections in 2008 that resulted in lots of voters swinging over to support Pakatan Rakyat resulting in PAS' Che Hashim (whose death on Sept 27 resulted in the by-election) getting 4,399 votes and winning by a mere 646-vote majority. Tengku Razaleigh himself won the Parliamentary seat with a smaller margin of victory - 4,394 compared with 6,548 in 2004.

Now that Tengku Razaleigh has been appointed director of operations of the by-election, it is widely expected that his charisma and influence in the area will convince those who had switched camps, expecially the Chinese, to switch back.

The feeling is that the wave of discontent of the 'Political Tsunami' will not be as strong as it was in 2008, at least in that remote part of Kelantan, and Galas will revert to being a Barisan stronghold.

Observers had pointed out that the swing in Chinese votes ensured a PAS victory in 2008. The Chinese make up 22 per cent of the registered voters there.

Tengku Razaleigh has not lost touch with the grassroots especially the Chinese and the Orang Asli, who have always held him in high regard.

But that is the situation in that patch of land in rural Kelantan and it is not reflective of the situation in the other parts, especially urban areas, of the nation.

In these areas, the flood waters left by the 'Political Tsunami' have not been drained away yet and the anti-Barisan, anti-establishment sentiment is still very strong.

And these pools of political unrest are still the breeding grounds of even more discontent.