RMK11 – better governance, but still racist

RMK11 – better governance, but still racist
By Zan Azlee

I followed closely, and with interest, Thursday’s review of the 11th Malaysia Plan (RMK11), because here, is a plan that was devised by BN to be implemented between 2016 to 2020, however, midway through, a general election happened and BN was thrown out of power.

I bet BN never saw that coming after 61 years of uninterrupted power and never losing a single general election since independence (yes, this has yet to get old in my column!). They must have thought that they would continue to see through RMK11.

Well, boohoo, they have no say in it anymore. The responsibility of carrying out RMK11 now falls on the shoulders of the Pakatan Harapan government and they have decided to carry it on but also conducting a mid-term review of it to see what can be amended.

As we all know, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad has mentioned that because of the huge debts that Malaysia has been saddled with, a major change to the plan would be to allocate revenue towards paying off these debts. That also means a reduction in the country’s developmental budget.

If that is what needs to be done, then that is what needs to be done. We already knew this so I guess we need to face the necessary hardship so that the county could be turned around. I doubt many Malaysians are going to complain about that.

Some of the highlights that I found to be refreshing in RMK11 were implementations that are not necessarily economy or finance related. Many new amendments to the plan were more systematic changes in governance and administration.

The most significant one has to be the fact that the prime minister, menteri besar and chief ministers will be limited to two terms only. So I guess we can rest assured that Mahathir isn’t going to rule the country for another 22 years!

And for many sceptics and critics of Anwar Ibrahim (me included), we will have to endure a maximum of 10 years of his rule. Then we can look forward to a change. And that is the main point of this anyway – to constantly have fresh and new leaders for the country.

Parliament’s autonomous powers will also be enhanced. Then, agencies such as the MACC and the Election Commission (EC) will fall directly under the purview of Parliament instead of the Prime Minister’s Office.

Positions such as the attorney-general will also now be split into two, so that there is, check and balance. Now, this is something special because it would seem that we are going back to basics, referencing the democratic system of the ancient Greek civilisation.

But with all these progressive changes, there are still some elements to the RMK11 review which I find a little bit backwards and not exactly true to what I feel Harapan stands for, or at least how I feel what my vote stood for during the May 9 election six months ago.

Race-based policies

While the RMK11 review suggests that there be a new People’s Harmony Consultative Council and a National Unity Index to promote unity and inclusivity amongst the different races and ethnic groups in the country, race-based economic policies are still being implemented.

Mahathir mentioned that the bumiputera agenda will continue as RMK11 seeks to increase the employability of the bumiputeras in high-income jobs as well as their representation in corporate ownership.

Sure, he mentioned that RMK11 will also look at improving the economic situation of the minorities such as the Chinese and Indians in Malaysia who are underprivileged and disadvantaged, in an obvious attempt to sound inclusive.

However, if there are policies that are supposed to improve the economic situation of everyone, wouldn’t, or shouldn’t, these policies, be the same for everyone, regardless of their race or ethnicity? Why is there still a need to specifically highlight one particular race?

Haven’t we moved away from racist policies and discriminatory actions? This is one of the reasons I (and many other Malaysians) voted out the previous BN government because they were so entrenched in race-based politics.

Harapan has always represented colour blindness in their policies. By still harping on race, there isn’t much difference then between them and the previous government. Even worse, at least the previous government were blatantly open about their racism.

Instead of implementing affirmative actions based on race, why don’t they implement something that is actually in their manifesto? How about having affirmative action towards promoting more inclusivity and representation for women?

Come on, Harapan. Do better.

[This article was originally written for and published at Malaysiakini.com]

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