Can we trust Anwar to implement needs-based policies instead of race-based ones?


Can we trust Anwar to implement needs-based policies instead of race-based ones?
By Zan Azlee

The Prime Minister in waiting (forever) recently made a strong speech saying that he believes the country must move on from race-based policies to needs-based.

Anwar Ibrahim said that although he believed in the New Economic Policies of the past decades, Malaysia needs to move on and mature.

The economy affects everyone, no matter what race or religion they are. Grinding poverty, as Anwar puts it, affects everyone as well and it has not improved for decades. Hence, this is evidence to prove that race-based policies cannot be the solution. Hence the needs-based one.

He said this at a special symposium entitled The Construct of a Nation: As I see it where he was invited to speak by HELP University.

What he said is nothing that many of the voters of Pakatan Harapan haven’t been asking for already. They just feel that Harapan is too scared to do it.

To think about it, not many Malay politicians from Harapan have ever proclaimed explicitly that they were in support of doing away with race-based policies. It is understandable seeing that so many Malays don’t want it to happen and the Malays are the majority vote in the country.

Sixty percent of the population in Malaysia is Malay, and hence the Malay vote is key to staying in power. That’s why it is so difficult for our politicians to move away from playing the race and religion card, whether they are from Barisan Nasional or Malaysia Baharu’s Harapan.

“When I support needs-based policies, my Malay base supporters will say that Anwar is now too liberal. I go back to them and say that their rights will be better protected with needs-based policies,” explains Anwar.

We know it is much easier said than done. If it was simple as just telling them that they will be better protected, then the issue would have been resolved so long ago.

So much has been said about how the Bumiputera policy is supposed to only be in place initially when the nation was first formed and was supposed to evolve and eventually removed.

Anwar made a good point when he says that as a politician, whenever he meets people from the urban areas, they keep wanting to hear about the removal of race-based policies.

However, they never want to offer up or listen to an alternative to it. That is an observation that I have made all these years too.

Another observation is that if you go to a more rural Malay community, they will express their concerns because they feel afraid that their needs will not be taken care of.

No matter how you explain to them that needs-based policies will serve whoever is in need, they will still not believe you because of their fear.

How did that fear become so ingrained into their minds? It’s because of the fearmongering as well as the rule and divide tactics of the previous Barisan Nasional government.

They are always trying to pit one race against the other and creating unnecessary (and sometimes non-existent) conflict.

You would think that when Harapan took over the government, things would change. But obviously it has not. Not only has it not changed, but Harapan leaders start playing the same game because they start to realise that they are now in the same position as those in Barisan Nasional were before.

So when we hear one of Harapan’s most senior leaders talking rhetorics about replacing race-based policies with needs-based ones, and that once this is implemented, it will solve the problems of inequality and grinding poverty, forgive us if we are not absolutely convinced.

It’s been almost two years and nothing has changed. Is Anwar now saying that if he gets to be Prime Minister, it can finally change?

Is he just saying this because he was amongst a crowd that consisted of mainly urban, non-Malay professionals and students? Would he say the same things if he were somewhere else with a different audience?

I think that if this current government is committed to implementing need-based policies, then they should just rip the plaster bandage off and do it.

Stop talking about race and religion. Start putting in place the steps necessary for implementing needs-based policies. Just do it and stop talking about it.

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

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