The unprecedented outburst by a member of the Malay business community this week did not come as a surprise; but is his expression of indignation enough?
Speaking at the Malay Economic Congress in Kuala Lumpur, the president of the Malay Chamber of Commerce Malaysia (MCCM), Syed Ali Alattas, denounced Malay leaders for their greed and corrupt practices and that their lack of a “clean heart”, contributed to the failure of the Malay business community.
Syed Ali did not reveal anything new; what he said has been known by most Malaysians, but ignored by Umno politicians, Umnoputras, Malays in denial and the non-Malay cronies of Umno.
So, why is Syed Ali criticising the Malay leaders now? What prompted him to condemn these leaders, whom he cultivated for years?
Syed Ali said that despite billions of ringgits being pumped into the Malay economy, the Malays have achieved little.
He said: “What’s gone wrong? That’s what is being asked……There is a lot of carelessness and not enough responsibility among leaders which caused Malays to fall behind”.
“Corruption and greed caused the Malay agenda to fail,” he added.
For decades, many Malaysians, both Malays and non-Malays, tried to highlight the abuse of the New Economic Policy (NEP), which has enabled Umnoputras to become millionaires overnight, whilst the majority of the rakyat suffered.
Many complained about the preferential educational opportunities, housing and job openings given to the Malays.
Some of these outspoken people were detained under the ISA, considered a national threat and called public enemies. Families were broken up when parents encouraged their children to settle overseas for a brighter future.
On a national level, the country lost a much valued resource – some of its best and brightest people.
Whilst this was going on, was Syed Ali living off the fat of the land, enjoying the scraps thrown at him by Umno?
The NEP experiment has been a failure, since its inception, so why did Syed Ali not admit this earlier? He claims that Malays are at a “crossroads” but cynics argue that it is the Malay leaders of industry and business, people like Syed Ali, and not the Malay community, who are at the “crossroads”.
With Umno lying in the gutter, and their own positions looking increasingly precarious and untenable, people like Syed Ali have finally chosen to be vocal.
Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak’s body language speaks of failure. In his public speeches, he no longer cries out “Who will defend Putrajaya with me?” He has stopped saying that he would “defend Putrajaya with blood, sweat and tears”.
In the near future, we will probably see an avalanche of Malays in positions of seniority, like Syed Ali coming forward to criticise Umno and other parts of the BN coalition.
These people are cowards but sensing the failure of Umno, are cunning enough to ingratiate themselves with the rakyat and perhaps, try and align themselves with the new administration.
The MCCM president admitted that less than 10% of the economy, in terms of equity, businesses and shops, is Malay owned. He declared: “I am brave enough to say that there is not one shop in the centre of Johor Baru that is owned by a Malay”.
Syed Ali may claim that he is “brave”, but his “bravery” is just deceit. He is merely trying to ingratiate himself with the opposition.
Perhaps, his open criticism is another ‘play’ for the benefit of the rakyat. Umno is known to be divided into many camps, so has someone needled Syed Ali to attack Najib?
Last year, when Umno was in a stronger position than today, the Malay Mail carried a report, on Dec 19, 2011, in which Syed Ali demanded government projects, such as the RM3 billion Pudu Prison redevelopment, be given to bumiputera companies, “irrespective of whether they could deliver.”
Syed Ali told the Malay Mail, “The issue is not whether the contract should be given to a bumiputera or a non-bumiputera company. The bumiputera companies should be given such projects but we never get this kind of deals. Such projects should be given to us. Period.”
The link to this article, in the Malay Mail, is http://www.mmail.com.my/content/87577-only-bumi-companies-govt-projects. The article is widely cited on the internet but has since been removed from the paper.
Today, Syed Ali sings a different tune. He castigates Malay leaders and asks “What’s gone wrong?”
Corrupt ones must resign immediately
We can tell him what’s gone wrong.
Malays, like him, continue to blame others for their failures and will not work hard to earn self-respect and the respect of others in the community.
They prefer the easy way, and depend on handouts. They do not know how to invest in human capital. They refuse to learn from their mistakes, or learn how, to make a decent living.
People like Syed Ali benefitted from the privileges given to them by the corrupt leaders of Malaysia.
Perhaps, we should be grateful that they dare speak up now. If they had spoken earlier, Malaysia’s economy and its social fabric would be stronger, today.
It is not just Syed Ali and other Malay leaders like him who could, and should have spoken up sooner; the non-Malays who could have made a difference, but who chose to remain silent, are equally at fault.
We welcome their criticisms now, but they cannot expect our support if they want an important and prominent role in Malaysia’s new future. They are simply opportunists who only think of themselves.
If Syed Ali, and people like him, want to make a difference, they should not just criticise the current leaders for being failures.
They should demand that these corrupt and greedy leaders resign immediately. Only then will we know that Syed Ali really means business.
Mariam Mokhtar is a FMT columnist.