Let the Malays Be

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I urge our Malay leaders to cease berating the Malays; about they being less successful than the Chinese, or that they are lagging far behind the other races. It’s becoming tiresome. Some even question the Malays’ work ethics, implying that the Malays are lazy and not trustworthy. By talking less, our leaders might have the opportunity to do something useful for the Malays.

One of the main factors why Malays are lagging behind in almost all fields of endeavour is the discriminatory policy adopted by the very Government that says it wants to help Malays. The Chinese and others can do many things that Malays are prohibited from doing on religious grounds. It’s the Government’s responsibility to widen the scope of economic activity for all citizens and not restrict them. I am advocating a non-discriminatory policy that allows activeBumiputera participation in the lucrative non-halal business, which is plentiful in this country.

Why not issue licences to Bumiputera for casinos, various gaming activities as well as the sale of alcohol and the provision of entertainment? If a big part of the economic cake consists of non-halal businesses that run into billions and which are barred for the Malays, how then can the Malay-Muslims ever catch up?

Sinful and non-halal activities are lucrative and contribute to the financial well-being of the Chinese. From these activities, they buy land, conserve huge capital and buy more land. The Malays complain that they have lost their land and cannot afford even low-cost housing. Why can’t Malays be given the same opportunities as the Chinese so they can make more money and protect their lands?

These activities are sinful, of course, but since when is the government given the mandate under the Constitution to protect Malays from sins? Article 153 does not say that the well-being of the Malays must be sin free. The Malays must take personal responsibility for their faith. Let them decide if it is worthwhile to commit sins if that activity can improve the life of their community. The business of government is to allow for wealth creation and make available the prosperity for all. It’s not government business to ensure that the Malays end up in heaven.

For example, the Bumiputera of Sabah and Sarawak (and some Malays in the Peninsula) will not mind having another casino in sleepy Labuan or Langkawi, which will reap millions to help uplift their economic condition—but the Government will not do this for fear of offending the religious sensibilities of some Malays.

Some Malays are easily hurt, but we should not run the country according to their feelings alone. Why not have casinos in Labuan and Langkawi operated by Malays? It does not make sense to tolerate one large world-class casino in Genting and somehow consider it “less sinful” but then deny the existence of two or three smaller ones elsewhere.

We all know that the “black economy” is huge and runs into billions of ringgit. The Government, if it is more practical, can legalise some of these gaming activities and reap a lot of money in the form of taxes. The Government can make more from this than getting people to pay tax on soda (for example), and it will also help clean up the Police and other enforcement agencies. The tourism entertainment industry is another huge revenue-earner, but the Government will not allow Malays to own nightclubs, organise Oktoberfest activities or even brighten up our beaches with concerts, fun and games. Yet they complain that the Malays lag behind.

Bumiputera and Malays who do not feel “offended” by these activities should be given licences to operate them. Will this reformist Government adopt this approach? It is unlikely, and yet they complain about Malays lagging behind the Chinese.

For so long as any Malay-led government considers its main responsibility is to protect the Malays from sins, and not allow the Malays to take personal responsibility for their faith and their sin management, the Malays will be denied full involvement in the nation’s economic activities. They will be able to do only the Halal variety whereas as the Chinese can do both. The Malays will become be more pious and more religious, but they will always be poorer than the Chinese. A Malay may aspire to be a Vincent Tan , but for that, he needs to start with Sports Toto and later own a chain of betting shops. But this Government discriminates against this unfortunate Malay and will not give him this opportunity. So how can any Malay ever be a Vincent Tan?

The time for rethinking is here and now.

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