PETALING JAYA: A complete overhaul of Malaysia's socio-political system is sorely needed to rebuild the country, says former CIMB chairman Datuk Seri Nazir Tun Razak (pic).
While acknowledging that institutional reforms were vital, he said this only addressed the symptoms of a "broken system".
"There is no doubt that the government's reforms will significantly reduce corruption and strengthen checks and balances.
"I think that would get us to a most welcomed 'Better Malaysia'. But not what I would describe as a 'New Malaysia'," he said.
He said this in a speech at the Projek Amanat Negara event held by the United Kingdom and Eire (Ireland) Council of Malaysian Students at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom on Saturday (March 10).
Citing the setting up of the National Consultative Council (NCC) in 1970 after the May 13 riots, he said that Malaysia had refreshed its socio-political compact (agreement) before.
He said the NCC then had came up with various recommendations, such as the New Economic Policy (NEP) and the Rukun Negara, which "set the foundations of the new Malaysia that rose from the ashes of race riots".
"Then in 1970 they boldly recalibrated the compact and the system according to the needs of Malaysia then.
"In my humble view, another recalibration is overdue for the needs of Malaysia today," he said.
The NCC had been set up by the second prime minister Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, who is also Nazir's father.
However, he said the current political system inherited by the NCC may not suit Malaysia's needs and socio-political climate now.
"The challenges faced by a fledgling nation and those of a middle-income economy are quite different.
"The NEP was meant to last only 20 years yet it is now almost 50. And worse, it has morphed and been abused to serve all sorts of vested and twisted interests," he said.
Nazir related a personal account in which he and his wife hosted a roundtable discussion at the University of Oxford in 2016 with 25 Malaysian leaders and thinkers about the future of the country.
The leaders had included former deputy prime minister Tun Musa Hitam, Pemandu CEO Datuk Seri Idris Jala, Datuk Seri Wong Chun Wai of The Star, Datuk Tong Kooi Ong of The Edge, Centre to Combat Corruption and Cronyism (C4) executive director Cynthia Gabriel, social activist Datin Paduka Marina Mahathir, economist Prof Jomo Kwame Sundaram, Dr Maszlee Malik who went on to become Education Minister and Wan Saiful Wan Jan who was at the Institute for Democracy and Economic Affairs (Ideas) at the time.
"We felt that what Malaysia needed was a fresh socio-political compact upon which we could rebuild and realign our institutions, politics and socio-economic strategies," he said.
He said a new NCC should be set up under the Council of Rulers to submit recommendations to the Parliament.
This new Council should look into recasting Malaysia's political structure to reflect its multicultural society, he added.
"We could, for instance, consider requiring electoral constituencies be either sufficiently multiracial or part of group representation constituencies in order to mitigate racist politics and ensure sufficient minority representation.
"The new NCC could also propose updating the Constitution to unambiguously enshrine and define bumiputra privileges, for a time or forever, and the position of Islam," he said, adding that this would make the Malays more secure about their position.